Camera Punk (2019) / FUJIFILM
Takashi Ueno has a penchant for old things A vintage Ferrari, and in particular, mechanical gears and wheels. It took awhile for him to reveal it. But here is the truth. I am digital camera creator so I can’t say officially I don’t like digital camera, I shouldn’t say so. The attraction of film camera is totally different from digital. Mechanical gears reflect developers’ ideas or philosophy. Mechanical gears have a functional beauty. Design, the feeling, and shutter sound All these I can in love But digital camera, I am not in love. Of course I like digital camera, but not in love. If you thought that confession was shocking, meet Kunio Aoyama, the rebel. Second of triplets to emerge from his mother’s womb and a man who swears by wife’s drip coffee every morning, Kunio almost joined a car company. But something genius that day swayed his decision to Fujifilm. That changed the X-series forever. Sometimes foreigners call me a kind of samurai. But for me, the samurai is an officer. Boss say ‘do’ or something, and just follows him. This is samurai, not a strong person. Typical officer, employee for the Shogun Not radical guys I don’t want to be samurai, such an employee. Boring I use my boss, use him for myself. But if we cannot share our vision, I don’t do. Toshi Hisa Iida is Kunio’s boss. A man devoted to one wife, one daughter and one company. I am probably married with Fuji. Maybe I work so hard, I work too hard maybe. I’m not the boss who is ordering or telling what to do. I give more flexibility or freedom to my staff, they’re thinking hard what they should do, the most important thing is to set the common goal, that’s very important. What to do is very clear. I will set up the goal, which is what to do. How to do? I leave to my staff. I trust my staff that they can achieve individual goals, I think. Yuichi Fujimura. He has spent months refining the push and feel of the new trigger. For my preference, he reduced its depth by 2 millimetres. What is mechanical designs? It is to layout the devices, It is the form factor of the camera. And to put control units on it Then to design the exterior to hold the devices We put a lot of effort into realising the tactile feeling of the shutter button Because, the shutter button is the entrance door for shooting and for photography. When you touch it once, you experience what I did. Who am I? My name is Mindy Tan. I am an X-photographer. In marketing words, sometimes we call them X-series ambassadors or the photographer to show Fujifilm quality to the market. But I think X-photographers are more than that. I think X-Photographers especially through their photographs, they show the camera concept, or the cameras spirit The team at Fujifilm have granted me special access into their lives and their work. I am the insider, the photographer privileged enough to ask classified questions. Now let us have a ceremony of “Kagami Biraki” “Kagagmi” means the mirror So, Kagami Biraki represents the Mirrorless Revolution 13th March 2019 20 cameras, 39 lenses, 250 firmware updates and counting. Omiya is where Fujifilm’s X-series cameras come together. From drawing board to mass production, the X-Pro3 shall be expected in a year. After last night’s round of high-balls and edamame, the people from the bar are in the office, sharp as tack, on time. Today is the finalisation meeting. Today is crunch time. We call it decision-making group meeting for product development. My name is Toshi Hisa Ilda. My role is General Manager for Optical Devices and Electronic Imaging Products division Abit long, right? My first name is long and my division name is long. OD means Optical Device, we are manufacturing and supplying all kinds of industrial lenses, including broadcast lens, cine lens, security lens, projector lens, even automotive lenses, this is all included in the Optical Device division. It used to be Fujinon, it was a separate company, that we now merged together. EIectronic Imaging is our X-series and GFX and the lens division. Basically I take care of two umbrellas – camera division and lens division. This meeting was for particularly for X-Pro3 We discussed everything including product design, features, manufacturing place, the financial models, and intensively discussed the colours. So now, X-Pro3, we decided to go with 3 colours. So all kinds of things were discussed with all responsible people not only from marketing but also from R&D, manufacturing side, quality assurance side, Everybody discussed, everybody get the consensus, make the go for X-Pro3. The Manufacturing side are responsible for the quality and cost, as well as all the product designers wants to have a beautiful product but sometimes we need to get the right balance, between the cost, the design, the features. Consensus is very important for making any project happen successfully. Without consensus, we don’t get good results. It’s not a compromise, but consensus is very important. In 2006 or 2007, the smartphone was launched to the market. We think in the near future, people won’t need point and shoot cameras So we have to change our camera line-up from entry-level digital cameras to high-end professional cameras. If we don’t do so, maybe we have to kill our business. We entered the high-end camera market last among the old digital camera brands, There is no camera in the world which had traditional design, so I decided to make X-series a traditional-style camera. The word of “X” usually includes unknown or eXperimental. We want to develop very impressive cameras that other companies don’t have. I am the product planner of X-Pro3 I am joining this project Especially the first draft idea, organising the team, and producing the developing and delivery. I am responsible for X-T3 and X-H1, also entry cameras like X-A5 and X-T100. I’m in charge of every GFX system cameras, like 50S, 50R, and 100 megapixels, and also the middle range of the X-series, like X-T30, X-E3, and all other compact, X100 and so on My image of the job of product planning, is like a conductor of the orchestra. I have a new idea, I share the idea, then I conduct to our teammates. We are members of the product-planning team, so we decide on a concept, target users and also price point, and any specifications, features, and to discuss with the R&D team. We have a weekly meeting and also regularly we have product meeting. At the product decision meeting, each product planner presents their own product. What for X-T series? What for GFX series? What for Pro series? Because we have totally different products. I think the 3 of us are like brothers, like a family. We have parents – the bosses. Sometimes I feel like the 3 of us are like friends in battlefield, we have difficult situations, I respect and trust these