7 minute read
Deeply in Love with Image Making
Cig Harvey is a legend of her craft, whose still life depictions are visually fanciful and emotionally stirring. In her skilled hands, FUJIFILM GFX100 II becomes the ultimate device for conveying meaning
There is nothing more remarkable than the lifelong pursuit of a passion. Photography can be enjoyed fleetingly, and serves a valuable purpose in the lives of those who give something of themselves to it – but for the rare few who live and breathe imagery, the art shapes their very being as much as they shape the art. In the fervent, complex, and indelible marks that are left, the relationship between maker and creation can only be described as a boundless love affair.
“I picked up a camera and experienced what it was like to see the world through a lens at 13,” Cig begins. “Decades later, I’m in love with the medium more than ever. I’ve worked in many areas of photography: running a studio in my early 20s, printing, teaching as a professor, engaging commercially, and leading workshops around the world. The camera has been a journal of my life.
“The camera can take you out, and it gives you license to meet people. It enables you to interrupt people’s lives and learn more about them. There’s a whole world that, without cameras, we wouldn’t have access to. It’s an extraordinary way to live and gives you a stronger sense of purpose. I’m present and alive in the moment because I’m always looking for a photograph.”
The last 20 years of Cig’s varied career have been devoted to fine art. She has five sold-out photo books to show for it, with another on the way. Passionate and skilled as she is, it seems fateful that a journey through other photographic mediums landed Cig here.
“Fine art is a beautiful thing. It’s only in the service of selling ideas, it’s not trying to sell you anything else,” Cig effuses. “Fine art only seeks to convey an idea, a thought, a gesture, a passion. It only gives – it’s got no ulterior motive. So, for me, it’s a pure pursuit.
“Our personal projects are inside of us. We don’t pick them, they come out when we make the work. I cross over a lot of subject matter, from still life and portraiture to landscape, or anything else at my fingertips. But it always comes back to a question: what story am I trying to tell, through metaphor and symbolism?”
Photo 2023 © Cig Harvey | FUJIFILM GFX100 II and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/500 sec at F10, ISO 800
Photo 2023 © Cig Harvey | FUJIFILM GFX100 II and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/500 sec at F11, ISO 800
Photo 2023 © Cig Harvey | FUJIFILM GFX100 II and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/640 sec at F10, ISO 800
Determined to avoid conscious interference and stay open to moments of inspiration, Cig does not plan her initial images. But no great work of art ever came together without a masterful hand at play. So, Cig has developed a lengthy system of image collection, analysis, and refinement.
“I always carry a small camera with me for journal making. If I see something that stops me in my tracks and makes me gasp, I make a picture of it. Then I bring that image back to my studio and say, what was it there? Maybe it was the color, the gesture, or often the light, but I’ll put it into a folder with other pictures that interest me, and I’ll start listening to what they’re trying to say,” Cig explains.
“I might revisit those scenes in a different context to make more images, then I begin analyzing how all the images I’ve collected relate to each other. I trust the process so well that I know it will reveal something. Slowly, the work starts to build. And looking into that somewhat secret language of art is wonderful. It’s an extraordinary way to live because it opens up a way of communicating that is completely different from a verbal level.”
Though interested far more in the art than the figurative paintbrush, staying equipped with cutting-edge cameras and lenses is important to Cig – not least to create fewer barriers between her and the story. Her most recent set of images provided an exciting opportunity to harness the power of FUJIFILM GFX100 II.
“I’m not a tech-focused creative, but I do want the best kit to serve a purpose,” she states. “I started working with Fujifilm cameras when X Series was launched. The quality has always been just delicious, and I love the direction GFX System is heading in – we’re getting bigger and bigger files in more compact bodies.
“I want the image to meet my vision before I ever get to post-production. My job is to make a scene in-camera – to go and see it in the world, then bring back that picture of evidence. That’s why I love Fujifilm’s digital image, because it’s a mirror of what my eye is seeing.”
The project itself – centered around cake – is an evolution of Cig’s thematic explorations in her fifth book, Blue Violet. Within the pages, viewers are exposed to riotous floral scenes, serving as a metaphor for life and death, and celebrating sensory experience. A second creative spark came by way of Cig’s daughter, Scout.
“When Scout was very little, on a rainy day, I would open the cupboard and she would start throwing everything into a bowl. Later, she fell in love with baking shows,” Cig recalls. “Cakes are made of such simple things, and I love that. Through relatively inexpensive materials, you access something that feels luxurious, fanciful, and is a creative outlet. I certainly didn’t set out to spend six months photographing cakes, but it took on this life of its own.
“My friend Jesse’s mum, who recently passed, used to make these incredible cakes every year for her daughter’s birthday. They were an extravagant expression, and that inspired me. I came to understand the story of Jesse through her life mapped in cakes,” the artist continues. “Scout started following suit with her bakes, and those are the cakes I started photographing – carrying her labors of love delicately out into a snowstorm, or any other landscape.”
In line with her usual creative process, a theme emerged before Cig’s eyes. The more she learned, and the more stories she heard, the stronger the string of meaning became.
“Like flowers, cakes are seen as feminine and pretty, yet they have this complicated history. I love that dichotomy in art, where we think one thing, then discover it’s not that simple. Cakes are complicated. Every culture, from ancient to modern, has their own version of cake. They can be nationalistic. Many people personally associate cake with guilt, too, and they only became commonplace with the arrival of sugar, which is completely linked to colonialism. But also, they’re one of the first objects in our childhood that we associate with pleasure and breaking routine. Everyone has stories around cake and they’re fascinating. So, those are the ideas I’m exploring, and what I hope the pictures convey.”
As the current tool of choice, GFX100 II was formative in the creation process. Paired with FUJINON GF55mmF1.7 R WR, the setup provided practical and creative benefits alike.
“I value working with quality optics – and GF55mmF1.7 R WR was great,” Cig reveals. “I was often working in near-darkness, and the fast aperture allowed me to explore a shallow depth-of-field wide open, retaining those important extra stops of light.
“The size of GFX100 II is fantastic. I keep a camera with me always and if you’re intimidated by a system, you won’t use it enough. You’ve got to bring photography into your life,” the photographer asserts.
“Huge for me, too, is the more detailed sensor. In my work, I print up to 40x60in – truly massive prints – and this camera gives me the capability to do that without worrying about image breakdown at all. In those low-light conditions, I was at a higher ISO than I would normally like, and GFX100 II handled it well. Overall image quality is better than ever. I’ve been looking at the files, zooming in and zooming in, and even at 400% it’s still dreamy.”
As Cig concludes, she shares her perspective on the broader process – and what the outstanding quality of GFX100 II means for photography at large. Her images draw back a veil to reveal thought-provoking subject matter, and artful as they are, it is meaning above all else that lingers within her scenes.
“Visual distractions don’t work for me,” Cig states. “A viewer can never be more focused on that than the content of the frame. I view a camera as a tool for ideas, and I have so many stories left to tell. My perspective and admiration for this medium have only deepened with time. Photography can show so much about us, our communities, and the world, but it’s also sort of unknowable. It’s like being deeply in love. You only discover more, the further beneath the surface you travel.”
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FUJIFILM GFX100 II
FUJIFILM GFX100 II reimagines the camera that built GFX System. Housed within a compact body, the 102-megapixel large format sensor delivers astounding 16-bit RAW files, with increased dynamic range and a lower base sensitivity of ISO 80. With the addition of X-Processor 5, rapid burst speeds of 8fps can be achieved, and a new AF algorithm detects and tracks subjects flawlessly. Complete with a suite of professional filmmaking features, GFX100 II is a phenomenal creative tool.Shop now Learn more