Continuing with our monthly interview feature, this month I had the opportunity to speak to Patrick La Roque, a wonderful visual storyteller and Fujifilm X-Photographer based in Montreal, Canada.
Welcome to the FujiLove blog, Patrick! First of all, I wonder if you could explain what it was that first drew you to the Fujifilm X Series and whether you feel there are any particular features still missing from the system?
It’s a pleasure to be here – thanks for having me. I came to the X Series with the very first one: the X100. Actually, it wasn’t even the X Series yet, was it? And I essentially fell for what it stood for: this return to a classic form factor, the manual controls…the entire ethos really. Japan had created this brilliant ad for the camera prior to its release: a very dark, poetic and almost troubling black and white piece, full of intense imagery…I don’t think a lot of people ever saw this but you can still find it online. It just made me want to shoot, period. It made me want to crawl through alleys and find some sort of mystical truth. Then, of course, I actually got my hands on the X100…despite its flaws, it changed my entire approach to photography. I bought the X-Pro1 a year later, ditched my Nikon kit and never looked back. It’s hard to explain but a lot of it has to do with a certain physical bond that I haven’t found in other systems and is still present to this day. That and…well, the actual images themselves: at the end of the day that’s what counts and I’ve never felt let down.
In terms of improvements, at this point I’m not sure I see much that’s missing from the X Series. Technology will keep moving forward and likely bring us features we can’t even imagine at the moment—so that’s a given. There are certain niche items yet to fill in terms of native lenses—a tilt-shift, a fisheye—but it’s getting hard to find actual gaps in the system. I have a GFX kit as well so I certainly wouldn’t mind a GF equivalent to the XF10-24mm zoom, for some of the work I do. A 1:1 macro lens would be great too. That said, I’ve used both systems side by side without a hitch so this would simply be a matter of convenience for me. Or a reason to spend money…!
The one thing I want from the X Series is a strong focus on consistency—in terms of UI, features and ergonomics. I understand there will always be a certain fluidity due to each camera’s strengths and intended target, but I believe we’ve reached a point where “basic” features should be similar across a single generation of models. Small things like naming custom presets (I can do it on my X-Pro2 and GFX 50S but not on my X100F) or the type of functions assignable to FN buttons (AEL-AFL isn’t available on the X-Pro2). We’re certainly spoiled when it comes to firmware updates and the kaizen philosophy Fujifilm follows, so it’s hard to complain. But I guess the fact that I use multiple bodies makes me that much more aware of discrepancies.
What type of photography do you mainly shoot, and how do you feel the X Series is well-suited to that genre and your own style of shooting?
Every year begins with more or less of a blank slate to be honest. I’ve had returning clients for a while…but you never know do you? And every one usually adds new challenges to the mix. What’s been interesting so far is that I’ve been able to approach every project as a kind of visual exploration, regardless of subject matter. So I don’t tend to think in terms of “type of photography”. The past few years have seen more commercial work but it‘s never felt constraining. And because of this, the X Series are kind of a perfect fit: in my mind I’m shooting stories. It can be a car, an interior space or a person…I’m still reliving that visual poem from the old Japanese X100 ad. I’m still attempting to capture a sort of dream sequence.
What’s your current favourite Fujifilm setup?
I fell deeply in love with the X-Pro2 + XF 35mmF2 R WR kit when I was in Tokyo, and it’s stayed with me. I’m still very fond of the X100 line but for some reason my eye has switched to a 50mm FOV. So in terms of personal work, street, etc….I’d say that’s my go to. That said, the GFX 50S has really grown on me. It may seem strange but adding the tilt-adapter really transformed my relationship with this camera. I’ve also started experimenting with vintage lenses, expanding the GF lens kit…in most situations, this is becoming my business workhorse so I find myself looking for ways to broaden its range. I’m just floored by the images I get from this camera. The appeal is hard to describe but very real.
Where and how do you find inspiration for your own photography?
Anywhere! It’s funny because I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately and I’ve come to the conclusion that I shoot what’s around me. Whatever it is. It’s almost lazy. If I’m in a hotel room, I shoot what’s in the room, I shoot what I see from my window. I’ll sometimes even shoot the window itself. If I’m home then it’s the kids but also whatever the light hits. I don’t know how many times I’ve pointed my camera to the same shadows, on the same objects, simply because the interplay continues to astound me. So the urge to use a camera isn’t tied to anything specific, any schedule or agenda. I’m not attempting to consciously create a body of work. Photography is a byproduct of living.
Could you share a little bit about any recent projects or jobs that you have been working on that have been particularly enjoyable for you?
I was really proud of the collaboration project between Lexus and Fujifilm, something that grew out of my relationship with both companies. I love the work we did there. But it’s hard to pinpoint anything in particular for fear of leaving anyone behind. Writing has also become an important part of my work so my collaboration with the Canadian magazine Photo Life is also something I cherish. Especially when I get to combine photography and words as part of a specific assignment, the way we did with a Profoto event in Stockholm. And of course Kage Collective and our ongoing journey. Stories…it always comes back to stories.
Lastly, if there’s one golden tip that you could give to our readers to enhance or inspire their own photography, what would it be?
Forget what you know. Watch the world as if you’re never seen it, as if you don’t understand what’s in front of you. Step back from what’s familiar and take another look. Complacency is the enemy of exploration.