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4 minute read

A Fresh Perspective on Familiar Scenes

Documentary photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn uses the GF30mmF3.5 R WR to document the empty streets of Brownsville, Brooklyn

“Photographs are so important. They witness, they influence, and preserve the lives that we lead. They are language.” That’s the view of Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, who has been writing and making photographs for the past 20 years. Her work explores identity, specifically the multiplicity and evolution of identities of people of African descent on the continent and in the diaspora.

“I use pictures to communicate,” continues Laylah, “I am committed to using photography to contribute to conversations on social and cultural issues that could benefit from an increased diversity of perspectives.”

For this particular project, Laylah was unable to travel due to lockdown, so she decided to use the GF30mmF3.5 R WR to document the empty streets of her childhood home: Brownsville, Brooklyn. “I moved away many moons ago and haven’t had the opportunity to really visit until recently. I spent some time there, documenting what it’s like during the pandemic. The emptiness speaks to that,” she tells us. “I felt it was also important to make these images, because it’s been an underserved and redlined community for many years. Currently, it’s being hit hard – there have been a disproportionate amount of cases and deaths from Covid-19.

“The emptiness also speaks to what is left: the friends, family, and moments that are no longer there. The quiet and space are symbolic memories.”

Laylah explains her love for the challenge of street photography. “It keeps you fresh, keeps you on your toes.” she explains. “I love the level of engagement; it changes and challenges you. It helps you appreciate the nuance of space and the people you encounter.”

When this is combined with the unrivalled quality that can be achieved with larger format photography, the combination is hard to beat. “The sensor is so generous and consuming, it’s so difficult to make a bad photograph. I love the vibrancy, the detail, and the sharpness of the photographs. There’s no comparison,” she enthuses.

But it’s not just about the quality of the images for Laylah, it’s about the way it makes her feel: “I love the way the camera feels in my hand, it commands to be held and that grounds you as you compose, encouraging you to be intentional with the images you are creating. It’s an experience.”

Being used to 35mm and 50mm lenses, working with the wide-angle GF30mmF3.5 and its 24mm equivalent focal length offered an exciting new perspective, driving Laylah to push her creativity out on the street. “I believe this has been the widest lens I’ve ever photographed with and it really challenged the way I saw my environment. I really enjoyed reimagining and reframing my neighborhood with this lens. It pushed me creatively,” she says.

“I had a lot of fun with making street scenes, I appreciated how, even wide open, the entire frame remained in focus. It captured the big picture and made for wonderful environmental portraiture,” she continues.

She also highlights the GF30mmF3.5’s perfect combination of smooth bokeh and pin-sharp image quality, and how, when combined with the astonishing resolution and lifelike tonality that the GFX system’s 43.8×32.9mm sensor is capable of, the results are remarkable. “The bokeh was exceptional, even at F3.5. I also enjoyed how sharp the subjects were at that aperture,” she recalls. “The sharpness of this lens coupled with the huge sensor will certainly change the images that you are looking to create in such a dynamic way, in an almost 3D manner.”

Laylah concludes by telling us how the GF30mmF3.5’s versatility, combined with the GFX system’s capabilities, makes for an exciting future in image making.

“This lens could be used by an array of photographers from different disciplines. From the studio to the street. It’s so versatile and, although it’s a long shape, it’s really light. The art student in an MFA program would love it just as much as a landscape enthusiast and a photojournalist,” she says.

“It does exceptionally well in low light, no noise, and the lens has virtually no distortions and vignetting. I’ve been using FUJIFILM cameras and lenses for five years now and the introduction to the GFX system has made me even more excited about documenting and storytelling.”

The GF30mmF3.5 R WR is coming soon to your nearest FUJIFILM Authorized Dealer. Learn more and read the full specifications here.