A Personal Project With the Fujifilm XF33mmF1.4

· 17.May.2022

Who has been your worst client? Were they picky with colour? Did they have unrealistic expectations given the circumstances on the shoot? Did you provide too many or too few images at the conclusion? The possibilities of problems are endless. As a photographer, in our commercial work, we have to balance our own creative vision with the client’s expectations and, on occasion and for whatever reason, despite open and honest dialogue, the two miss.

In August 2021 my wife Katharine and I found out that we were going to have a baby – our first! The news came with waves of excitement, fear and adrenaline, but as a photographer, a quick suggestion from me that I document the pregnancy. Of course, this isn’t necessarily an original idea, but given we are in New Zealand Aotearoa and my whānau (family) are in the UK and therefore would miss being part of the pregnancy, it felt like the right thing to do. This became my personal project, documenting pregnancy for a middle-of-the-road pair of ex-pats living in New Zealand in 2022.

I haven’t really done a project where a family member is the co-client alongside with myself – what a complicated mess! I had a clear vision of how I felt the project should go: a series of black and white images charting the moments of pregnancy that we can smile about in years to come. Like a good documentarian, there was to be no fixed or posed photos, and I would capture as ‘honest’ a record as possible.  I think Katharine wanted more of a record of how big the bump was getting week by week, month by month. So, here was the healthy tension: a photographer’s vision and a client’s wants. Katharine wasn’t unreasonable at all but as the photographer, I should have been clearer from the get-go how the project would grow and develop.

A surprise hero of the project was the new XF33mmF1.4. I managed to get hold of a copy of this lens in January and it was a real revelation to me. Until picking this up I thought I was more of a ‘XF23mmF2 kind of guy’. I enjoyed the slightly wider 35mm equivalent focal length and was learning to see more of the frame; that was until the XF33mm arrived and changed my perspective again.

The autofocus on this lens is very quick and the focus acquisition barely missed. The f/1.4 aperture, although offering a very thin focus plane, always seemed to hit the mark on my X-T3. I loved the aperture lock and even though it was rarely locked at ‘A’, it is a little feature to set the lens to a neutral place ready for your next outing. But what is really special is the sharpness. I know that these new lenses are built for the higher resolution sensors, but even on the soon to be older generation sensor the XF33mmF1.4 really pulled the most from the frame. The 50mm equivalent classic focal length felt so natural to me that the 23mm has gone from being glued to my camera to resting gently nestled in my lens box. If you do have a chance to try this lens, I would heartily recommend it and I cannot wait to see how it will work with the much-anticipated X-H2.

Would I do a personal project with a spouse or family member as a client? Yes, I would, but with a caveat. Don’t take your relationship for granted; make sure that you build as much trust with a loved one as you do with any client. Be clear with your expectations and be understanding of what both parties want. I am sure this is all common sense and many of you will be shaking your head in disbelief that I didn’t do these things, but they are easy to forget when working on a personal project and with someone so close.

As I write this, Katharine is 37 weeks pregnant with gestational diabetes and it is likely we will be on the maternity ward next week undertaking a medical induction. This means two things: firstly, that our lives are about to change forever and we are going to be handed the most precious thing in our lives, but also that my documentary project to capture the process of pregnancy in 2022 Aotearoa will soon come to an end. The former comes with excitement and trepidation, and the latter with a sigh of relief. I hope in the years to come we can look back on the photos and agree that it was a job well done! Time will tell.

N.B. A huge thanks to Katharine for letting me post this story and to see the conclusion of the project (pics of the baby) please see my Instagram in a few weeks!

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