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What a year. I thought 2016 was bad, but then 2020 barged in, ripped a room-clearing fart, handed 2016 its beer and went bananas. Hopefully you don’t need me to list the many horrors of the last 11 months, because I would prefer not to.
It’s surreal looking back now, but in the first six weeks of 2020 I flew roughly 15,000 miles, all of which was for work. The year began with the CES show in Las Vegas, then on to a video shoot in Texas, and another in California, followed by the launch of the Fujifilm X100V, in London. And that’s where this story begins…
…I don’t know why I did the dot-dot-dot thing there, this article is only one page long.
By early February, the novel coronavirus had been a blip on the outer edge of my mental radar screen for a while. In late January our video crew and I had shared some wry jokes about ‘flying now while we still can, ha ha…’, but it was the following month, at the launch of the Fujifilm X100V in London, that I started to sense a more general concern. Speaking to Fujifilm executives at the event (and, significantly in retrospect, those unexpectedly not at the event) it was clear that the situation in China (where Fujifilm has some manufacturing) had become grave, and in addition to the tragic human cost in Asia, COVID-19 was having a profound effect on production and supply chain logistics around the world.
|The Fujifilm X100V was launched in February at an event in London. I added a few days to that trip to see family – my last opportunity to do so, as it turned out, for what may still be a long time.
I was in the UK for a week, which included a few days spent with my family in London and the north of England. On the darkened plane back to Seattle, I remember wondering when I would see the old country again. Coincidentally, that was also the last outing for my much-traveled and now-expired European Union GB passport.
By early March things were getting serious all over the world (with DPReview’s adopted home state of Washington an early hotspot). Partly to scratch the itch of my own growing panic, I spent a few days researching the impact of COVID-19 on the photo industry. Alongside many reasonable, thoughtful comments on the resulting article are several that have since aged like fine milk.
We all know what happened next. After March 16th 2020, I didn’t so much as hug another human being for more than 70 days. Things got weird.
Where does the Fujifilm X100V tie into all of this? Beyond the fateful coincidence of the timing of its launch in early 2020, it’s the camera that’s been in my hands almost every day for the past ten months.
It was a preproduction X100V that I took on my trip back home to the UK in February, and which I used to take the last (for who knows how long) photographs of my sister, my nephew and my parents. I subsequently bought one, and my personal X100V was with me all through quarantine. I carried it with me on my daily permitted walks and bike rides through Seattle’s deserted streets, in that strangest, sunniest of springs, where normally busy neighborhoods looked like Edward Hopper paintings and everyone remarked on the sound of birdsong.
I also took a lot of mirror selfies, although in my defense it was a difficult time.
When I finally ventured out into crowds in late May and early June following protests after the killing of George Floyd, it was with X100V. When Seattle briefly became the focus of global attention following the establishment of the short-lived CHAZ/CHOP zone (a much smaller area than you might have been lead to believe, which began a mere block away from my apartment), I visited several times with the X100V, making sure that I had a personal record of what was going on. Even when the circumference of my world had shrunk to the handful of blocks around my front door, photography helped me feel somewhat connected.
|Protesters gather near Cal Anderson Park in Seattle in early June – one of many protests that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
|Sheer anarchy! Members of the local community paint a mural on the road (now preserved) near the SPD East Precinct, later in June.
The X100V is a near-perfect everyday camera because it’s small enough to tuck under a light jacket when I’m out walking or cycling, fast, very simple to use and delivers great pictures. The new lens in the ‘V’ with its two aspherical elements, is far superior for close work to the original version on the X100/S/T/F and it performs much better with the 28mm wide converter attached. The X100V is one of those rare cameras that does exactly what I need it to, without a lot of fuss. It’s as simple at that, really; a reliable companion in a most unsettling season.
For all the documentation that I’ve done this year with the X100V, I do not describe myself as a documentary photographer. I know several photojournalists personally, and I could never do what they do, especially in the current political climate here in the US, where personal safety is of increasing concern for members of the media. The pictures I take are primarily for me, for the purposes of creative practice, memory and reflection. And while there was much that happened in 2020 that I wish I could forget (and it’s not over yet), there was certainly a lot to reflect on…
…I’m doing that dot-dot-dot thing again, which means I should probably stop before this all gets hopelessly introspective. I think we’ve all had quite enough of that this year.
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