two guys. So my feeling is we can win this difficult situation So this relationship is very important for me. Yes, it’s a better expression, like an army, We have a mission. Or maybe some sports team. It’s very serious, now we are in some championship of the world. Everybody has own opinions, but our aim is the same, to win. I can see Kunio behind the X-Pro and also the photographers as well. And Kunio’s always talking with them. Kunio is the link between the X-Pro and photographers Makoto’s product, X100 is like the brother, a talented musical instrument. For me, X100 is very artistic, actor or something. Strong, passion, this is the only product in the world, GFX100, and he is very confident about the quality, image quality, he has a lot of knowledge about photography and technology. Actually, he (Jun) started the X-T series. He is the product planner of the X-T1, T2, T3 I can see Jun at the back side of the X-T. I know him, I know X-T, and I know Jun, so it’s always the same. He is very silent person but a very strong person, he has confidence of his decisions. Before X-T series, we just had a rangefinder-style camera, nobody has any doubt of such decision But he’s thinking: “why do we only make rangefinder-style camera?” So he started it. Practical. Jun’s X-T series is the very educated brother, like MIT or Harvard. Everything he can do. I am jealous. Like an artist, like an intelligent artist, genius! So what should I do? This is my question. This is my mission. In a nutshell, Jun Watanabe, Makoto Ooishi and Kunio Aoyama are the 3 musketeers leading the creation of Fujifilm’s X-series cameras. 2019 is Kunio’s year. The man in-charge of producing events now leads the concept behind the X-Pro3, the rangefinder series that defines the Fujifilm brand. X-Pro1 had begun the history of the X of Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC) As a brand new FUJIFILM’s ILC digital camera I thought it should be unique and special For the theme, my idea was the masterpiece for snap-shooters The characters of it is to be discreet with high end quality which can satisfy even professionals Shooting with X-Pro is like a jam session played by a photographer with street objects In my mind, A snap-shooter camera must not be flashy A flashy camera will easily be noticed in the street The natural environment is important in such an occasion The priority is to be a part of the environment, and to capture the precious moment. That is all. To design a discreet camera I would not do something complex Generally speaking, design is thought of as emphasising or decorating something But it is not the essence of design. Designing is to brush up a product, not to dress it up. So, my approach was to draw as few lines as possible and create the best proportions. As a result, the character of the X-Pro can be visible. It is difficult to explain with words. One more thing, let me share it I struggled to realise better operability. Especially the operation of the dials. I targetted the operation for blind control, ‘Blind’ means to control the camera without taking a glance. While looking at the subject, the shooter can adjust the camera settings. It does not interrupt the subject, It does not reveal the motion of shooting, My design was for such a concept My story started 7 years ago. At the time, I was in charge of marketing to sell more X-Pro1’s. The X-Pro1 was the first model of X-series. Sales result was not so positive unfortunately. There were so many problems. It had big potential, but it was still just potential. The perfection was quite low-level, auto-focus was very slow. But at the time, I believed I loved the X-Pro series. Sales was not so good but I believed the potential could be realised. The body size of mirrorless camera is very small but we have to have the viewfinder. In the case of rangefinder-style and mirrorless camera we have to install very big ocular glass to the small body, So it’s very difficult. In the X-Pro series we have to install very complicated system and parts. that’s the reason X-pro series price is a little bit higher compared to the X-T series. We want to create a camera which can be used without a manual when people first buy our X-series camera Of course, as I already said, I prefer analogue camera compared to digital camera. But this age is a digital age, so I can’t develop film cameras anymore. But of course I can create a digital camera like an analogue camera. At that time, I wanted to unveil the potential of the X-Pro line from X-Pro1 to X-Pro2, 4 years. During these 4 years, I became friends with many X-Photographers. And many X-Photographers told me, “I love X-Pro1” It is a very, very troublesome camera, but still, I love it. This is my motivation. I think this is my mission. So that is the reason I raised my hand to be the product planner of the X-Pro2. For me, X-Pro series is especially, X-Pro2 is a special creation 100% of my effort and passion 100% of my knowledge about cameras and photography my design skills too The X-Pro2 was created from those elements. When the X-Pro2 was released I and Mr. Ueno, sorry, and also Mr. Aoyama had the same impression, that we could produce the camera we wanted We were proud of the X-Pro2. Though it sounds strange We love analogue cameras too much, so we could not see digital cameras in the same way as the cameras we loved. There was a difference about analogue cameras, We thought the analogue cameras were real cameras, but digital cameras were not the same. But after X-Pro2, we changed that mindset. And now 3 years has passed. The time of the X-Pro3 has come. It is November 2018, exactly a year to the official release of the X-Pro3. Serious discussions are taking place in Omiya. In 12 record-breaking months, as the team works its way from concept-brainstorming to 3D mock-up and finally to a mass production stage, this imaginary camera shall be in the hands of photographers. Most particularly, street photographers. So I hope that the next X-Pro3 will be without buttons. I remember when I told them, ok , no button, no screen, nothing, nothing! They were…? We had this meeting in Japan, it was wonderful, it was amazing with engineers and designers, and it was a pleasure, how could I imagine me, French little photographer to be invited by Fuji in Japan, in a very nice place, wonderful hotel, very simple, but very… you know the design in Japan. How to do simple things with quality. It was just fabulous. Two days of brainstorming with all these people. How could I imagine me, Eric Bouvet, to be a very, very little part of the next X-Pro3? I was very, very happy, I enjoyed it, and I was a little bit proud about that. I’m pretty sure they will not keep (my suggestions)… not so much about what I’m expecting too So, anyway… a little advice