My name is William Daniels, I’m 46 and I live in Paris. I’ve been working for 20 years. I define myself as a documentary photographer. I work on a long-term basis in territories in search of identity and suffering from chronic instability. Between 2007 and 2010, I made several trips to the very fragile Kyrgyz Republic, shaken by inter-ethnic clashes and revolutions. In 2013, I went to the Central African Republic to cover the war between Muslim and Christian militias for TIME magazine. In 2013, I went to the Central African Republic to cover the war between Muslim and Christian militias for TIME magazine. I also work regularly on commission for National Geographic magazine and in collaboration with the National Geographic Society.
I started using Fujifilm GFX cameras as part of a major photographic commission initiated by the French Ministry of Culture and operated by the BNF (National Library of France). The 102 million pixels sensor was an interesting way of capturing landscapes bearing witness to the stigmata of climate change in France: territories after fires, droughts and melting glaciers in the Alps.
Today I’m taking you to Kathmandu, Nepal, where I was able to test the GFX100 II at the Holi celebration, also known as the Festival of Colors, which is a Hindu festival originating in India and celebrated around the spring equinox. The event brings together men and women of all ages in the streets of the country. As well as singing and dancing, they sprinkle each other with color and wish each other a “Happy Holi”. It’s an event I’d already photographed in 2019, in a small village, but in just one hour. I loved the atmosphere of the festival: fantastic light, color and lots of movement. An ideal subject to test the functionalities of the new Fujifilm camera!
So I went back in March 2023. I was there for almost three days. On the day of the festival, I roamed the city on foot and scooter, with my fixer Dewan – a friend I’ve known for four years now. It’s morning and the streets are still empty. I discover the first stalls where merchants sell powdered pigments in sachets. Then we reach Durbar Square – Kathmandu’s historic center. There are more people, and more color in the air and on bodies. I soon get paint all over my face, and my camera is not spared, but it’s resistant to rain and dust. It’ll hold up for the whole shoot. The new GFX100 II’s autofocus is faster, and therefore perfect for capturing such action scenes, whether I’m on the ground, or even on the move from the scooter!
I then had the chance to photograph the celebration in a different context, at a huge private party, featuring DJ Shireen – a star in India whom I had met and photographed by chance the day before, and thanks to whom I had been invited. First on stage, I shot my first images from the artist’s side. The scene is unbelievable: there’s no such thing as white anymore, colored dust flies here and there, and, in front of me, a wild audience. I then make my way to the middle of the crowd, then behind a paint bar where overexcited people throw themselves on the colored powder. I’m able to take a step back. I shoot again and again with a fixed focal length. The GF45mm lens allows me to capture this jubilation and compose my images, all with a slight backlight. Thanks to the speed of the autofocus, I was able to immortalize the party and take a lot of pictures. The large sensor allowed me to work with a shorter, sharper depth of field. It was the first time I’d photographed people with such a large sensor camera.
In the evening, as I browse through my images, I discover the subtlety of the colors. The rendering is very nice. The GFX100II’s Raw files are very smooth and easy to work with. The sharpness of the images is incredible. The size of the sensor continues to impress me: you can crop in an image if you need to – which is something I can do from now on. And above all, the final image allows you to savor the detail, to experience the scene from the inside. In short, to appreciate every little story within the big picture. I felt the same way with the definition of the viewfinder (9.44 million dots): as soon as you take the shot, you can capture the subtleties of a moment, you’re already in large format.
The day after the festival, I went to the Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath at dawn to shoot some atmospheric images in low light conditions. I wanted to capture this very soft luminosity, and it was a success! I worked with very high ISO and the autofocus reacted well. Here, a mix of locals praying or playing sports, tourists admiring the view and monkeys walking among people. Barely bigger than a DSLR camera and not very noisy, the GFX100II is very discreet for this kind of moment. I continue the exercise by photographing candlelit people inside the temple. Thanks to the GF 45mm, I was able to magnify and nuance the color in a location that wasn’t obvious because I was against the light, with candles in the foreground and a window in the background.
Thanks to the GFX100II, I’ve been able to try my hand at large-format reportage, something new in my professional practice. I enjoyed this experience in Nepal, where the light is particularly beautiful, and the local people love to be photographed!