7 minute read

Finding a Voice

Brandon Ruffin learned to find photographic inspiration in his own backyard and now FUJIFILM GFX100S is helping to continue the story

“At one time,” remembers Brandon Ruffin, “I thought I needed to go to all these wonderful places to create beautiful work, and to photograph people from those places, too – places that I had no way of reaching as a kid. These were people and places that somehow seemed better than the ones I knew. But eventually I learned something – all I needed was right here in the city around me. That’s why I hate the term ‘self-taught’,” he laughs. “It just gives the impression that I didn’t go to school for photography! Yes, I took a different path, but each path requires you learn, even if it’s one you’re navigating alone.”

In fact, like many photographers, traditionally or self-educated, Brandon – who now specializes in portraiture and street photography in Oakland, California, and contributes to publications, such as Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle – had to find what mattered most alone: his creative voice. And that is just as important as the technical aspect of the art.

Practicing graffiti and ink drawing from an early age, he also documented the world around him with a simple point-and-shoot camera. “I soon moved on to a bridge camera and learned about manual exposure. I started making what I would call ‘artistic’ photos, where I was thinking more seriously about lighting and composition,” Brandon recalls.

“I very seldom made pictures of people at the time, because I hadn’t developed those muscles as a photographer yet,” he continues. “And after graduating, the economy was in the dumps, so I ended up working at electronics retailer Circuit City. I hated it at the time, but I look back at it fondly now, because it was like an extension of college – and it helped me get a discount on a DSLR, which my parents bought me as a graduation present.”

As well as picking up more capable equipment, Brandon was discovering the influences that would shape his outlook – these weren’t inaccessible people and places, they were personal experiences. “I don’t know what it was about graffiti that called to me growing up, but I was really into hip hop, and that same interest led me to Jamel Shabazz, the Brooklyn photographer who documented the rise of that culture. His work was really interesting, because it was about the community that was experiencing hip hop, not necessarily the artists themselves. Seeing New York displayed in that way was incredibly moving for me, because I came from a neighborhood just like it, but on the West Coast.”

That idea of community would form the center of Brandon’s own work, but it still took some realization to get there. “Growing up, I had major insecurities about where I was from,” he explains. “As a black kid – and ultimately as I became a black man – I was very self-conscious about the way people perceived me. There are a lot of negative connotations, and that can manifest as a desire to prove to people you’re different. You know: ‘I’m not ghetto, I’m not a thief, I’m smart, I speak well’, so you want to make sure that everyone else knows this and they don’t treat you badly.”

It’s something that Brandon doesn’t think he’s alone in experiencing. “I think it’s something that affects most black people, as they’re trying to figure themselves out,” he continues. “We sometimes want to set ourselves apart because we’re very self-conscious about the way people look at us, especially when we’re in spaces that aren’t just our own. You’re always very aware of your skin. And sadly, these are the conversations that a lot of black children have inside their heads as they grow up.

“I had to get over the idea that there was no value in photographing and documenting the environment I was from,” he adds. “Seeing the documentary work from guys like Jamel, Chi Modu, and Radcliffe ‘Ruddy’ Roye was huge for me. Their work shaped my mind to move in a certain direction, before I discovered more traditional documentary icons, like Gordon Parks, Saul Leiter, and Eli Reed.”

Beginning to connect with the community through making urban landscape and street images, Brandon was encouraged by a photographer friend. “They challenged me to get closer with my street photography. That wasn’t something I understood at first, because I was using a 135mm lens and taking close-ups. But the thing was, most of the time, people still didn’t know I was photographing them. I wasn’t getting physical or connecting with people. She urged me to move outside that comfort zone and engage, explain why I was photographing them, and have a conversation.”

‘Closer’ soon became a mantra for Brandon, with his intimate street portraits not only created from nearer to his subjects, but also spelling out the intention of his work. “For me, there was a push to create intimate pictures of black people,” he explains. “I enjoy making pictures of all people from a human standpoint, but I began wanting to display my own community in a way that shows how diverse black people are, without implicit biases.”

According to Brandon, filling the frame of his pictures and stripping away a lot of the environment means that the viewer is obliged to read these images in a different way.
“Of course, I do also frame more widely, but I find that when you strip away the environment, you focus more intently on the person,” he says. “When you’re that close, it breaks a barrier, and you’re forced to recognize somebody’s humanity, unfettered by preconceptions of their race, where they come from, or what their story is. When we look at a picture so intimately, it’s like looking in a mirror.”

