8 minute read

Lady Liberty

Entrepreneur-turned-photographer uses X Series and GFX50R to create environmental portrait series of women artists living and working in New York

At just six years old, Ida Kreutzer saw an image of the New York City skyline on television that sparked a clear ambition within her.

“I asked my mother what that place was, and she responded by saying, ‘This is a big city on the other side of the ocean where people go when they have big dreams,’” Kreutzer recalls.

“That really stuck with me,” she said. “I’ve wanted to live in New York all my life, and finally, at age 36, I made it here.”

Raised by creative parents in the countryside of Austria, Kreutzer nurtured artistic hobbies and pursuits throughout her childhood and early adult years, including painting, photography and sewing.

Today, she lives and works full-time as a photographer in Brooklyn, and is nearing completion of her book project, Lady Liberty—a collection of portraits and interviews of 11 women artists, spanning a range of mediums, who call New York City home. Formerly a film photographer, this is a project that coincided with her transition to digital photography, starting with Fujifilm’s X-T2, and later, GFX50R.

The concept for Lady Liberty stems from Kreutzer’s early experiences exploring New York and meeting women artists during a year abroad in the United States. She attended a university in New Jersey with a cohort of other international students and would take the 45-minute train ride into New York every chance she had, exploring the city all day long with her film camera in hand.

“It was a very interesting year that kind of set the tone for both my portrait photography and my love for New York,” she said.

“We were people from 17 nations living on one floor in a dorm. Our group of women hung out a lot and it was very interesting to talk to people who grew up in Oman and Taiwan and France and Austria. We had a lot of exchange back and forth and a lot of girls’ nights, and at some point, I pulled out my camera and started snapping away.”

For Kreutzer, much of what draws her to portraiture is the intimate conversation that naturally comes along with it.

“I would ask individual women if I could photograph them, and I really cherished that mix of looking through the viewfinder and capturing them, but also having conversations about how beauty is perceived in your country, or how did you grow up?”

Finding Her Way Back to New York

After her year abroad was over, Kreutzer returned to Austria and started a successful business as a handbag designer. She continued to practice photography as a hobby, but at the time, says it was difficult to turn that into a full-time job in Austria.

“I looked for a mentor for about two or three years in my early twenties and wasn’t able to find anyone, which was very discouraging. But while I had my design business, I realized that I still needed to leave space for photography and for these conversations, so I just kept photographing women, for the most part,” she said.

In 2015, she visited New York again and realized she couldn’t stay away any longer.

“On the flight back to Austria, I just cried and couldn’t stop, and when we landed, I went to my dad and said, ‘I think I need to do this now,’” she said.

Kreutzer used her savings to hire a lawyer to facilitate the visa process, and in just under a year, she was able to make the move.

“That first year was just me finding a way—building a life, making friends, finding a job, finding an apartment, and adjusting culturally again. It was very different from the dorm experience, suddenly living in an apartment in Brooklyn with two roommates,” she said.

As she adjusted to life in the city, Kreutzer began making friends who offered creative inspiration.

“I met a lot of interesting people, and I think, true to the New York spirit, a lot of the people you meet are artists or work in artistic ways. I began having really interesting conversations with my new female friends about where they were from, what mediums they work with—the thing I’m most interested in is the creative process. How does an idea hit you, and how do you turn it over in your heart and your head? Then, what’s the output?”

These conversations, mirroring those from her college days, were the first flickerings of what would become Lady Liberty.

Lady Liberty Through Fujifilm Viewfinders

As she continued to converse with the women artists she met, Kreutzer began jotting down quotes and anecdotes from their conversations so she could remember things like music that was recommended or a particularly interesting story.

“I talked to a friend about it, and he said, ‘I think this would be a really great book,’ and this had not occurred to me,” she said.

