2014 – The year of the guerilla (or how I got out of a creative rut and kicked my Gear Acquisition Syndrome by buying new gear...)

For a while I have felt that I was just drifting aimlessly as a photographer. I had enough skill and reputation to keep the TFP collaborations coming in but I wasn't evolving.

Sure, during 2013 I did some work I were quite happy with, but all in all those occasions felt more or less like lucky shots based on experience and a quite developed skill of improvisation, rather than the result of any conscious progression on my part.

 I had no sense of direction of where I wanted my work to go. I was stuck. I needed change.


 

The car is on fire, and there's no driver at the wheel
And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides
And a dark wind blows
– "Dead Flag Blues" by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

 

I have always been very broad when it comes to my photographic language; I never felt like I had a style I could call my own – I have always been all... over... the... place. And I knew this was the year when I wanted to try to find my own voice.

I had been a Nikon shooter ever since I bought my first DSLR in 2005. Having used, loved and outgrown the Nikon D70, Nikon D200 and Nikon D700 and amassed a quite vast collection of lenses, speed-lights and other photography related paraphernalia over the years. Now, with the Nikon D700 becoming a bit long in the tooth I really couldn't motivate myself to buying the bigger, badder Nikon D800E/D810. 

My camera bags where oh so heavy and the last few years I had started to grow tired of the heavy bags, camera bodies and lenses I kept lugging around. There had to be another way.

In the studio I routinely used at least three lights on every shoot and on location I almost always brought a battery powered studio strobe – or at least a bunch of speed-lights. together with a few modifiers and some light stands.

I were starting to feel sick and tired of all the gear. Too big, too heavy and far too many things I felt I really needed to make pictures...

My cameras bag was no longer a toolbox; it was at best a big heavy crutch if not an outright anchor... I felt more or less like an old tank with all the heavy metal and glass I kept lugging around. Sure; I had all the fire power I could ever need; but I was not very mobile.

I wanted something different. Something lighter. More agile. Less tank and more guerilla. 

When Fuji released their X-Trans series with of APS-C sized mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras and compacts 2011/2012  I became very curious. I thought that Fuji were on to something: Small, light cameras that still punched over their weight when it came to image quality. But I was hesitant to pull the trigger on switching systems. I were too invested in Nikon to make a switch on a whim.

But as Fuji kept refining and updating their lineup I kept hearing the siren's call... Especially from photographers like David Hobby and Zack Arias; two photographers I have followed for years and for whose philosophies when it comes to gear I have always felt resonated very much with my own look on things.

I know that buying more gear quite often can become a trap known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome (or GAS for short) but I felt I had reached the end of the road with my Nikon gear and the way I approached photography in general. I felt ready for a different approach. And this time I didn't want to buy gear for the short high you get from a shiny new toy. This time I wanted a new toolbox that could enable me to approach photograph from a new direction. Less tank and more guerilla.

So during 2014 I finally took the plunge and bought the Fuji X100s compact and Fuji X-T1 together with two prime lenses.

And I must say that it was all I wanted it to be and more. It has really been the catalyst enabling me to keep things simpler throughout the year.

Anyways. Enough talking. Time to show the photos from each month that I feel is most significant of my year as a photographer.

January

Winter in my part of Sweden is a quite bleak affair. No light. No snow. Just wind, rain or slush and a darkness that eats away it your soul... So you just keep your head down and try to push through.

I really hate winter and almost every year I tend to slow down my shooting. No energy and not much inspiration.

Model: Yasmina Jackson.

This was the first collaboration I did with Yasmina; a great model with a wide range of expressions. I did a few more during the year and I hope there will be more during 2015.

I was still feeling the funk, but I were very pleased with the images. (I couldn't resist the temptation of adding a tattoo in Photoshop.) Still stuck with the Nikon gear but I deliberately tried to keep the lighting to a minimum.

February

February was not a good month. I still lacked inspiration and work were in a very hectic period with a couple of launches. So I didn't pick up the camera at all that month; not that I wanted to.

March

Still winter, still hectic and still hating the camera bag. But work brought me to SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas this year for a much needed injection of wonderful lectures, Texan food and light. It was my third SXSW and it one of the most awesome experiences I ever had the pleasure to attend. 

Model: Sanna Persson (Lóca – Alternative Makeup).

Back from SXSW I did a shoot with Sanna; an friend and creative collaborator that I have worked with extensively over the years. She is a great makeup artist and hairstylist; but sometimes she can be persuaded to step in front on a camera.

April

During April I felt my inspiration reaching an all-low and I didn't book a single shoot throughout the whole month; despite the winter finally giving in. So I decided it was time to ditch the old Nikon system and in the end of the month I bought my new Fuji gear.Happy, happy, joy, joy!

May

After having acquainted myself with the new system for a few weeks I tested the waters with the Fuji system in early May. 

Model: Jasmine Sundström.

I have done quite a few shoots with Jasmine over the last years, and she always delivers in spades. This was a shoot just to try the new gear and see what it could do. Jasmine were kind enough to let me drag her through a forest for an afternoon with gear I hadn't really mastered yet. But even though I kept cursing when I couldn't find the buttons I were impressed by the X100s fast sync-speed with external flashes and the over-all feeling of using the new system.

I could feel my spirit returning again.

