Wedding and event photographer, Eric Kelley, talks to us about how he chose to give something back to his community during lockdown using the FUJIFILM GFX system.
As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps around the globe, communities throughout the US are pulling together to fight back. Most are adhering to strict social distancing rules and some have even adopted complete lockdown to try and slow the spread. Such measures have inevitably resulted in a very different way of life for individuals and families across the country.
Aware of the historical significance of these unprecedented circumstances, Eric Kelley, a Charlottesville-based photographer, wanted to find a way to not only help families document their situation, but also raise spirits in what can be a challenging situation for many. “I had the thought that I needed to make portraits of families at their homes, not inside, but on their porches,” he explains. “What a way to capture this moment in history and also get a snapshot of these families who, for the most part, are spending all of their time together in their homes.”
“With these images, I hope to frame a snippet of history for people to look back on and hold”
Eric began reaching out to residents in Charlottesville and, while always taking extra care to adhere to social distancing guidelines, he was able to safely drive and make distanced portraits of people in his community. The aim? To ensure these exceptional times are always remembered.
“With these images, I hope to frame a snippet of history for people to look back on and hold. We are experiencing a community trauma and it deserves to be shown and remembered collectively,” he tells us.
For this project, Eric chose to use FUJIFILM GFX 50R paired with the FUJINON GF50mmF3.5 R LM WR and GF110mmF2 R LM WR lenses. This setup was perfectly suited to Eric’s needs. The larger format, 51.4-megapixel CMOS sensor provides outstanding detail, while GFX 50R’s compact rangefinder-style body is not only easy to travel with, but less intimidating for the subject.
However, possibly the most important aspects of Eric’s setup were the lenses. Aside from producing beautiful colors and outstanding clarity, these lenses lent themselves perfectly to not only the genre, but the unique conditions that social distancing creates.
The small, unassuming GF50mmF3.5 standard prime allowed Eric to achieve the most natural shots possible with a true-to-life perspective, while the medium-telephoto focal length of the GF110mmF2 allowed him the look and level of detail he needed, while still being able to keep his distance.
“I would say the lens plays the biggest role in the image and how I want the world to see what I do. If you are trying to get something very specific, to convey a certain feeling and you don’t have the right lens, it won’t fully be what you intended to share with your audience,” he explains.
“I like for my images to look as real to life as possible, therefore I generally prefer a lens that is close to what the eye sees; that is the GF50mmF3.5 lens on GFX 50R. However, when I can’t get super close to my subjects because I want to be safe and socially distanced, the GF110mmF2 has been my go-to.”
The GF50mmF3.5 is the smallest and lightest lens in the GF range, which, when combined with a 35mm format equivalent focal length of 40mm, makes it hugely popular with street, travel, and documentary photographers.
The GF110mmF2 is another much-loved GF lens, especially for portrait photographers. Its equivalent focal length of 87mm in 35mm format lends itself perfectly to people pictures and a wide aperture of F2, combined with the larger sensor of the GFX system, makes for irresistible bokeh. The fact both lenses are also weather-resistant offers an added bonus for on-location work.
“It’s the closest thing I’ve used to film. No other digital system can match it”
For Eric, one standout feature of these lenses and the rest of the GF range is the external aperture ring and how it has benefitted his style of photography. “Being able to easily change the aperture on the lens has allowed me to make sure the subjects are in focus,” he says. “Usually I am shooting multiple people on different focal planes, so adjusting accordingly in an instant has made this really fun and helped to make sure I have images that include everyone and are appropriately in focus.”
This ease of use extends further than just these two lenses. In fact, the overall handling of the entire GFX system is one of the reasons why Eric chose it for his professional work. “The feel, the way the cameras fit into my hand, the adjusting that I can do on the lens, and how the final product comes out make this whole system unlike any other digital system that I have used before,” he enthuses. “It’s the closest thing I’ve used to film. No other digital system can match it.”
So, we’ve established that Eric is a fan, but how about the real test: what did his subjects think? “All families are different and hearing that the images have been ‘helpful’, ‘a blessing’, and numerous other wonderful things has made the whole process fantastic,” smiles Eric.
He concludes: “It has been delightful to offer these to people and help document this time for families to have and remember for the future.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Eric Kelley is a wedding photographer whose passion for creating stunning and authentic images has taken him to events around the world and seen his work appear in a long list of publications.
On behalf of everyone at Fujifilm, our hearts go out to all those impacted by COVID-19. In undertaking any of our suggested activities, please make sure to abide by the social distancing and other CDC recommended protocols relating to COVID-19, which can be found here.