about what we need and what we love. And they must give the photographer the camera who helps them to do better pictures. When you have camera in your hand, it’s precious. If you love your camera, you will do better pictures, definitely. Okay, I can do a picture with a smartphone or with alot of different cameras, But, if you have a nice camera, a camera you love, the lens you love, it’s logical, it’s a way, you will do better. Its a prolongation of your arm, your hand, your eye, yourself. You know, for example, what photography means? In Greek, it means writing with the light. Photography, it’s writing with the light In French, a camera, it’s l’appareil l’appareil means to préparer, to prepare In latin, it’s preparing your photography We are in the logical way, you know… So this camera, if it’s a nice one, it’s a wonderful one it’s a camera and you love it, of course you will do better pictures. You have no choice. In the beginning phase I had 3 ideas. Change the finder, change exterior material and install tiltable LCD. But in the beginning phase I didn’t have idea to install sub-LCD here, original idea was here Through long, long interviews with X-Photographers, my X-Photographers requested me, ‘please install the indicator of how many shots this camera can do’ like a film indicator so we tried to install it here, but there is no such LCD parts. Some of our R&D team showed me a colour device. (He said) “I cannot install a LCD this size, but it shows colour information”. At the timing I got the idea “Wow, the size is same as film package” I asked him, “Can you install it here? Try.” That was already end of last year, 28th December. 28th December, and 29th was the last working day of last year. On the last day, he showed me “Kunio-san, it can be realised.” That is the story. You know Takashi and I love classical bicycles made of stainless, made of chromolybdenum For such a guy, Titanium is a dream material. Several times we tried to use Titanium, now is the time. Titanium is a very functional material. Very strong, very durable and very stable. Last year, we got the connection to the factory to realise a special coating for Titanium, this is also one of the reasons to choose Titanium, because we want to prepare a very special material for my lovely X-pro. These 10 or 20 years among digital cameras, just one or two models choosed Titanium, but it was compact camera, not a professional camera. or such a interchangeable cameras Our lovely X-pro needs special body like armour for the fighter. The experience of shooting through the finder is precious. The hidden LCD leads users to the finder. The vision through the finder charms the shooter It’s a message from Fujifilm Shoot and check, then shoot and check. as a result… Playback action disturbs the rhythm of the shooting, Theres no need to check back after each shot, just like analogue shooting. It is a different experience to shooting on smartphones The shooting experience with X-Series starts with the finder, which makes the shooter change their mindsets to shooting That is the reason. What is the question? We had so many struggles, internally. Actually some salespersons challenged us several times at product meetings and sales meetings They also understand it is very cool but not so popular. But after the meeting, at the bar over the beer, I asked “Honestly speaking, you don’t like this camera?” They said “Personally, I love it” That’s the reason I didn’t want to change my mind. From a marketing point of view, we couldn’t make this decision. But this is a product of hobby. No logic. From heart. The heart makes the decision. That’s the reason. If personally, they didn’t like this idea, I might not have made this choice. But most of my colleagues love it personally. X-pro3 is not tribute to analog camera, Just a new camera with respect to analog cameras, because the digital camera age has forgotten the passion of photography. In the analog camera era, most users didn’t care about specifications Most users care about the feeling and passion to the shooting, So what I mean with respect, is to recover the passion for photography. to bring back the passion to digital cameras. My X-pro series is very fusion – digital and analogue. First of all we are producing the camera that photographers and users want to use. In addition, X-Pro3 must go even further. It is a prestige presence, even when it is just being put on the table. The practical tools like outdoor gears knives and guns such items would give me inspiration to design the X-Pro3 Before designing, we share the specifications and limitations, also target users These considerations designs the camera roughly but logically, But, my mission is to inject a special idea into it. Of course it depends on the product. And, to realise something illogical and something indescribable such as the lines of product design. In my thoughts the gender does not matter for designing the product the personality is more dominant than the gender. My personality… It’s easy for me to design with my inspirations, but not as much from logic. But staffs of R&D needs reason and logic. So I try to explain my thoughts logically to R&D. With the product planner, from the planning the concept of the camera, and considering the usage of it, I create the design for the camera. Not only the shapes, but also the usability and the portability, I also care about My final goal is to agree with R&D, designers and product planners. Through the product developing, I make the mock-up. Share the mock-up We share the impressions and the consensus Then, each staff start to realise it And, for the next phase, the working sample is coming. Seeing the working camera which has the exterior designed by me To see the working sample is the most exciting portion for designers. What’s more, it can take photographs. The process leading up to mass production Now I very much see it. This is very exiting. Input from the product planners and product designers are very abstract. my mission is to transform it into something specific. It is really hard work. Even if I do my best Product planners and designers request “more, more and more”. I think their mission is to demand more, so I won’t challenge them. But Indeed, it is very tough work. The difficulty is to balance the request from the product planners, designers, and specifications. Really, tough and difficult My mission is to uphold the quality, cost and delivery of the product. We conduct investigations on the specifications and make the developing schedule, then produce the prototype samples Everyday, we face these kinds of troubles but my mission is to solve them one by one. And, to realise the QCD (Quality-Cost-Delivery) of the product development. We are not good friends with each other. But we