June

Summer at last! I started to commit the new cameras' controls to muscle memory and were eager to try them out in different scenarios; both in studio and on location.

During June I travelled to Cannes, France as I had the pleasure of attending Cannes Lions 2014 as I were a proud part of the Forsman & Bodenfors team behind the Volvo Trucks' Live Test campaign with the Epic Split with Jean Claude van Damme and other pieces. 

We brought home a bunch of Lions, including a Grand-Prix in Cyber for the Live Test series, and the whole week was just a blur of sun, award ceremonies, champagne and late nights on the Carlton Hotel lobby... 

I also spent a long week-end in Österlen with my girlfriend celebrating her birthday. What a wonderful place.

Both were great opportunities to play around with the cameras in new environments and just shoot for fun.

JUN - 2014-06-05-DSCF3929-(FUJIFILM_X-T1).jpg

Model: Kya Wolfritten.

One of the first studio shoots with the new gear. As Kya's new hairstyle reminded me so much of Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction and the character The Silhouette from the Watchmen comics I wanted to do something more stylised.

July

One of the warmest summers ever in Sweden. I spent most of my vacation shooting – both in the studio as well as outside on locations.

Model: Le Siss.

The shoot with Sissel was done just with natural light. Very fluid and agile and a very effective reminder that working with minimal gear could yield images I felt very good about.

I had worked with Sissel before but never felt I captured her looks properly. This time I think I did it pretty well (and some part of me thinks it's down to the minimal gear I used that allowed me to focus on the model and not the gear this time).

August

Summer continued – and so did my infatuation with natural light.

Model: Thitisuda Mahasrithanet.

Really minimal setup this time. Just open shade. Not even a reflector. Moving from one spot with interesting background and/or light to another without having to worry about grear. Very inspiring.

September

Model: Izabella Dehner.
Hairstylist: Ari Koponen.
Makeup Artist: Bambi Borg,

I had the wonderful opportunity to work with a new creative team in September; Ari Koponen and Bambi Borg. And I hope I will have the opportunity to create with them again as I loved the results we came up with.

I know this is maybe not necessarily a refinement of my minimalistic ambition for this year; but, like the more stylised shot from June, the reasoning was purely creative.  

October

Fall was mild this year and my creative juices kept flowing and making it possible to work on location without having to worry about wet gear, winds knocking lights over or models freezing to death.

Model: Rebecca.

I have worked with Rebecca a few times before and this time we had a really improvised shoot on a school yard on the weekend. No lights, just a camera and a few lenses and we kept moving and experimenting with different backgrounds and where we could find nice light. Great fun and a load of great photos came out of the shoot. 

November

If October were nice and mild, autumn hit us with a vengeance in November. Cold, grey and rainy. While I tried to shoot on location a few times it was time to embrace the studio and its controlled environment.

And it was also a perfect time to focus on retouching the final images from the summer/fall period. 

Model: Sanna Persson (Lóca– Alternative Makeup).

Once again Sanna ended up in front of my camera. This time she had bleached her hair very bright so I had to make some simple portraits of her.

December

December came once again and even though I didn't shoot as much as I did in the summer I still enjoyed the process and looked forward to each shoot – not something I had done the previous years when December usually ment a hiatus for a couple of months.

Model: Jasmine Sundström.
Make-up Artist: Erika Barchéus Rojas

In December I once again had the fortune to work with a new acquaintance; Erika Barchéus Rojas, a great makeup artist and teacher at the local makeup school. It was great fun working together and I look forward to working more with her during 2015.

Looking back on 2014

Now, with the holiday season approaching, I'm looking back on 2014 and trying to reflect on the year that is now coming to an end.

What have I achieved? Am I still stuck in the mud looking for a way out?

I think it has been a very good year for me as a photographer. Although I don't think my work this year has been outstanding from a creative point of view, I have managed to get back to the joy of creating images. Picking up the camera is fun again, and I don't think it has been fun in a few years. So this is a huge improvement. Especially since I do this more or less as a hobby.

Changing my DSLR for a lightweight rig made a huge impact on the way I approached shoots, being able to focus more on taking pictures and less on the logistics of lugging gear around.

Could I have achieved the same results with my old Nikon DSLR and lenses. Probably. But that would have required me to rethink everything and keep from falling back into old habits with a DSLR and the monster 70-200 mm f/2.8 zoom that had been my go-to setup for so long.

Buying a new system forced me to re-evaluate everything and that, I think, have been the main key for me to change as a photographer.

Did I find my own photographic voice? This is one thing I don't think I did.

Looking forward to 2015

So what do I want from 2015? 

I want to focus more on the creative aspects of the work. I think I will focus on doing less shoots 2015 but make the shoots count more creatively. Less guerilla and more sniper, if I may continue with the military parables.

I want to work more, and closer, with the other creatives involved in the shoot; the makeup artists and hairstylists. I also would want to work together with wardrobe stylists.

I want to focus 2015 into redeveloping my portfolio and to make another attempt of finding my own voice. I don't know how I will do that, or even if I will find it, but I am looking forward to trying. And that is the most important thing.

And one more thing. I think I want to start blogging again.

Peter Gaudiano

Fotograf från Göteborg. En av arrangörerna bakom Västkustträffen och sitens webmaster.

Plåtar helst beauty, fashion och art-nude.