Reclaiming photography from the Clutches of the Pandemic
With the pandemic crisis’s arrival and the severe limitations on everyone’s travel plans, one would expect widespread disinterest in photography. But to the surprise of many, the effect was just the opposite. Either to document the strange times we live in or as a refuge from this unwanted reality, photography has had a fundamental purpose in all of us’s lives.
Clinton Bray is a Fuji X Passion reader, which we invited to share his story. His interest in photography predates the pandemic crisis. Still, in a way, the current situation is responsible for the frequency with which he photographs, and one of his 3 Fuji cameras is usually not far from his arm’s reach.
Maurício & Hugo
Fuji X Passion co-founders and editors
Hello! My name is Clinton and I’m a mid-30s musician by trade and training living in the Lone Star State (that’s Texas, y’all!). A classical musician, that is. A classical church musician. That’s right, I’m sure you’ve guessed it – I play the pipe organ. That’s neither here nor there, but it has a small amount to do with how I came into photography, which was fairly accidental.
Around six years ago I accompanied my church’s youth on a choir tour. A DSLR was shoved into my hands and I was told to take pictures. It was an entry level (or so) Sony something-or-other equipped with an 18-55 kit lens. I was such a noob that I didn’t even know how to zoom (the camera I was accustomed to operating was a 6 MP Casio Exilim point and shoot).
Allow me to pause while you finish laughing. So off I went, Sony DSLR in full auto mode snapping pictures left and right. Truth be told, I always enjoyed both viewing and taking photographs, and was always sure to have my trusty Casio at my side when I traveled. But as much as I always admired photography and photographers, it was always something that felt out of reach to me – I lacked the knowledge, know-how, and necessary finances to “take the plunge.”
Anyway, I returned from the choir trip having had a blast taking so many photos with a camera that I knew nothing about, and told my wife of how much fun I had as the designated picture-taker. And that was, for all of my intentions, the end of the story. But then my wife said something to the tune of, “you should get yourself a nice camera!” Until she said that, the thought literally hadn’t occurred to me. But the moment she said it the flash fired in my brain and I thought aloud, “Why yes, perhaps I should!”
And that was pretty much that! Of course, I didn’t start out on Fuji cameras – most beginners don’t because they’re not quite as well known, affordable, or intuitive as entry level offerings from Canon and Nikon. I cut my teeth on a Nikon D3300 as I taught myself everything I could, then switched to Fuji when I was ready for something more capable.
To be honest, I’d prefer not to wax poetic about the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ for shooting Fuji because I figure those that care about such things already understand the brilliance of the system – it’s light, the cameras are beautiful, the lenses are extraordinary, etc, etc. Instead, I’d rather speak toward the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ I do photography, especially while under assault by a relentless pandemic.
I’ve always taken photos as a way to document: to preserve a part of my life, to remember a moment of beauty, or to savor a morsel of time. Growing up I liked to have a camera with me particularly if I was going on a trip or embarking upon a unique experience. But I also liked capturing candid photos of friends and family – of people who meant something to me.
I didn’t always have a camera on me or regular access to film, but I did eventually have my own automatic 35mm Kodak point and shoot film camera. I wish I still had it. I don’t even remember the model, but I do still have the developed photos I shot with it – precious remembrances from times long past.
Conversely, nowadays one of my three cameras (X-T1, X-T2, X-E2) is usually not far from my arm’s reach. Anywhere I go I’m shooting photos in my mind, a good visualizing exercise. That way the next time I raise the viewfinder to my eye I can more artfully compose a frame.
Now that the world is gripped by a devastating disease which has impacted all of our lives, photography has become a sort of refuge. In the “before times” I had a few opportunities to do a little travel, and occasions to photograph people and events – all as a hobbyist. When the pandemic struck I had to reorient my vision to unveil interesting subjects amidst relatively mundane surroundings.
I live in the suburbs of North Texas where the land is flat and the concrete jungle is dense. But with newly opened eyes there remains a world to capture! Early in the initial Covid-19 lockdown, I decided I wanted to post a new photo per day to my personal Facebook page. If your Facebook “news feed” is anything like mine, it’s rife with circulating videos, opinion news articles, ridiculous memes, and otherwise over-touched photos from unknown sources.
I just wanted to share clean photos that I took with my own cameras – no “challenges” or chain posts or anything of that sort. What’s more, there would be a simplicity to these photos knowing that they were taken at home, low pressure, no farther than a short radius from my front door. Though my lifestyle is not an outdoorsy one, I nonetheless possess a strong affinity towards nature which many of my photos reflect.
I’m a huge fan of the work of Ansel Adams and the way the enrapturing realism of his landscapes seems to transport me into the scene. I can almost feel the sun and the breeze, smell the trees, hear the rushing water. His work is inspiring to me but I don’t try to emulate it in any way – I bring it up because it can be a little dismaying not to be near or have access to such wondrous natural surroundings.
To the contrary, however, Adams once mused, “…the other day I walked by some fresh green moss in my garden; this is a terrible confession for an old grizzled mountaineer to say – but that moss looked mighty impressive to me!” How right Adams was that our world harbors simple beauty in great abundance. This sentiment has been a clear and present reminder that there are a variety of imaging exploits right in my backyard, and a reinforcement of my appreciation for our spectacular planet that I behold every day.
All the photos accompanying this article were shot in, around, or very near one of the two places I call home: my apartment where I live with my family or my parents’ house which I visit with some regularity, and all in the last ten months during which we’ve been forced to live a much more contained and restricted existence.
My process was as simple as the photos suggest. If I was going on a walk with my family or else watching my daughter run amuck outside, I just took my camera along. If I saw something interesting or a part of nature that spoke to me, I raised my camera. Other times I would be sitting on my balcony and notice the moon out, birds flying around, or lizards scurrying about and I’d grab my camera and shoot. Some of the photos were the result of merely fiddling around in my living room.
I feel photography as a craft or art can often be put on a pedestal. But I believe anyone possessing a camera and the desire to make a photo, whether for artistic or documentary purposes, can practice and enjoy photography. The tactile controls and retro aesthetic of Fujifilm cameras and lenses bring me even more joy to my photo-making process. All photos were shot handheld in natural or available light. Thanks for reading and happy shooting!
Clinton Bray is a professional church musician based in Dallas, Texas specializing in organ playing, choral singing/conducting, and composing. His wife and daughter are the lights of his life. Other passions include PC gaming, Dallas Stars hockey, and being with family. More of his photographs can be viewed at www.instagram.com/clinton_bray/