Being a Fuji Photographer in a Post-COVID World

· 18.February.2022

As a street photographer who loves to travel and document daily lives of the local people, I was pretty content doing what I was used to until COVID struck and brought the world to a standstill. Frequent travels within the country and abroad became a thing of the past. Even stepping out into the neighborhood for taking some street images did not give me that happiness and adrenaline rush that I had last felt back in 2019.

Just like many others in the photography business, I was left thinking to myself about the future of photography. I used to stay back inside my room for days either binge-watching videos on YouTube or just looking out of my window with a mind that had run out of creative ideas. The creative block was simply driving me crazy when I finally decided to move out of my prison cell and do something rather than idling the time away.

Back in the pre-COVID days, I had executed a few personal projects that have been close to my heart. The one about dancers on the streets of Kolkata and a young skateboarder might come to your mind, as I have shared them with all my readers in the FujiLove community. These little projects are fun to do and they give me the opportunity to create a body of work that many of you can relate to.

Last Christmas, while munching on my favorite fruit cake, I hit upon an idea and decided to execute my new project, which would be to document the processes involved in making a Christmas cake. With the idea still young, I visited a local bakery. The owner, a man named Khamaru, was known to my mother from her days as a school teacher. I was in the sixth grade back then and have a vague memory of a much younger Khamaru bringing in the freshly baked cakes just before Christmas every year.

My thought was interrupted by the pleasant smell of the cakes as I stepped inside the bakery. Upon introducing myself and my mother, a familiar face with a warm smile approached me. He was Khamaru, a much older version than what I could remember of him last. We sat down and I told him of my idea to document a day’s activity inside his bakery. He was elated at my proposal and asked me to come back the day before Christmas Eve. Before I left, he offered me some freshly baked cake slices, which I could not resist and ate them to my heart’s content.

Now that the recce of the location was done, I knew exactly how to go about executing my project. The combination of the X-T3 with the XF10-24mmF4 was ideal. I would be documenting the place in the early morning hours so I decided to make use of the ambient light.

As discussed, I was there on the 23rd of December at 7am sharp but I was in for a big surprise. The almost vacant bakery from my last visit had suddenly come to life with labourers and customers vying for a place inside. Amidst all the chaos I heard a hurried voice asking me to start my work without further delay as more customers would be arriving. So, taking out my X-T3, I started scouting for different activities.

To my right was this guy sitting with a large mixing bowl busy gathering all the ingredients that the customer wanted in his cake. After the mixing was done the batter was poured in aluminium frames with a paper name tag on top to identify the owner.

A second guy was sitting at a corner preparing these aluminium frames. Flipping out my LCD screen, I took a few low angle shots. This feature on my X-T3 made it really convenient for me to frame my compositions.

Ahead of me was the oven, pre-heated and ready to bake. The head chef of the bakery was about to put in a new batch of cakes when I noticed him and clicked a few images. The 10-24mm at 10mm was wide enough for me to place my camera at the entrance to the oven and take some unique angles using my Fujifilm Camera Remote App on my smartphone. It is quite interesting how the workers were all performing their tasks in sync.

Looking further I came across this corner, which was replete with cakes that were ready to go out for delivery. Barely able to contain myself, I clicked a top down POV of them. In between the hectic shoot schedule, I managed to ask a few questions from the old Khamaru who told me that they actually took the bakery on a 99-year lease and that his three sons were also actively involved in the business.

They had a very busy time baking cakes, especially during Christmas when work would start as early as 3am in the morning every day. The average daily demand every year would be 1000 pounds. They have a large client base with some having been customers for two decades. The rest of the year they bake bread and sell them to local shops and distributors.

Before long, an hour had passed and the bakery started flooding with more customers. I had a wonderful time and opportunity to document this project and would like to thank Khamaru for letting me capture the behind-the-scene moments in the making of yummy Christmas cakes, which are loved by everyone across the world.

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