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6 minute read

A Storyteller’s Lens

Working across multiple subjects, but with the same compelling natural style, Alison Conklin tells us why GF80mmF1.7 is the perfect choice

Alison Conklin is in a hurry. As a busy working pro, that’s no surprise, and this morning she has only a few minutes to tell us about the new FUJINON GF80mmF1.7 R WR lens. She has huge praise for the new model, so why the rush? “Well,” she explains, “this morning I’m making some campaign portraits for The American Heart Association’s annual campaign – it’s a really important project for me – and one that I’m especially looking forward to, as I’m getting to use GF80mmF1.7 to do it!”

Photo © Alison Conklin | FUJIFILM GFX 50S and GF80mmF1.7 R WR lens, 1/125sec at F1.7, ISO 320

Alison has been using the new lens since the end of November 2020, capturing a range of themes typical to her line of work. “I’ve made lifestyle, editorial, and formal-style portraits with local subjects here in Pennsylvania,” she says, “as well as using it for food and restaurant subjects, too. It’s not a great time for wedding photographers like me right now, but I did get to use it at one, and let me tell you, it was amazing. Basically, in the two months I’ve had it, it’s never left my GFX 50S. It’s like the most perfect combination for me – the focal length, the aperture, and the size – and it fit perfectly with the kind of natural images I want to make.”

Natural is a great way of describing Alison’s style, but why is it something that she favors? And how does the new GF80mmF1.7 fit into it? “Whatever the purpose of a session,” she explains, “whether it’s commercial, editorial or social, I really always want to capture the essence of who the subject is and tell a little of their story. I want it to feel like you’re caught in a real moment with them, and avoid anything that looks overly set up or contrived.”

Photo © Alison Conklin | FUJIFILM GFX 50S and GF80mmF1.7 R WR, 1/250sec at F1.7, ISO 100

This, she says, is all about evoking an emotional response in the viewer, something that stops them scrolling on a webpage or turning the pages of a magazine or album. “When people look at my photos, I want them to actually feel something,” Alison explains, “I want them to feel like they were there at that time I made the image, or be connected to it in the same way that a sound, a taste or a smell would bring them back to a moment in time. It’s the same when I’m photographing food, and I’m trying to achieve an image that brings in another sense on top of the visual, like taste or texture.”

As with all successful photographers, Alison’s ideas come from a range of influences, including her experiences growing up, and the artists who inspired her. “My parents were hobbyist photographers,” she says “and so there were always a bunch of pictures laying around in our house, but the ones I fell in love with were the ‘outtakes’, the photos of my parents laughing with their eyes closed, or looking at the camera kind of unprepared. It’s those little accidents that really tell you who people are, not a Sears-style staged portrait.”

Photo © Alison Conklin | FUJIFILM GFX 50S and GF80mmF1.7 R WR, 1/250sec at F1.7, ISO 125

Photographically, she took particular inspiration from the work of rock photographer, Linda McCartney. “Away from the glitz and excess of that world, she would just try to capture who the person was, which she often did by not letting them know that she was even in the same space as them. It might seem like a random choice, because she’s not like an Avedon like many people would namecheck, but for me her work is really beautiful, and really conveyed who her subjects were, rather than being some flat facsimile of a person. So that is sort of my goal, too!”

It’s no surprise then, that as someone who wants to make pictures in a natural style, and often in a candid and unobtrusive way, GF80mmF1.7 is a natural fit for Alison. “For starters,” she says, “the F1.7 aperture makes it an amazing lens to use in low-light. I rarely use flash outside of the studio, and I want to use natural light whenever possible. Things like portraits lit with a single light source, or wedding parties will be really easy, because the lens is so bright. I could be in near darkness and still be able to use it! And of course it also means you can use lower ISOs if you want.”

“Of course there’s also the effect of the huge maximum aperture on depth-of-field,” she continues, “which combined with the focal length, gives you that amazing larger format look. It really feels so different to something you can make on a DSLR. The combination of the fall off and the framing comes together with the rendering and the colors to make something unique. And with access to that kind of depth-of-field you can make portraits against almost any background with the subject standing out. I really think my work is going to change with this lens. Because, you know, my GF110mmF2 R LM WR is a beautiful lens, but this is not as close, so it gives you a little bit more of the story, and the context.”

Photo © Alison Conklin | FUJIFILM GFX 50S and GF80mmF1.7 R WR, 1/2000sec at F1.7, ISO 160

Without her GFX system cameras’ advanced autofocus, making the most of that depth-of-field might be a tricky task, but Alison says it’s no problem. “With pictures like these created with the aperture wide open,” she explains, “you have to be sure you’re catching the actual eye, not just the eyelash, but that’s where the beauty of the GFX system’s Face and Eye Detection comes into play. And with that backing you up, you can see that this lens is insanely sharp, too. When I first got it, I threw it on my camera and was just photographing random things around the house, I was so blown away by it!”

“It’s surprisingly small and light, too,” she continues, “which means more freedom for me to make pictures in the way I want to. Because along with things like the GFX system’s silent shutter, I can be a little bit more invisible, because I never want to make a session about me. I just want it to be as natural as possible.”

We could easily have spoken all day, but unfortunately, we ran out of time. Alison needs to be somewhere else, and for a good cause, too. “This morning’s session is for the Go Red For Women campaign,” she says, “and what we’re doing is photographing ten women for it – ten caregivers, nurses, and doctors, who’ve been at the front of the fight against Covid-19. I’ll be using the GF80mmF1.7 for sure, because of course it’s a great studio lens, too. Actually, it’s amazing for pretty much everything I want to do. If I had to dream up a perfect lens, this would be it!”

GF80mmF1.7 R WR is coming soon to your nearest FUJIFILM Authorized Dealer. Learn more and read the full specifications here.


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