FujiGuy Marc meets with X-Photographer Chris Upton to speak about his current exhibition: Thoresby Colliery: The end of the mine.
Details of the exhibition
Exhibition: Thoresby The End Of The Mine features around 50 framed images Venue : Mansfield Museum, Leeming Street, Mansfield NG18 1NG Dates : 9th January – 27th February 2016 Open : Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm Admission: Free
I was lucky that I had a grant to go to art School with. Most of that money was spent on film, and by the time I was an undergraduate I was addicted to E6 ( Tranny, Slide )
My college was in central London and it was surrounded by labs that for £6 I could get a roll of E6 processed in an hour, this could be done 24hrs 7 days a week.
I loved the immediacy and the aesthetics of E6. I loved the challenge of the E6. There is a 3rd of a stop lattitude, not much… a hard school of exposure learning, I enjoyed the tight constraints of the transparency.
As soon as I got my hands on the X100T I found my self thinking about the good old days of E6 film. The simplicty of it. I decided to put into practice what I have been thinking about for years now… abandon the RAW format go Jpeg all the way, get simple, get immediacy.
The preset Film Simulation jpeg profiles, classic chrome.. etc, are the same as choosing a film.
The Transcontinental Race
My most recent assignment was to follow an unusual bike race, the Transcontinental.
A race from Belgium to Istanbul, via Mt Ventoux, with some rather harsh roads over the Alps, the Black mountains and assorted craziness via Albania. Unlike the Tour de France, on the Transcontinental the clock never stops – this is Ultra Endurance racing!
As the the ‘official’ photographer of the event, my first duty is to provide social media updates. Print is something that comes much later on. The Transconti is very much a social media phenomenon. The official website is almost a holding page, its vibrant life is on Facebook, Twitter (and now Instagram). All the riders carry trackers so people can watch the progress of the race on their computer. The Transcontinental is an ever moving entity
The Fujifilm X100T Camera is just brilliant at ‘social media first’ and perfect for this event that in permanant flux.
The X100T shoots native 1:1 aspect ratio, natural for Instagram. and an aspect ratio I love from way back to my Hasselblad days.
Shooting with the X100T is familiar, simple, like a camera used to be, like my old Leica but smaller and more practical.
After you have got your photograph with the X100T, its just a press of the button and the image is there on my smart phone, in a usable file size while maintaining the original image on the SD card in the camera. With this little camera there is no need for faffing around with cards –> laptop –> photoshop –> email etc…
I have never been one to crop my images, selective sharp and all that buffing. I only ever used Capture One for exposure, contrast and maybe colour balance and processing. With this camera I have reached the point of ‘no laptop’.
This is true liberation. Just using my smartphone was a little fussy, but workable… the next step is a medium-sized android tablet.
The X100T is such a brilliant tool. I will (once the lease agreement is paid off) be getting rid of my other brand bodies and lens and getting two X100T cameras.
I’m that photographer that drops a camera on a job, so a back up would essential. A couple of times while shooting 1 : 1 ratio I wanted wider in the square, maybe I could not step back any more, the Wide Conversion Lens that makes it equivalent to 28mm would have been perfect. So two cameras on me, a 28mm one with the WCL and a 35mm one “au naturel”. Both set up the same, maybe one B & W.
I also hate dust on sensors, now I have forgotten about dust on sensor The X100T’s Fixed lens is brilliant. I do hear photographers grumbling about converters, but why? Back to film again, Large format lens they unscrew or reverse etc … hey, this kit is brilliant.
I see myself with a small camera bag.
28mm and 50mm converter
A clutch of SD cards
2 x spare camera batteries
Battery power pack
Portable Hard Disk Drive with SD slot
and one USB cable that can be used on all devices!!
I’m Danish, born in 1964, and have been living in Rome since 1997. I have always loved writing and at a certain point, after my arrival in Rome, I started to collaborate with magazines producing travel articles. It was from this that the Danish Daily wanted to publish a travel article of mine from an Italian island. Unfortunately the PR-photos were of a too poor quality. In other words, I had to do the photos myself. This is when I purchased my first ever 5-mega-pixel camera. That was back in 2003, and since then, my interest in photography has been steadily increasing. I had been working for the Danish Embassy in Rome for ten years, but in 2009 I took the jump to become a full time freelance journalist and photographer shooting travel, culture, food & wine and interviews. Everything with my own imagery.
The journey to Marrakesh
We – a total of eight persons – were doing a 7 day on-the-road-trip round Morocco, two days of which were spent in Marrakesh. As I needed to travel light, I packed only my Fuji gear – Fuji X-E2, the 18-55mm kit lens and the 35 mm lens for portraits & food. I must say that I find this a excellent combination and the overall weight is significantly reduced compared to DSLR gear.