share to achieve the same target. So we don’t make a compromise. If there is any compromise, we cannot achieve our target. Though discussions, we have to make an agreement, to realise what we want. We are not friends, but we don’t dislike each other. Around the world, Fujifilm has over 500 camera ambassadors called X-Photographers. Believe it or not, it was never a programme deliberately created by Fujifilm. I remember initially when I first got it, I was so thrilled about X100. I got it the week it came out of Canada The first few days it was a foreign object, and I actually thought maybe I made a mistake here… Once I got passed that, obviously, everything changed. I got into the Fujifilm cameras and the cameras gave me this incentive to start telling stories and doing visual essays It was a very… I’m looking for the right word here. It’s not frenzy… it was a very buoyant era, when those camera came on the scene.. and everyone was, you know there was this huge community basically created overnight around those things. I’ve started having conversations with photographers online of creating stories and visual essays Fuji had come out with this new camera, I think they came up with the X100 series, the very first one in 2011? The question was; where does it fit in the market, and nobody was sure. It looked really cool ’cause it looked like an old camera. It was kind of, what do you use it for? Then X-Pro1 came in 2012, first interchangeable lens body, came out with the good old 35mm – right here straight from 2012, and I think the 18mm as well? Then it was suddenly a camera with a little more flexibility. I think Fuji was just intrigued with people who used it in a commercial setting. I bought my X-Pro1, there is no store, not even Fuji here in Philippines, so I needed to buy it online. I only played with JPEG and I’m so happy with the output of the camera That’s the time I kept posting on my Facebook After a week or two, somebody emailed me, it’s from Tokyo “Can we use your images on our upcoming website?” I said yes. They would later invite four other photographers to Japan. Fujifilm were hungry for feedback and curious to know what images, in the hands of photographers, could be created. These first initiations was the beginning of many gatherings with photographers. It was the beginning of a community. X-photographers? They are lovely, sometimes crazy people. When it started?… I think… it’s not Fujifilm who said we started a X-ambassador’s programme. We didn’t do that. It’s more the photographers who loved the original X100, X1 and basically started happening maybe seven years ago without us asking, they became, I think they almost volunteered ambassadors, yeah. We always invite X-photographers coming to Omiya or we go to Tokyo, and we have some discussions, over dinner. Through that communication I think our staff get some global feeling or emotion. Our relationship, I think, is very, very close to each X-Photographer. we talk alot, discuss a lot. Sometimes we have some opinions where we actually don’t agree with the photographer, but it’s ok, it’s a discussion. I was privileged enough to meet Masa-san who is the original designer of the X100 at a Fujifilm conference recently. And to some people it might seem odd having a camera signed. But for me it’s the same as having a book signed, or an album signed it’s a sign of respect for the designer, it’s a sign of respect for the camera, and it’s also a sign of thanks for being able to create these little cameras that have undoubtedly changed the way I’ve progressed as photographer, moved forward. I think it’s fair to say that if Masa-san had not designed these cameras in the first place and Fujifilm would not have the confidence to bring it to market, I probably wouldn’t be a photographer now. and I certainly wouldn’t have all of the pictures and the nostalgia that we would have of my own family in the future I went Japan last year for first time in my life. So just coming there from street photographer’s point of view was amazing. And to experience the hospitality of the peope from Fujifilm was equally amazing, I’ve been talking to them for so long about coming to visit them, again on a very personal level, I’d like to think, more than the business level. I was there for the meetings but also socialising afterwards. It’s always fun, ya! Drinking, eating, singing karaoke, stuff like that is very, very fun. The X-photographers community to me is something that I feel is very, very special to the Fujifilm brand. I know that all other camera brands have ambassadors but it’s never had that kind of family feeling. My relationship with Fuji has really developed over past 5 years. At the beginning, alot of the employees within Fujifilm were just employees to me, but now I do consider alot of them as my friends. Definitely. Also because I do this on a hobby basis. It’s not my job. And I’m much more prone to want that, the personal relationship instead of the business relationship. I try to involve myself personally with the people that I meet along this journey with Fujifilm I often hope that I get the same in return and I often do. We’re not linked by blood but it’s as if we have something in common. We use the same cameras, we use the same film simulations, and we talk about the same colour language, the same ergonomic language It’s something that we are all passionate about and coming together is sort of like old friends coming together. Fujifilm has released a new camera I would say every half a year? So that release means that X-photographers like us will be given a project to test out the cameras and to go out and take photographs and they use it in turn for their launch. I feel like its my chance to do personal work. It’s made me work harder, It’s sort of forced me to develop my personal work because I have a chance to. I’ve been energised knowing that a huge organisation is behind me, and supporting that endeavour. Fujifilm understands photography and photographers. They know that we go through our ups and downs, our depressions. And they look at photography. They don’t just make cameras. I know for sure they look at the guys from Magnum and VII, they look at history, the famous photographers, and what it means to go out on the street, what it means to be dark and depressive. Sometimes they amaze me because they never question what content I would put out. I feel free to create my art. I’m not afraid of showing my true self or being judged or having to produce a picture perfect landscape. I understand that they can accept a different kind of photography. Globally I’ve been sent to workshops, and to give lectures, to give talks about the work that I’ve done using Fujfilm cameras. That is where huge events like Photokina or Fujikina, where we