My most influential camera was surely the classic Leica M6 I bought mounted with a 35mm Voigtlander Color Skopar Lens (above), and kept loaded with Kodak Tri-X for nearly a year. Inspired by my reading of “Leica as a Teacher” I wanted to give myself some parameters and develop a cohesive style of photography for the street material I was shooting in Korea at the time. I was also in love with the greats of Leica photography, who swore by the value of this simple machine. The camera served me well, and travelled across Asia, keeping pace without miss. I learned heaps from the constraints, and if photography is sometimes called the art of omission, I can’t stress how much the constraints of a fixed lens and BW film taught me about the craft. I loved it’s intuitiveness and inconspicuous size- easy to pack, and pull out without alerting everyone to the fact. It opened up those quiet, quick moments, when everything is illuminated- and one needs to capture things with click of their eye.
Upon returning from Asia I began doing more commercial photography and my workflow shifted much more in the digital direction. I would often keep my Leica around, but found myself using it less and less. I had tanks, but no scanner, and the couple labs doing color processing in the area where expensive and sub-par (still have about 30 rolls of film in my chest). It started to gather dust, and I was finding less and less time for my personal photography. Eventually I came to sell it, luckily the hold their value impeccably well. But I needed a replacement. I looked at the Leica M, but couldn’t spend $6,000 for a mediocre digital sensor camera just because it was made in Germany. I opted for the Fuji X100s, and it became my new personal camera, that I could keep in my bag most of the time, and even take on jobs- usually just to capture an off kilter moment.
I’ve been really happy with this little f2 35mm leaf shutter lens and 16mp sensor, and am in the process of updating to the X100T (slightly faster, more customizable functions) but thought I needed to compose an ode to the camera that has served me well for the last year and a half.
Its images have been a kind of haphazard journal of passing time, and have gotten me looking for light, and motion, and people when I am riding my bike, or driving down the street. It’s a fixed 35mm, so I don’t have to worry about changing lenses, I just need to use my feet and engage with what’s in front of me. It’s set up like a classic rangefinder, classic controls and aperture on lens barrel (which I will never tire off for it’s the way a lens SHOULD be controlled. I even came to love the EVF. The camera has been fantastic (despite the slightly wonky auto-focus) and is so, so easy to carry. The biggest asset though is that the files look incredible. For the most part it’s been a pleasure to shoot.
When I firs got the camera, I started to work on a project at the local shrimp docks, and the camera’s size and discreteness made it much easier for me to photograph in tight and personal spaces without drawing to much attention, or interfering with the moment. I’ve found a similar use for it shooting weddings, especially the “getting ready.” I debated sharing some of that work here, but will save it for another post. The real virtue of this camera, I believe is as a personal camera for someone who takes photography seriously.
My X100T is in the mail, and I am letting this guy go (get in touch if interested). Below is just a loose record of the detritus, the moments, haphazard and intentional , that this machine has picked up in the last year or so. There’s not really a theme, although i’ve tried to work off a few during the time. Below are moments of light, the starts and stops of projects, friends, half poems, and scribbles. This camera, for me, has been a kind of personal record keeper of beauty and ambiguity. I’m hoping it finds a good home.
Sean Kelly Conway is a Florida based documentary/wedding photographer. Having honed his street photography while living in Asia, he has become a lover of americana and vernacular photography- pursuing personal projects around the margins of American culture.