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Inspiration

Commuterland And The Fujifilm X-E3

· 27.June.2019

I’m inviting you to come along with me.

We’re going to stand in long queues, you and me. We’re going to wait at ticket barriers, while people sigh and complain. We’re going to go down below ground, to push and shove our way down packed rush-hour platforms. We’re going to squeeze into overcrowded train carriages, to stand pressed up against fellow commuters as the trains sway and lurch. And we’re going to come across endless varieties of human life, all packed into the century-old tunnels of the London Underground.

Or at least, that’s the aim.

The way I look at it, what the camera sees, you see.

And the way the camera participates in the scenes it records is the way you participate.

When a camera observes people dispassionately from a distance, then that’s how you observe them. But when that camera is there in the heart of the action, interacting with what’s going on around it, then you’re there too. When complete strangers see and react to a camera pointed straight at them, point blank, by someone they don’t know, then they see you and react to you. Sometimes that’s not altogether comfortable. But that’s what makes it both challenging and exhilarating.

I’m quite a physical person, I think. I’m quite hands-on. I don’t get much satisfaction from cool detachment. I don’t like to observe life from a distance. Because of this I have a particular approach to photography. I like to be there.

I don’t own a telephoto lens. I have owned some, at various times, but I didn’t get on with them, and so I sold them. Most of my photography is done with wide-angle lenses of various kinds, between 16mm and 27mm (24mm to 40mm in full-frame terms). With one or two exceptions (and you’ll see some of those here) I’ll usually be very close – one to two arms’ lengths – from the people I’m photographing.

It’s no accident that some of my favourite photographers, from Garry Winogrand to Martin Parr and Don McCullin, have also been what you might call participatory photographers. They get involved.

These days I use the Fujinon XF27mm f/2.8  lens quite a lot. It’s not my ‘best’ lens. It’s not even my favourite one. It doesn’t have an aperture ring, which is a shame. It is, however, the smallest lens I own, and that counts for a lot. Coupled with the little Fujifilm X-E3 it means I can slip my camera in a jacket pocket, and take it with me to more places, more often, than I would with bigger equipment.

What you see here are some of the things you’ll experience in a trip through commuterland.

Come with me: I hope you enjoy the journey.

Warwick Cairns

Warwick Cairns

Warwick Cairns is a writer and photographer. The author of three nonfiction books, his first novel, "The Master Thief", won the Historical Novel Society’s 2018 New Novel Award. It was also shortlisted for the 2017 First Novel Prize and runner-up for the 2018 Yeovil Literary Prize. He says that whether it’s images or words, his preferred approach is all about storytelling, and getting as close as possible to the heart of the action.

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