get to know about each other more as friends. That’s where the relationship turns into more friendship than just a client-customer relationship. I think it’s energy of their team that affects me as an individual. It’s the photographer’s choice. We’re just providing the tool for photographers to shoot photographs and also to show their emotion or passion to their audience. This is not a digital device. This is a camera. We always think of certain photographers or certain customers, then we decide to create, even the one by one button layout, we have a story how photographer uses the camera. As a marketing word, we say street photography But once X-photographer shoots the photo, it’s more than that. It’s not just a word like: street photography. X-Photographers using X-Pro series taught us what is important point to shoot snap-shooting. Also they taught us how to use the camera, what size is best, what operation way is the better compared to other cameras. All of those things, they taught us. There seems to be a lot of respect which goes both ways. A very important part of the way these cameras have evolved has been through discussions wth photographers, as opposed to accountants, that makes a huge difference in how the entire line has been shaped. It’s probably made a huge impact in terms of the speed at which it all evolved. I think having the feedback has shaped the entire line very, very quickly. 2011, the X100 came out, and now. Everything we have now, including GFX100 is just staggering how fast this ecosystem has basically been created out of thin air I think that’s obvious with the way Fujifilm update their firmware very regularly. When you compare Fujifilm to other brands, it’s very clear to photographers in the industry that there are people in Fujifilm that are passionate about photography and they listen to the people who use their cameras. So I’ve never really worked with a manufacturer. I would like a product, I would buy the product and that was it. Working with Fujifilm was the first time I’ve ever enjoyed the product and then met the people who made the product. And now working with Fuji for the past 7 or 8 years now off and on, I’ve met the guy… who like… this is the guy who designed the camera this is the person who works on the lenses and these two guys do the film simulation and they’ve been with the company for 40 years and they’ve worked on the film side and now they’re doing digital and you sit down and have a meal with them, and you say “Oh I love this part about the camera, but…” You know, they take so much feedback, I’ve gone to them before and said, I wish this button did it this way instead of this way, and then the next camera, that button changed. I was at dinner last night with the crew from Fuji, and I was like, okay, who’s in charge of firmware? Oh, he’s in charge of firmware. So we go and we have a talk. and I’m like ‘there’s this one little thing that I wish would happen” and they all have a discussion and it’s all Japanese Zack-san, Zack-san oh very easy to do, we’ll look into. You know, like they listen, and they’ll have a discussion And say ‘We’re gonna look into that.” And it’s cool to meet someone and then 6 months later, it shows up as a menu item. That’s pretty awesome I’ve never had that kind of experience before. As I remember when we were in Tokyo in the headquarters, it was the first time we go up in their office, it’s a closed door, and engineers came inside. They asked us what you don’t like with the camera. It sounds weird because we’re normally ready for what we like with the camera. I guess they really need improvement from us, what next lens do you want? what type of body you like? That’s the thing with Fuji, they listen to photographers. Staying power is absolutely a part of evolution. Relationships are very much of a part of evolution. If you can’t be counted on to give good feedback, If you can’t be counted on to deliver, then trust can’t be built. And Fuji builds alot of their products on trust. A very important thing is the feedback from our X-photographers because feedback is the seed of improvement of a new product. So to make the next product, I check all of the opinions from the photographers I categorise, I list, a visual image of operability improvements. For every single model, I make about 10 operability improvements for each model. Firmware updates are also important, but hardware improvement is more important for me. To make the next models, one input from our X-Photographers like you, for example but improvement like autofocus or video capability. The other is from technology side, like new device and software improvement, then I combine ideas together, Then I make a new direction. A lot of information. In the beginning, our performance wasn’t so good so we made every kind of improvement, but now it’s a bit changing, so we can propose more features In this spring we will update X-T3 firmware even after six months of launch. New autofocus algorithm, face detection, eye detection… Improvement never stopped Our engineers always thinking make it better. The new models have new features that we can share even with older models. Even for lesser-sales products, we will share them for the customer. That’s one branding of the X-series. Even the small sales camera, if the customer loves our product, We should respect them as well, so we should provide firmware upgrade. I never in my wildest dream imagine that I would have this close a relationship with a camera company on the other side of the planet. I never, ever could have imagined that I could sit down with engineers and designers and give my input and see some of that come to fruition. I never thought I get here… from here… People like us… we’re hard to kill. We think the most, we see the most, And when we hurt, we bleed the most. If you are one of us, you’ll recognise the intensity, whether you are a photographer or a camera-maker. Our work is not for us. It’s for tomorrow. I really believe in the future of pictures. And although wedding photography is where I make my income but a vast majority of the pictures that I take are of my own family, personal pictures. street photography and general things that are happening around me. and… I have this… a vision if you like of my kids and perhaps their own kids looking at these pictures in the future. And that’s the power of those pictures that nostalgia will really hit them then. I have this firm believe that a mundane picture today will always become more powerful the older that picture gets. While I was not from a particular family where there was a camera kicking around all the time. Really the only pictures we had from my own childhood are Christmas… on a holiday, that kind of thing. And… when I look at those pictures now, I now