“I think it’s important to shoot without inspiration first,” says Seth K. Hughes, a commercial and editorial photographer originally from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. What seems like an unusual take on the creative process, starts to make a lot of sense when Seth explains his approach to documentary storytelling. “It actually took me a while to learn that inspiration comes after you put in the work,” he laughs, “and for me it all starts with hitting the pavement and persevering down the trail. I think it’s a misconception that you have to wait for inspiration in order to create. In fact, it’s the other way around.”
For Seth, inspiration grows as he walks, observing and experimenting, then the process “takes on a flow of its own,” he explains. “So you might find a street corner leads to an alley that overlooks a derelict building with a tapestry of light and shadow that you never could have expected. It can be a meandering process, but it makes me feel alive to go down that path of discovery and tell new stories in compelling ways.” Now “location independent,” he’s free to indulge this way of working. He and his wife frequently “roam across North America in our aluminum house on wheels.”
Taking X-Pro3 on a two-week road trip through the Rocky Mountains to capture “the colorful grit and natural beauty of high-elevation towns,” Seth found the camera a natural fit with his experiential approach. “X-Pro3’s overall design and functionality stands out most for me,” he says. “One thing I’ve always admired about Fujifilm is that its cameras are designed to get out of your way and make photography frictionless. X-Pro3 doesn’t get between you and your creative process, but rather, enables it.”
Seth’s project documenting life in mountain towns took in “the historic buildings, rusted vehicles and weathered patinas that weave a complex story of human existence in a beautiful yet harsh environment,” he explains. “Every rugged town opens up new and familiar fascinations. I find it a unique and rewarding experience to walk the streets and mingle with locals.” With X-Pro3, a variety of lenses, and his feet to power the project forward, he created a textured mix of images, combining close-up details with broad vistas for a comprehensive study of mountain life.
Seth’s images are deeply seated in a street and documentary style, and it’s one he says requires a level of dedication, patience, and skill that he still aspires to. “I have a deep respect for the great documentary photographers, like William Henry Jackson, Thomas Moran, and Edward Curtis, and I love immersing myself in the visual details that tell a deeper story,” he says. This eschews “the normal tourist tendency to check off major attractions and trophy shots without truly seeing what’s there beneath the surface,” Seth explains. “By putting in time and effort to notice subtleties and anticipate action, an adept street photographer reads between the lines and uncovers the essence of a specific time and place.”
Part of Seth’s admiration for X-Pro3, was that its new hidden tilting LCD touchscreen made him work harder at his compositions – though initially he struggled with the new feature. “The hidden LCD screen is a bold design change that took some getting used to,” he says. “It’s the first time I’ve held a digital camera without a screen glaring at me, and that was uncomfortable at first, because it became painfully obvious how dependent I was on an LCD once it was removed.”
He soon saw the upside. “I was forced to adapt my technique,” he continues, “and be more intentional with my compositions. Over time I started to appreciate the purpose more, which is to live in the moment and be hyper-aware of what’s happening around me. X-Pro3 challenged me as a photographer to be more present and in-tune with my environment instead of compulsively looking down to tweak menu settings and review images. Eventually I came to appreciate the freedom of exercising constraint. Not everyone is going to see the point of a hidden LCD screen, but those who do will revel in the freedom of simplicity and a refined approach to creativity. There’s a philosophical aspect to creating with this camera that changed the way I used it.”
According to Seth, this newfound level of immediacy offered by X-Pro3’s unique design is perfectly in tune with a street photographer’s need for “immersion, heightened senses, and an intense awareness of your surroundings.” He adds: “X-Pro3 is designed to help you concentrate on the moment, notice nuances, and connect with subjects in ways you wouldn’t have otherwise.” This, he says, all pushes photography further towards a state in which “it draws the viewer in, giving them a sense of immersion and fascination with the subject, and reveals something about time and place in a visceral way.”
On top of the design changes, Seth found a camera that performed flawlessly. “It has the same handling and intuitive ergonomics I came to love with X-Pro2,” he says. “The hybrid viewfinder is larger and higher resolution, and I can’t overstate the comfort and pleasure of shooting with a viewfinder on the left – no nose interference! I also noticed X-Pro3’s significant speed boost and autofocus improvements. It was very responsive and reacted quickly for spontaneous shots. It was no surprise that the image quality was on par with X-T3 as it uses the same X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor.”
Finally, says Seth, X-Pro3 and the style of shooting it encourages, helped him fight against some unhelpful modern trends. “The rapid delivery of information through our smartphones and other devices feeds a perception of time moving very quickly,” he explains, “and that leads to anxiety. It’s no wonder then that minimalism is taking root as a cultural phenomenon. As a photographer, and particularly with X-Pro3, I can bring back concentration and awe in a simple way. A photograph can transplant people from the anxious rush into something still and serene. I believe Fujifilm designed X-Pro3 with this purpose in mind, and I respect that.”
There’s a philosophical aspect to creating with this camera that changed the way I used it
About The Photographer
Seth K. Hughes is a US-based commercial and editorial photographer and FUJIFILM X-Photographer whose work has been used by various national and international publications and brands.