Normally using FUJIFILM X-T4 or FUJIFILM GFX 50R for his portraiture, Brandon was keen to see what FUJIFILM GFX100S could add to his work. So, what immediately stood out for him? “I think it was having that much power in such a versatile form factor,” he explains.
“By power, I mean the sheer resolution and the amount of detail you can achieve, all of which helps build that desired human connection. And of course, when that sensor is twinned with lenses such as FUJINON GF110mmF2 R LM WR, you can achieve that very shallow depth-of-field, which helps me draw the eyes to the heart of the picture.”

GFX100S’s design also makes it a very capable street camera, according to Brandon. “Like
GFX 50R, despite being a large format camera, you definitely feel comfortable moving around with it. But it’s not just about the weight. Camera size also affects my interactions with people. You almost want a camera large enough that people know you’re a photographer, and not some creep trying to like snap them on your phone! At the same time, you also don’t want them to think that this picture is going to appear in some large arena.”

Brandon also found GFX100S’s handling and adaptability meant he could work with his usual freedom on location, something that’s not normally associated with larger format, high-resolution cameras. “In terms of using it effectively on the street,” he explains, “it’s a perfect camera, and features, such as in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and ISO range, mean working in the available light is no problem. For instance, I made everything for this project in natural light without any issues. It’s the space I enjoy working in most of the time. On top of that, Eye Detection autofocus makes the camera do a little bit of decision-making, too. That allows you to concentrate on your own interactions. I never found it lacking!”

Moving on, and still learning, Brandon hopes for another evolution in his work. “In my depictions of blackness, through these portraits, I think it’s definitely become more celebratory now,” he enthuses. “And through that – and through my own success as a photographer – it’s become something I hope can inspire some other kid to pick up a camera one day. I’d like them to look at my work the way I looked at Jamel’s and Chi’s and Ruddy’s, and say: ‘I could do this, I’m worthy of this space, I have every right to make these photographs, and I will’.”

FUJIFILM GFX100S is coming soon to your nearest FUJIFILM Authorized Dealer. Learn more and read the full specifications here.


CREATE/SEND/SHARE

see your image on our Social Channels

Share your image and story with us for a chance to be featured.

Success.
Please select an image
What would you like to share about this image and why would you like to share it?

Consumer Submission Terms and Conditions:

MY FUJIFILM LEGACY MEMORY
1. AGREEMENT TO THESE TERMS AND THE FUJIFILM PRIVACY POLICY: BY UPLOADING A SUBMISSION (as hereafter defined) AND CLICKING YOUR AGREEMENT TO THESE TERMS ON THE SITE, YOU ARE AGREEING TO BE BOUND, WITHOUT LIMITATION OR QUALIFICATION, TO THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS AND THE PRIVACY POLICY, AVAILABLE AT https://www.fujifilm.com/privacy_policy/?_ga=2.188005036.507021620.1563365952-1582032552.1552994675. Any information contained in a Submission, including image, contact information such as physical address and email address, and any other personal information submitted, will be used in accordance with FUJIFILM North America Corporation’s (“FNAC”) Privacy Policy and these Terms & Conditions. Each Submitter acknowledges that submission pursuant to these Terms and Conditions constitutes the necessary and proper permission for FNAC’s use of his or her Submission pursuant to these terms and the Privacy Policy. In addition, by uploading a Submission on the Site, each Submitter represents and warrants that he or she is at least 13 years of age. Yes, I’d like to receive more information regarding FUJIFILM products and services via e-mail (e.g. by newsletter or other marketing communication). I also agree that FUJIFILM North America can use my contact data in accordance with its Privacy Policy to inform me about FUJIFILM products and services by e-mail.

2. IMAGE AND PHOTO DESCRIPTION SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS:
A. Each photo submission (each, along with the required submission form and any provided description, a "Submission") that you as the Submitter determines to submit to FNAC must be uploaded to the submission website at http://www.fujifilm-x.com/en-us/ShareMyFujifilmLegacy (the “Site”) and accompanied by a fully completed submission form located on the Site. Each submitted photo may be no larger than 10 MB, no longer than 2000 pixels in the longest dimension, and it must be formatted as a JPEG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, or BMP. Any description you provide relating to the image may be no more than 1500 characters, including spaces. The Submission may reflect any topic or subject matter, but must be the original work of the providing Submitter, and must depict an original photographic creation. The Submission must have been captured using a FUJIFILM X Series camera and lens (i.e. any FUJIFILM XF or XC lens) or GFX System camera and lens (i.e. any GFX lens).