understand the power of the candid picture. It’s the ones at Christmas opening the wrapping paper, all that kind of stuff They are the ones that when I look at those pictures now, they take me instantly back to those moments in time. I’ve been to weddings where I have seen the most lavish, absolutely the most lavish things happen I’ve been to weddings in chateaus in France where every single one of the guests have been flown in from America by the clients hundreds of thousands of Euros spent on those weddings But equally I’ve been to weddings where it’s been upstairs in a pub, in Camden, and it’s a very low-cost wedding, but the people are just as happy, just as fun But more importantly just as exciting for me to photograph those, as it is to photograph the high-end weddings. I think in the 10 years I’ve been photographing weddings, things have been very good for me. I’ve had incredible times, I’ve had some very lucky breaks, I’ve photographed celebrity weddings I’ve had the opportunity to travel I’ve been to Argentina, I’ve been to Japan, I’ve been to North America, I’ve been all over Europe, And… It often… Beggars believe with me that people will sit there and listen to me talk about my work. How on earth has this happened? When I left school I was going off to do IT and be computer programmer. Here I am now, I’ve just been to the photography show, There was 400 people listening to me talk about my work. The biggest achievement was living out in the desert, and working on a project for eight years called “Conversations with the Mob”. It was in Western Australia, living with the Martu aboriginal people. I was working for the Australian newspapers at that time, I had been working for Reuters international news agency, and then I was working for The Australian based in Perth, and I was flying all around the place covering national stories and international stories In the media we fly in all the time, and then we fly out. Whatever story we do, we have to cover what’s happening then, and we don’t ever look in depth to it. So I gave up the comfortable bed, the secure income and drove to the desert which I thought was for six months, but I ended up living full-time, nearly for three years with them. Overall it was an eight year project. And it wasn’t just photo-taking. I was looking after sick people, I was in the hospitals it was all at my own expense, no one paid for it. And.. that… leaves a long lasting impact on life. Because it means that I don’t own a home, the only thing I own is a car, but I have had enormous experiences. To me it was never about the money, It’s about making a difference. What you have to do is that you do what that feels right and put it out there. While I’m photographing, I try not to involve myself but if it means that something or somebody needs help while I’m doing that and I’m able to do it, then I use my abilities. Again it’s not separate, its all part of the whole. Photography to me is a vehicle to open doors and windows to worlds that not everyone else gets to see People pay attention, and they invite you in And they trust you which comes with an enormous sense of responsibility. Who is Patrick La Roque, that’s hardest question you can ever ask. I kinda hate categories, So I do some commercial photography, I also do some portraiture, I do some editorial stuff, I write I get to speak to photographers as well, I do talks, and… just think about photography. And do my own thing as well. When I decided to switch full-time to photography, I was actually doing soundtracks from music in a more professional way and actually earning money from it, It just felt like something I had to do. So I jumped in. It was just physical, basically like I would see the camera, and I had to pick up the camera And I had to shoot a couple of shots in the morning, It was just like a really strong pull to actually… and it didn’t matter, it wasn’t the subject that was driving me, It was idea of connecting with what was around me through that device. There is this quote… what is it… Richard Avedon had this quote that I think that sums it up perfectly, he says If a day goes by without anything photographic, it’s like something’s missing, like not eating, or not drinking, or whatever. That’s not the exact quote but that’s the gist of it. and that’s pretty much it actually. It’s a very personal thing, it’s just about expressing what needs to be expressed. I’m not a full-time photographer, I’m a full-time doctor. But I think if I count the hours I might be closing in on becoming a full-time photographer Because I spend a lot of time doing it. At the beginning I define myself a street photographer but I think I quickly learn that was quite limiting term for me for what I do photographically. Since I don’t really feel that I should let a genre define what kind of photographer I am. I became the product photographer for Fujifilm by shooting the X70 series when that launched. I was one of the two or three testers of it, and I shot some images of it and when I sent my sample images to Fujifilm, I sent the product shots with it. And they liked it, and now they’ve been using it ever since. It was just that spring after the X70 had launched, they shipped over all of the products, And they had a big web design refresh thing So they sent over all the products and wanted me to photograph each and every one of it for their website, for the banner images, And ever since, they’ve kept that kind of styling that I’ve provided them with. Because my product images are always shot on a very dark surface so they have like a unique look to them. that they’ve caught on to, and used. I think my product photography is very personal in that I look at the products as little persons, it sounds weird, but I look at them as little personalities. So when I photograph, I try to pull out the personalities So for instance, if I shoot a fun little product, I try to do it in a fun way. If I shoot the bigger cameras, the more muscular cameras. choose other camera angles to best bring out that That could be the reason why. I don’t think I could live a single day without photography any more. If I were to set-back time four years, I probably could but it’s become such an intergral part of me now that, like I carry camera with me everywhere, I carry it with me when I go outside in our own garden, I sometimes bring it to the toilet, I’m not doing anything with the camera when I’m in the toilet but I’m bringing it just because it’s in integral part of me like wearing a wrist watch. I wear the camera all the time. You can say I’ve got wanderlust in my blood I am officially a photographer for an organization called Preemptive Love coalition I’ve just hit my five and a bit month mark in Iraq. My organisation serves refugees and displaced