Left Behind – Personal X100V Covid-19 Project

· 22.May.2020

As photographers, most of us are always on the lookout for new personal projects and sometimes these come completely unexpected and naturally.

Let’s first go back a few months in time. Last February, I received a review copy of the X100V from Fujifilm Middle East. Probably the best-looking Fujifilm camera ever made, which quickly has become my “desert island” camera. Something you take with you wherever you go. Dare I say, even sometimes to the toilet!

The plan was during the month of March to take the fifth iteration of the X100 series, on my trips around the world as an airline pilot; but it turned out completely different. While I normally try to use gear for a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks for a gear review, it ended up being more than 3 months before I could even physically return the camera!

Somewhere mid-March 2020 we woke up in a different world, realizing overnight a strange kind of “war” had been declared. An unknown enemy, called Covid-19, started dictating the rules and new words like: social distancing, flattening the curve and being in lockdown, became part of our daily vocabulary. It felt a bit like the calm before a mega-storm was about to hit. Schools were closing, home teaching settled in; those who could, started teleworking. While birds were enjoying their quiet new freedom, we airline pilots, had our own wings clipped and were put into “cages”, called home.

The only thing we had in abundance was time. Time to think, reflect and reconsider what we had been taking for granted for all those years. Most photographers started documenting live at home but maybe there was an opportunity to do something else? Luckily, we were still allowed to go out for short walks around the neighbourhood for the first couple of weeks. I caught myself avoiding eye-contact with others. Almost like one could be infected by looking at somebody passing by. While keeping my eyes on the ground, I started noticing all the items left behind by our fellow human beings. Initially it was a bunch of plastic kid’s toys left in a play yard, but as the walks became more remote, I ended up on a piece of fallow land which used to be a construction site. And this is where it all started!

The toys made place for gloves, building tools and empty oil cans. It felt like a scene from a war movie, in which workers fled for an imminent missile attack.

Living in a desert environment, sand tends to cover items quite quickly but recent rains had made them surface again. Like nature was trying to tell us; “I do not want to deal with your crap!”

While I was looking through the images, during the actual hard lockdown, I realized that the body of work started to feel like a new short-term project; “Left behind – out of sight, out of mind”, was born!

Once the lockdown measures had somewhat been loosened, I did return for a few more “Left behind walks”. To my own surprise I kept on finding more and more items; underwear, shoes, a fire extinguisher, a collection of rusty screws, broken window glass, sets of keys and countless other things. Eventually the collection grew to more than 200 items of which about half have ended up in a self-published Blurb book called “Left Behind”. For me a (short term) project is only complete once it is bundled in printed format.

While posting some sample images online, the comments coming in were varied; from “Interesting project” and “Why are you photographing waste?” to, “Are you living on a waste dump?” The answer to the last one, is obviously “No I’m not”; the others you can fill in yourselves.

Now, back to the X100V. In the past, I’ve resisted buying an X100 because of the quality of the lens at close focus distance, especially when shooting wide open. Some call it, “character”, I personally have never been a fan of it. Well, the newly developed 23mm f2 lens on the “V” (Roman character 5) does not disappoint and is very sharp across the full aperture range.  As I didn’t want to be seen as the weirdo photographing waste, having a small and unobtrusive camera like the X100 turned out to be perfect for this type of work. Consistently in a project like this is important; something that the fixed lens was easily able to achieve. Often shooting low to the ground, the tilt screen was also very welcome.  The project is for me pure “documentary photography”, so none of the items found were touched or moved. All images were shot using the new Classic Negative Film Simulation and are “Straight Out Of Camera” (SOOC) with minimal to no post-processing. Pleased to say that no pixels have been harmed in the process!

Living in a society where some count on others to clean up their own mess, it is my hope that projects like this will create more awareness and hopefully make people think twice before getting rid of things irresponsibly. Remember, “Waste is only waste, if you waste it”.

The entire project gallery can be found at: https://www.bjornmoerman.com/Galleries/Personal-projects/LEFT-BEHIND