Travelling in a country with a completely different culture to my own I wanted to play it safe. So I asked most people if I could take their photo, especially regarding portraits, which I guess is quite obvious. There were occasions where some scenes were too good to miss, and in these circumstances I fired from the hip, looking elsewhere.
Generally speaking, Marrakesh is a very photogenic location. There are so many varied situations, so wonderfully exotic, with such incredible faces, emotions, the colours, the textures. Everything seems to be calling you to be immortalized.
Aside from my daily work, I like to have detailed, lengthy photographic projects and I’ll soon be leaving Rome for my summer holidays. I’ll be driving through the south of Italy to the island of Pantelleria, south of Sicily. During that month of holiday I’m planning on doing a project called “People I met”, taking portraits of people I’d casually meet during that month. On a long term basis, I’m working on a project where I’ll be photographing different kinds of Roman artisans in their working environments. This project will be continuing into 2016.
At some point during 2013 it dawned on me that I hadn’t had an adventure for a number of years. Bored with my job and in the need of a change, I began looking at voluntary positions in India. A year later I boarded a flight to Delhi with high hopes of adventure, new experiences and great photo opportunities. Luckily, all of these wishes were granted.
6 weeks of my time were spent volunteering in a small village called Nagwa, just outside the intense city of Varanasi. My job was to teach young people from the local area how to use cameras. The students of the charity (named ‘Fairmail’) then take photos which are in turn made into greeting cards, and sold throughout the world. The students receive money from sales, which pays for their education/health/housing costs etc.
During my time teaching there, I became good friends with the students. One student had previously mentioned that his brother takes part in Kushti, an ancient tradition of Indian wrestling which still thrives in Varanasi.
He told me that we could go to the the temple where they train to meet and possibly photograph the wrestlers. I was super excited at this prospect as if it happened, it would allow me a glimpse into the mostly unseen world of Kushti wrestling.
We arrived to the temple a little before 7am and were met with some suspicious eyes from the wrestlers (foreigners are not normally allowed into the training grounds, especially those with cameras). My student spoke to the wrestlers while myself and a few other students (each with their cameras) held back. I was nervous and felt out of place, especially as I had brought a small lighting kit with me (which I imagined made the wrestlers think I was shooting for professional/commercial reasons). After a few minutes one of the wrestlers came over and my student introduced us; he told us that it was ok for us to take photos and I was incredibly relieved. I felt like a National Geographic photographer on his first assignment, with feelings of intimidation and self doubt. Was I ready for this? What if I screwed it up?
The training grounds were basic, but very serene. The ring reminded me of a temple, and there was a beautiful tree in the middle of the grounds. The various weights and equipment were made in traditional, and primitive, ways. Examples included solid wooden bats which are swung around your head, and a 50kg circular weight which you wear around your neck.
The training began with the wrestlers entering the ring to pray. I couldn’t understand the words, but the feeling transcended language barriers. As with many other moments in Varanasi, there was a momentary sense of peace. These moments always took me by surprise, as Varanasi is the most chaotic place I have ever experienced. It was refreshing to see religion and tradition still deeply rooted in a land that often idealises the West.
My work began slowly, taking a more documentary style approach, allowing the wrestlers to get used to me being there. I kept a distance and began documenting their training and their gym. After a while (and after I put down my camera and began training with the wrestlers), they welcomed me to come closer to photograph them.
Despite my initial intimidation, the wrestlers were very friendly, and after they had warmed up to the camera, I felt like they began to show off. At times I had different wrestlers asking me to take photos of them as them attempted heavier weights and more difficult exercises. You could tell that they were proud to be continuing the Kushti tradition, and wanted it to be recorded.
There are two things that I think helped me in this situation – firstly, I was a volunteer, working with the local youth, so they knew my intentions were pure. Secondly, I had been growing an awesome Indian style moustache that they all found hilarious (this actually helped me out in many situations during my travel!).
The highlight for me was when the wrestling began. Usually witnessing a fight makes me feel uneasy, but when I watched Kushti, I could appreciate the skill and dedication of their art. Perhaps it was the beauty of the surroundings, or the inner peace that seemed to radiate from the wrestlers, but I sensed absolutely no aggression on a personal level between the wrestlers. They seemed like a band of brothers.
Towards the end of the training when I was taking group shots, they insisted that I was included in the photos. The also insisted that I took my top off so that we were all the same. I felt like they had accepted me; somebody who has lead a completely different, and completely privileged life in comparison to theirs, but at that moment when we shirtless, bare footed and stripped of our normal identity, we were equal.
In total I was lucky enough to spend 2 mornings with the wrestlers, and I felt extremely privileged to have seen this beautiful art form in action.
Upon leaving Varanasi, I regrettably didn’t have time to visit the wrestlers to say good bye, but I left my student with prints which they gave to the wrestlers. Apparently they loved them.
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