Iraqis, there are well over a million displaced Iraqis in Iraq right now we do emergency aid because that’s always critical when war is going on, at this point we are also doing a lot of community building. I come from a street photography background so it’s a very, very different way of working. There is none of this stealth thing, we always ask for permission always. Respect. You ask and you don’t take unless it’s given. I think it’s confronting seeing war, which for me, until I moved to Iraq has always been something that happens on the other side of the screen and I’m seeing its effects, if not the war itself, but its effects first-hand that makes you rethink alot of your life. Many years ago I took workshops, a Magnum workshop with Antoine d’Agata. During that workshop, there were 12 of us in his class and he sat with each person and asked them why do you photograph, he would not let you go until you gave him an answer that he felt it was your truth. Anybody. Anybody can put work out into the world Good, bad, ugly, whatever What I put out into the world is just a particular way I see the world, it’s a particular way I feel of the world, and its a voice, it’s a mode of expression. But importantly it’s also being seen. As somebody who’s a minority in most parts of the world, particularly where photography is prevalent. Being seen and having your work validated by others who will say ‘Thank you for sharing’ “I would not have known this about Singapore, about Kurdistan, about Denmark’, about wherever I’ve been, if not for your pictures.” I arrived to Gamma agency in 1982, and I stayed in Gamma agency until the 90’s I took very quickly the plane everywhere in the world, It was a crazy time, it was the golden age of photojournalism It was marvellous. We were always just a dozen of photographers to make everything, what’s happening in the world. I was always in assignment for TIME magazine, for Newsweek, for Life magazine. for Stern magazine in Germany, for the Standard Times magazine in London or Pour l’Image, Le Figaro Magazine in France So… it was… world-wrecking, and it was a marvellous time. What is my brain about all these wars I’ve covered? Do you think you can come back safely after war? Nobody can come back safely. Nobody. You keep all the trouble in your head and your stomach, and you must live with that. But you know, nobody obliged me to go. so I have no complains If I have trouble in my brain, that’s my problem. I don’t have to… say… this is the fault of a magazine.. or… someone… No, no, it’s me who decided to go, it’s me who was there for my own… volunteer. On the spot, yes, a few times I totally lost my mind, but I don’t want to let them make me more crazy than I am. I don’t think about the trouble I saw on the field, in Chechnya, in Afghanistan, or…wherever or… My trouble in my head now, for years and years, it’s about my kids. I’m afraid about them, about.. that they could die. That’s the bad side about covering war It’s a transposition in fact It’s about what I saw, what I lived, and it’s on my kids. They are all well, everything goes well, I’m happy for that. But everyday I have a flash. And so, I put if off very quickly because I know it’s not real. So, it’s ok Look I’m smiling I really love photography even if now is very difficult period for the photographer. Digital arrived 20 years ago and give the possibility to everybody to do photography and somewhere, that’s marvellous, it’s wonderful because you can be on other side of world, you can send pictures by internet, you can be directly connected with your family. It could be in a magazine so fast. The bad side is… the problem is… it’s coming like consumerism. They look, they shoot alot, because it’s free now, I can make a thousand of pictures Problem is, it’s not the thousands of pictures that’s interesting. What is interesting? It is one, the picture. When I was young in the 60s, with people in the family you make some pictures, and on the same roll of 36 views Remember we got 24 views, and also 12 views on the film and on this film you could have all year long, the anniversary, the birthday, the holidays, Christmas, on the same film, on 36 views you have all year long. and every picture was good because people took care about what they did That’s the problem of today, people with digital they don’t take care. They just push the button. About photography, I love it so much that for me, this is an investment and much more, it’s an engagement. Engagement of my life my family of course, but about this work, this is very, very important. It’s not just to do photography and forget it, no, no, no It’s the work of everyday, It’s the work of my life. For almost 6 years I was able to go around the Philippines, from north all the way down south to Mindanao. I enjoy my days with Fujifilm because I get to travel, seeing more of our country, to learn more of our culture, and meeting new people. I was so passionate about it, I was so happy with the camera, And maybe I just wanted to help Fujifilm If you go back to history of photography in the Philippines, everybody goes to weddings, because it’s where the money is Street photography exists already, now it’s famous because Fuji came and I was there as well, we have so many events for street compared to any other genre. I started the photowalk with Fujifilm. Maeda-san came, it was my first time to see an expat on the streets with me, and he even treated us for lunch, that’s the start of my photowalk journey with Fujifilm, it became bigger and bigger Now we’re coming up with the nation-wide photowalk, hundreds n thousands of participants already. We started with just.. you can count by hands. Nationwide I think we are close to 4000 already We only had X100, and only had X-pro with 1 lens or 2 lenses. Nothing more, nothing less. We just walk and shoot. They’re all enthusiasts, not even a professional. That’s why Maeda was so happy to see them and they go out of their own way just to meet us. It’s such a family thing, not really like a brand and user thing. It’s really like a family thing That’s the Fuji-love that I’m telling you. I give, yes, I give so much for the photowalk. So much of my time, for the love of photography, the love of sharing I guess. I’m happy if somebody will tell me, ‘Sir Rommel, thank you, I learnt something.’ It’s very fulfilling as for me as a photographer The bulk of my work has got to do with people. I started out as a newspaper journalist. Because I constantly had to deal with people who were underprivileged, I find myself drawn towards people in a need of a voice, people who have sort of gone under, people caught in-between. That’s not statistical, things that you can’t find on the surface. I’m always, constantly trying to go inside of what it means to a person in their hearts and in their minds In a way, you can say that my photography is on an emotional level. Happiness or sadness is a universal language. It tries to understand the environments that each one of us live in, regardless of where we are in the world. Photography is everything and nothing to me. I need it in order to stay alive, in a way that, even without a camera, nothing can stop me from seeing the moments, composing the photos, keeping my thoughts beautiful. Photography is a gift and I’m responsible to share the stories entrusted to me. In the same way, a camera creator must have a conviction about photography. He has been entrusted with the power to influence photography through cameras. My first hobby was photography, it was probably back in 1980 when I went to junior high school I was 13 years old I think At that time my father told me, “Now you have passed your exam, what do you want?” “I want a camera.” My father generously bought me the Nikon SLR. My pocket money was not enough So with my friend in junior high school, we bought a long roll of film and we cut and put into the canister and we shared. And we managed to save our money. 10 years later, I joined Fujifilm. My first job was exporting photographic film all over the world, That was 1991. So, 28 years have past and I am still in charge of photography, and the cameras. Fortunately or unfortunately, I stayed, still in the photographic business. I lived in the UK 7.5 years, my daughter was two years until nine years old, so I took a lot of pictures. It was before digital cameras I still keep a lot of films and negatives and prints. We still couldn’t take enough pictures after I came back to Japan, So I’m still looking for some opportunities to take my daughter’s picture before she gets married, I hope. Things were less rosy a decade ago. The rapid decline in photographic film demand from 2005-2010, meant Fujifilm lost almost 60% of its core business. There was an urgency for massive reforms and diversification to other businesses to save the company from death. Bold and courageous moves were necessary. The camera department was halved. 10 years ago, the team was not so good, always a bit fighting. Our sales was very tough because we don’t have enough line-up at that time. Unfortunately some of our cameras performance especially autofocus, was not enough for high-end users. 2012, we had a restructuring. We had a separate product planning team and product marketing team, we combined. The situation was very serious, the sales were down, so we began discussing more. We shared the same thinking together more deeply. So day-by-day, step-by-step we got to know each other, so now we have a very good relationship, just like one strong team. It’s been almost a year in the making, Will the design work? Will the public find affinity? Instinct. Decisions. The power of thinking without thinking. Let’s remember that as a company culture, Fujifilm is no stranger to taking risks. If we ask 10 photographers, or 10 customers, we have 10 different opinion, so how to get all the opinion into one camera? It’s quite difficult. Sometimes rather than just listening or asking the customers, sometimes we have to make the decision. so this is the way our X-Pro series should go. I think that this LCD is a classic example if we keep asking, we couldn’t have reached the LCD solution I think that this is witness, or passion and the challenge for new things You are not here to make pictures.. No no no… This is photography. You make X-Pro3, you must change, The line is very nice but you want to say “Wow” Break things! And disturb people It’s like my photography I’m not here to make pleasure to people. I’m not a nice photographer. I’m here for the people to ask themselves questions about photography about what they see, about what’s happening there I’m not here for you to like my picture I’m here for you, ask yourself questions about who, or what’s happening there and why? Why do they do that? I never want to say my picture will change the world. Definitely I know that it will not change, but its good that people ask themselves questions, Or we can perhaps do something else to change, or to help or… disturb. So this new camera must disturb us! When I pick it up I start to look for the image on the back and you realise you can’t and it’s putting the brain back into that space, of actually, really utilising your ability as a photographer and not being able to see what you’re doing unless you really want to. If you’re new to photography, you will learn from the camera, but if you are old to photography, you will love this camera. It’s very nostalgic, it’s very analogue-type The way I use it is the way like I’m using film. very traditional, very analogue Fujis, they call it the camera with a soul For me personally I’ve seen the whole developmental journey of the X-Pro3, so I’ve seen the struggles of the team, and the history, the previous prototypes that they’ve put out that haven’t gone through. All the questions they’ve asked and how hard they’ve pushed themselves within this timeline to have this product. It’s not just the embodiment, it’s not just having a camera. This is… taking around my friends with me. This Fujifilm family. This spirit. This group of people who have such drive and passion. It’s different when you own something like that. It’s not an accident. It’s a deliberate design it’s gone through debate through the eyes of professional photographers and also purists – people who love photography and saying this is what I want to see in a camera, this is how we want to feel about a camera. Like Kunio. Kunio who was pushing certain elements. There is a whole element of punk-rockiness of Kunio, the product manager, that’s gone into this camera I can literally see this character coming out through here. There is that individualism. Like let’s cover the flip screen, let’s bring back the true essence of photography. We’ve gone through these debates for months. And here it is. Here it is in our hands, the final product. Product planning does not need democracy. Sometimes we become very selfish persons. So listen, listen, listen, everytime we listen to voices and requests, but later we ignore. 99% we ignore the voices What I want to make is what photography wants to make I want to make the great camera which can shoot great photography Great photography taken by great photographer. My products can be best friend to you. I don’t know what he can do but he can be closest friend, yes. Buddy. What truly matters, what I value the most, is to make honest photographs. Our lives are limited, but our perspectives, through photos, can live beyond. This is not about endorsement, approvals, or likes. This is not a game, This is you and I, laying claim to our existence.