B. No commitment is made by FNAC to review, consider or post any Submission, and FNAC reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to deem any Submission as inappropriate, unworthy, or unsuitable for posting for any reason, and at any time with no obligation to inform, explain, or justify its reasoning


C. The Submission(s) must not infringe upon the copyrights, trademarks, rights of privacy, publicity or other intellectual property or other rights of any third party person or entity, and by uploading a Submission you represent and warrant that: (a) the Submission is your personal, sole, and original creation and has not been derived from, reproduced, or copied in whole or in part from any work by a third party person or entity; (b) the Submission does not violate or infringe any intellectual property right of any kind, including but not limited to any copyright, trademark, trade name, publicity right, or other proprietary right of any person or entity; (c) the Submission is your personal, sole, and exclusive property; (d) any person(s) depicted in the image has given his or her approval for the submission; and (e) no person or property depicted in the image is depicted in a misleading, misrepresentative, or false fashion;


D. The Submission(s) and its title and description are subject to the following content guidelines, and may not, in any instance, in FNAC’s judgment:


(i) Contain, depict, reflect, promote or endorse nudity, profanity, obscenity or pornography; content that is sexually explicit or suggestive, violent, derogatory, disparaging, or defaming; or potentially hazardous content, behavior or activities;

(ii) Contain, depict, reflect, promote or endorse the sale, distribution, possession, use, or abuse of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, firearms, knives or other weapons; or any particular social or political agenda, issue or message;

(iii) Appear to duplicate or replicate a previously received Submission;

(iv) Contain, depict, reflect, promote or endorse any third party owned trademarks, logos, copyrights, images, or trade dress (such as clothing bearing a distinctive logo, a third party’s artwork, or materials from movies or published in other media) including third party products;

(v) Contain, depict, or reflect any identifying information relating to any person depicted, (such as license plate numbers, personal names, email addresses or street addresses), and including any likeness or other information of famous individuals (such as past or present celebrities or public figures, or individuals impersonating them);

(vi) Contain, depict, reflect, promote, endorse or communicate content inconsistent with the reputation and corporate image FNAC and/or FUJIFILM Corporation wish to communicate; and/or

(vii) Violate any law, or reflect, advocate or promote any activity that may violate any law.

Submissions determined by FNAC to violate any of the above content guidelines are subject to rejection. FNAC reserves the right to take all necessary measures to remove any given Submission as it deems appropriate in any given instance, and/or to change any Submission title or description provided at any time and for any reason.


E. If the Submission(s) contains, reflects or incorporates any materials, content or elements that are subject to the rights of third parties, the Submitter is responsible for obtaining, prior to providing the Submission, any and all releases, permissions and consents necessary to permit the use and posting of the Submission by FNAC and its parent and affiliate companies (including without limitation, FUJIFILM Corporation). This includes obtaining the written release, permission and consent to use any name, image, likeness or property of any person who, or items that appear in or are identifiable in the Submission(s). Where a minor appears in or is identifiable in any given Submission, the Submitter is responsible to put a written release, consent and permission into place with the appropriate parent or guardian of such minor. FNAC reserves the right to request documentation reflecting these releases, permissions and consents from any Submitter at any time, and to undertake measures to remove the posting of any given Submission(s) pending receipt of such documentation.


3. LICENSE FOR FNAC TO POST AND POSTING GUIDELINES: Upon submitting a Submission, each Submitter grants to FNAC, its parent and affiliate companies, a royalty free, irrevocable, perpetual and worldwide right and license (but without any right of sublicense) to modify, adapt, and reproduce the Submission, and to use and display the Submission, in whole or in part, either (i) on the FNAC Instagram (@fujifilmx_us), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/FujifilmXUS), or Twitter (@FujifilmX_US) Account, as a social media post; or (ii) on a FNAC or parent/affiliate company website (such as, without limitation, www.fujifilm-x.com), including without limitation, as a homepage banner. Submitter understands that any use made of the Submission will be commercial in nature, and may be in connection with the promotion of a FUJIFILM branded product. This right and license is granted in return for FNAC’s review and consideration of the Submission and in return for the potential opportunity for publicity resulting from FNAC’s posting and tagging of the Submission, and without any right or expectation of the Submitter to receive any further compensation (directly or indirectly) of any kind. FNAC and its parent and affiliate companies shall have no obligation to provide further notice to, or to obtain any further approval from, the Submitter. All Submission postings to be made by FNAC will be subject to the following posting guidelines:


