PHOTOGRAPHER: Richard Vogel
BASED IN: California, USA
KNOWN FOR: News, documentary, and street photography
SHOOTS WITH: FUJIFILM X-T2 Camera, X-Pro2 Camera, X100F Camera, FUJINON XF16mmF1.4 R WR Lens, XF23mmF2 R WR Lens, XF35mmF2 R WR Lens, XF50mmF2 R WR Lens, XF90mmF2 R LM WR Lens, XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR Lens, XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens, XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens
Richard Vogel first began walking the streets of downtown LA in his lunch hour to speed his recovery from a back operation. He took a FUJIFILM X100S camera with him to relieve the boredom, and we’re glad he did. The pictures he shot not only offer a fascinating peek into daily life in the city, but also show how photography can work as therapy. In this interview, Richard speaks about the project, which he’s dubbed the 30 Minutes series, and shares some of his favorite shots.
How did the project come about?
It all started after I had back surgery about four years ago and I needed to walk as part of my rehab. I found this incredibly boring, so decided to make it more interesting with photography. I couldn’t really carry anything heavy, so I started bringing along my FUJIFILM X100S.
I get a 30 minute break for lunch, so I would walk out for 15 minutes from my office in downtown Los Angeles and see how far I could get before I had to turn back. Armed with my trusty little camera I would somehow manage to make one or two photos along the way.
I would try to take a different route every day just to keep it interesting, however, after a couple of years you start pounding the same paths over and over again. Despite this repetition I continued to find photos, much to the amazement of my colleagues, and after a while people were calling me to ask if they could join me on what became known as the 30 Minute Challenge!
At what point did this evolve into a proper photo project?
It just happened kind of organically. After my recovery I continued to walk just to keep fit and get out for some air. I found it to be so satisfying that I kept going out with my camera each day – more for the fitness than anything else. On my return each day, my colleagues would ask me what I got and sometimes I would say: ‘nothing but it’s ok, I walked 7,000 steps!’
I thought one day I should put together the photos from my lunch walk as a way to show people you don’t need to spend a lot of time out looking for photos or even need a lot of camera gear to enjoy street photography. I suppose that’s when it became the 30 Minutes series.
How has the project helped you?
It’s helped me take the time to get out from behind my desk and clear my head. My primary function at work is photo editor, so I am dealing day-in and day-out with a lot of bad news. Whether you like it or not, that has some sort of effect on your psyche. Breaking up the day by getting out and walking helps immensely. Plus, I’ve lost a nice amount of weight and my fitness level has increased too!
Why was FUJIFILM gear so well suited to the job?
I fell in love with the FUJIFILM X Series the first time I saw it. I wanted something I could use on the street and the X100S hit the nail on the head It’s a camera that’s improved with each iteration, right up to the current X100F. It’s quiet, shoots great quality files and is very unobtrusive. I like getting close sometimes, and it allows me to do that without being threatening.
However, most important of all, it’s fun to use! There’s a simplicity in the system that I like. I would be the first to tell you it’s not the camera that matters, it’s the photographer – but the X100S has certainly helped. It’s somehow brought back the joy of photography.
What specific gear did you use, and do you have a favorite?
I bought an X-T1 followed by an X-Pro2, eventually updating to an X-T2 and then an X100F. Now I’m using FUJIFILM X Series for all my work. I would mostly do my afternoon walk with any of those cameras, combined with an XF16mmF1.4 R WR or the XF23mmF2 R WR and sometimes an XF90mmF2 R LM WR or XF35mmF2 R WR. The camera I worked with the most was the X-Pro2, but I’d say may favorite is the X100F with the WCL-X100 wide lens adapter, which makes it a 28mm equivalent lens. There’s something I love about having a leaf shutter, also.
Do you have a favorite location from the project?
Within the three mile radius of my walkabout, the central location I love would be the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It’s an outstanding structure created by architect Frank Gehry. No matter which direction I would take on any given day, I would pass it on my way back to the office and find it inspirational.
What do you love most about street photography as a style?
Primarily I have spent my career as a news photographer, which means either covering the news, which I love, or illustrating articles with reporters. What street photography means to me is a kind of freedom to shoot whatever I want without feeling obligated to illustrate a particular story.
I go out without feeling like I have to make a picture; there’s a freedom in that. Granted sometimes when you have a specific assignment you have a focus, which can help, but after 30-odd years of assignment work you just want to wander around and discover something different without any expectations. I like being able to catch a moment in time without being of any influence, as a fly on the wall. A quiet observer. It’s just capturing a slice of life on the street.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Isn’t that what we are all looking for most of the time? Inspiration! I try to find it in many different ways. It can be in the weather, a dog on the street, I might strike up a conversation with a stranger and get inspired, anything really! I think the trick is to continue to keep yourself inspired where you live. It’s easy to travel to an exotic location or buy new camera gear, but that will only last so long. Sometimes just getting out on the street and walking, moving and photographing leads to its own inspiration.
Other photographers and their work also continue to inspire me, I don’t just look at the past greats, but keep an eye out for what’s being produced every day on social media. While it can sometimes be difficult to find, there is a ton of great work out there that we all have access to every day – that’s totally inspiring.
Why would you recommend photography as a means of rehabilitation?
That’s a really interesting question. Photography is a discipline which takes a certain amount of concentration and attention, I might even be as bold to say it’s a form a meditation in that it brings you into the here and now, no past, no future, just present. In combination with walking, photography is my medicine!
What’s next for the 30 Minutes series and what are your plans for the future?
It’s still just a part of the entirety of what I do, I just want to stay healthy and keep trying to make interesting photos. I don’t know where else it might go but I plan on continuing it as long as I can keep walking! As they say, stay hungry my friends!
Richard Vogel is a FUJIFILM-compensated professional photographer.
To see more of Richard’s work, visit his website.
To explore the full X Series lineup visit X Gear Chooser.