“For me, this was merely a bonding experience, really just conversations about something that I’m passionate about, the connection to womanhood and their art—questions like ‘how did you come to New York? Did you grow up here, or why are you here?’—because I am an artist, and I came here for fulfillment and to add artistic value to what I was doing.”

But in 2018, she began thinking about the book idea as an artistic project and approaching those friends and connections to see if they would be open to participating. Eleven women agreed, and Kreutzer began setting up photo sessions and conversations.

To create the images, Kreutzer started out with her Fujifilm X-T2, which has been her trusted companion since transitioning from film to digital in 2018. After thinking she would likely stick with film for the whole of her career, trying out X Series gave her the comfort and confidence she needed to make the switch.

“When I picked up the X-T2, I was like, “This is it, this is it.’ There was such an immediate connection and joy, and the way it works and the way the menu is set up is just really natural to me,” she said.

“I came straight from film photography to buy the X-T2, so for me to pick it up and feel the size, but then also see that there’s a wheel for everything you need to do, whereas with other cameras on the market, there’s a lot of stuff that you need 15 different buttons for, and to me that just didn’t connect. With Fujifilm, it was like, ‘Oh, this feels basically like my analog camera, it just has all the benefits of a digital camera.’”

While working on Lady Liberty, Kreutzer decided to reach out to the team at Fujifilm and see if there was any interest in a partnership. The project resonated with our team, and we set her up with a camera on loan for several months. Intrigued by medium format, Kreutzer requested the GFX50R and the GF63mmF2.8 R WR lens.

“When it arrived, I was so stoked and so nervous,” she said. “It was so big. Compared to the X-T2, which has such a tiny body and is so light—which is mainly why I picked it, because I can bring it everywhere—the GFX was just a very different thing. And the first time I used it in a studio setting, it blew my mind.”

She particularly noted the intensity and quality of color coming out of the camera.

“Looking through it and then seeing the colors on the computer screen, I couldn’t believe these were the actual colors. It was magical.”

And the first time she took it out of the studio to a photo project on the beach, the color effect was just as impressive.

“A lot of the photos from that session, I literally took straight off the camera without needing any edits. It was cool to see a camera in a size that I would not have picked when I was buying a camera, that I held it and I played with it and it felt like an extension of my eye and my hand,” she said.

GFX50R quickly became her go-to for everything related to Lady Liberty.

“I used the GFX for basically everything in the four or five months that I had it, and it was an absolute joy.”

With Lady Liberty, one of Kreutzer’s goals was a truly candid image, the moment when the subject forgets the camera is there.

“This is where the photos start to get interesting, because they’re talking about something that they care about, and they’re just more comfortable in their bodies,” she said.

She photographed her subjects in three different situations. The first was a simple portrait, and the second focused on each woman immersed in her work. For the final setting, the women are featured doing something they love outside of work.

“One of the artists loves playing basketball, so I photographed her playing basketball. Another loves to bake, so I photographed her making bread. I want to show the different sides of people. And obviously at this point, I’ve gotten to know all of them over three years, so friendships have grown. We connect through the photo sessions, and they’re also sharing something with me that they’re passionate about, so it’s all very personal because art is so personal to us. I hope that people who open this book will appreciate the different perspectives on what are sometimes very similar art forms. I have several photographers in there, and I like that reading through it, you can see that it’s not all the same just because it’s the same medium.”

Kreutzer likes to employ low light and moody sets to evoke those intimate connections. Through the color and light she was able to capture with both the X-T2 and GFX50R, she hopes people will see the emotional connections she has created with her subjects along with her sensitivity to them.

“Sensitivity is generally really important for me in my work,” she said.

“It’s a vulnerable position sometimes in front of the camera. I try to work with it and take it away by being myself and being sensitive to the person. I don’t necessarily love to be photographed, so I relate to that, and I think it makes me a better photographer. I’m going to take my time making sure they’re comfortable. I hope that when someone looks at one of my photos, they want to look at it again, and they see that there was an actual moment captured that meant something.”


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