A. If FNAC posts any given Submission, FNAC will use commercially reasonable efforts to credit the Submission on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by tagging the Submitter’s handle as provided to FNAC through the Site. FNAC will credit each Submission on the FNAC website with the Submitter’s first name and last initial, and Instagram handle if and as applicable. If city and state information is provided, FNAC may reference that information as well in connection with any given Submission posting. Note that FNAC does not guarantee that any given Submission will be posted.


B. FNAC is not responsible for any unauthorized third party use of any Submission. Without limitation, this includes any copying, reproduction, distribution, re-postings, forwarding, linking to, or re-publication made by any third party at any time.


C. FNAC shall have the right to modify each Submission, including but not limited to, altering, and editing any provided description. By uploading a Submission, each Submitter agrees that he or she shall have no right of approval, no claim to additional compensation and no claim (including without limitation, claims based upon invasion of privacy, defamation, right of publicity or copyright) arising out of any use, alteration, modification, editing of any or all of the Submission.


4. FUJIFILM SITE CONTENT AND PROPERTY: The trademarks, service marks, trade names, logos, designs, images, and content at any time displayed on the Site, including but not limited to FUJIFILM, INSTAX, FinePix, BUILD YOUR LEGACY, any other trademarks, logos, designs, and intellectual property and the FNAC posted content and images, shall at all times be the sole property of FNAC and/or its parent and affiliates, or shall be the property of third parties (such as any given Submitter) used by FNAC with any necessary and proper permissions in place. Nothing contained on the Site should be construed as granting, by implication, estoppel, or otherwise, any license or right for any Submitter, or any third party, to use any trademark, service mark, logo, design, trade name, product name, content or image displayed on the Site without the prior written permission of FNAC. For absolute clarity and without limitation, no Submitter or third party is permitted to post, display, publish, forward, link to or re-publish any images of FNAC or any Submission(s) of any other party unless specifically authorized to do so in writing by FNAC. Neither FNAC nor its parent or affiliate companies are sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or otherwise affiliated or associated with, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platform.


5. NO REPRESENTATIONS AND WARRANTIES, AND LIMIT OF LIABILITY:

A. FNAC DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES AND REPRESENTATIONS RELATING TO THE SITE AND TO ANY IMAGES OR CONTENT POSTED ON THE SITE, EXPRESS AND IMPLIED, TO THE GREATEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. FNAC ALSO ASSUMES NO RESPONSIBILITY, AND WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR, ANY DAMAGE TO, OR VIRUSES THAT MAY INFECT, ANY SUBMITTER’S OR SITE VISITOR’S COMPUTER EQUIPMENT OR OTHER PROPERTY, OR FOR ANY LOSS OR CORRUPTION OF ANY MATERIALS, IMAGE, CONTENT, OR DATA ON ACCOUNT OF ACCESS TO, USE OF, OR BROWSING IN THE SITE, OR RELATING TO OR BY REASON OF A SUBMITTER’S SUBMISSION OF ANY MATERIALS, IMAGE, CONTENT OR DATA TO THE SITE.

B. NOTWITHSTANDING THE FOREGOING OR OTHERWISE ANY OTHER PROVISION HEREOF, IN NO EVENT SHALL FNAC'S TOTAL LIABILITY TO ANY SUBMITTER OR SITE VISITOR FOR ALL DAMAGES, LOSSES, CLAIMS, LIABILITIES AND CAUSES OF ACTION (WHETHER IN CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE) EXCEED THE AMOUNTS PAID BY SUCH SUBMITTER OR SITE VISITOR TO FNAC, IF ANY, IN CONNECTION WITH SUBMITTING MATERIALS, IMAGES, CONTENT OR DATA TO THE SITE, OR IN ACCESSING THE SITE, AS APPLICABLE. IN NO EVENT WILL FNAC BE RESPONSIBLE IN ANY INSTANCE FOR ANY INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION LOST PROFITS, LOST OPPORTUNITIES, OVERHEAD OR ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES, LOSS OF USE, OR DAMAGE TO REPUTATION OR GOODWILL) EVEN IF APPRISED OF THE LIKELIHOOD OF SUCH DAMAGES.


6. COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT AND TAKE-DOWN PROCEDURE: If you believe in good faith that any material, image, or content appearing on the Site infringes your copyright, then you (or your agent) may send us a written notice that complies with this provision, requesting that the applicable image, or content be removed. Note that by submitting this written notice, you acknowledge and agree that FNAC may forward your written notice (to include your, or your agent’s, personal contact information) and any related communications received by FNAC to the original Submitter of the allegedly infringing content. Furthermore, by submitting this notice, you acknowledge and agree that FNAC’s sole responsibility to you upon receipt of such notice will be to remove the allegedly infringing image or content, and you acknowledge and agree that you will have no further right or remedy against, or as to, FNAC for its original posting of the Submission on the Site, although you may have other rights and remedies as to the Submitter.
Your infringement notice must be sent to [email protected], and must include the following information:


A. A copy of your specific image or copyrighted work that you are claiming has been infringed;
B. identification of the FNAC posted image or content that is claimed to be infringing or the subject of infringing activity, and information reasonably sufficient to allow FNAC to locate such image or content on the Site;
C. the name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address of the complaining copyright owner;
D. a statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the image or content by the original Submitter is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law; and
E. a statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
F. a physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner.
Within ten (10) business days of receipt of a written notice meeting the above-referenced requirements, FNAC will take down the allegedly infringing image or content, and notify the Submitter of such image or content of your claim / infringement allegation. FNAC will not re-post the removed, allegedly infringing image or content until it receives written notice from the complaining party that the dispute has been resolved. The process outlined in this provision is the exclusive process to be used to complain to, or otherwise advise, FNAC about any infringement of your rights by any Submitter or any Submitted image and/or content posted on the Site.
7. PRIVACY POLICY: Personal information contained in a Submission or otherwise communicated to FNAC will be used in accordance with FNAC’s Privacy Policy, which can be found here: [INSERT LINK TO PRIVACY POLICY]. In addition, and as stated above in Section 6, your contact information may be shared to a party complaining of infringement. By uploading a Submission, you hereby agree to the Privacy Policy.

8. MISCELLANOUS TERMS:

A. By uploading a Submission, a Submitter is communicating with FNAC electronically. Each Submitter consents to receive communications relating to the Submission from FNAC electronically, generally by email. FNAC may communicate by e-mail, or by other electronic methods such as through social media communications. Each Submitter agrees that all agreements, notices, disclosures and other communications that FNAC provides electronically satisfy any legal requirement that such communications be in writing.

B. All Submissions are administered by FNAC from its offices in Valhalla, New York, United States of America. These Terms and Conditions are governed and interpreted under the laws of the State of New York without regard to its conflict of laws provisions. Each Submitter agree that any claim or dispute against FNAC arising out of or relating to the use of the Site must be resolved by a court located in the Eastern District of New York, unless otherwise agreed upon by all parties. Any claim or cause of action arising out of or related to a Submission must be filed within nine (9) months after such claim or cause of action arose, regardless of any statute or law to the contrary. In the event any such claim or cause of action is not filed within such 9 month period, each Submitter specifically agrees that such claim or cause of action shall be forever barred.

C. These Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy, which are part of these Terms and Conditions and are incorporated herein by reference, set forth the entire understanding and agreement between the Submitter and FNAC with respect to a Submission. Each Submitter acknowledge that any other agreements between with respect to a Submission is superseded and of no force or effect. If any provision of these Terms and Conditions shall be determined to be unlawful, void or for any reason unenforceable by a court or other legal authority of competent jurisdiction, then that provision will be severed from these Terms and Conditions and will be deemed replaced by an equivalent enforceable provision that, as nearly as possible, reflects the intent hereof. The severance of any individual provision of these Terms and Conditions will not affect the validity and enforceability of any remaining provisions.

BY UPLOADING A SUBMISSION, EACH SUBMITTER AGREES
TO BE BOUND BY THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS
AND THE PRIVACY POLICY.

  • Should be Empty: