PHOTOGRAPHER: Omar Z Robles
BASED IN: New York, USA
KNOWN FOR: Street and dance photography
SHOOTS WITH: FUJIFILM X-T3 Camera, X-Pro2 Camera, FUJINON XF23mmF1.4 R Lens, XF35mmF1.4 R Lens
In his many years as a professional street photographer, FUJIFILM X-Photographer Omar Z Robles has explored countless sidewalks, but of all the cities in the world, there is one that never fails to deliver: New York. For this fourth installment of the On the Road series, we catch up with Omar after he took the X-T30 onto the streets of NYC to capture the spirit of this famous city.
Omar Z Robles has lived and worked in NYC for a long time, but even after many years, he still hasn’t grown tired of shooting the bustling city streets. “For any street photographer, NYC is the ultimate playground,” he explains. “NYC, being the melting pot it’s known to be, provides a mixture of cultures and people colliding visually into a beautiful collage.”
Although the cultural diversity provides a never-ending stream of subjects and fantastic photographic opportunities, on this occasion, Omar set himself a new challenge. “While it is indeed a great city, NYC can make you feel rather anonymous at times,” he says, “that’s what I wanted to capture in these images.”
Omar achieved this by creating pictures that illustrate the excitement and energy of the city and its residents, without revealing the faces of those featured. “I wanted to capture the moments, but, in a way, erase the protagonists from the images, thus helping the viewer place themselves as the subject,” he explains.
In a such a busy environment, this was no easy task. However the X-T30, with its portable and lightweight design, proved to be a great tool for the job. “The X-T30’s compact size makes it the best travel and daily companion. It’s light and unobtrusive, helping me move swiftly through the crowded NYC streets,” says Omar, who loved the top-level features belied by the camera’s small size, noting that he got all the performance of his FUJIFILM X-T3, but in a much lighter package.
In fact, it was the X-T30’s portability that helped Omar capture his standout photo from the set.“My favorite shot is a double exposure showing an arriving subway train and a puddle reflection of people walking in the streets. I think it sums up the spirit of the series by including all the iconic things that compose NYC in one single shot” he says, going on to explain how the X-T30 enabled him to be in a position to seize such opportunities. “Because of its compact size, I was able to carry the X-T30 with me every day and be ready at any moment to capture my vision.”
Omar was originally attracted to photography as a way of expressing his feelings, and it is this that continues to drive his art. “It’s a thing within, hard to explain. I’ve always been a communicator. It’s hard to stop myself expressing my feelings, even at times when I know I shouldn’t. Art and photography are a way for me to express that inner cry,” he explains.
He goes on to talk about his love of street photography and what attracted him to the genre: “For me, street photography is a personal reflection of everyday life. It helps me channel and ground myself. Being able to study folks going about their lives helps me put into perspective a lot of moments in my own hustle.”
Omar believes the key to taking images that can be enjoyed far into the future is to believe in yourself, recognize quality and always be ready. “Live in the moment and learn to observe. Don’t just photograph anything and everything,” he stresses. More than that, being selective is an essential skill. “Learn to edit yourself and find what is the right moment for you. What is true to you, not to anyone else.”
This idea of quality over quantity is one that Omar holds dear, saying he feels the power of photography is in danger of being diluted by over-shooting. “We used to take photos to commemorate or remember special moments. Today, some folks photograph anything and everything. When everything is special, nothing is special,” he points out. “That’s why I believe a great photographer is one who has learned how to discern which moments are special and memorable.”
He feels this skill plays a key part in building a legacy. “Legacy is being able to leave something behind for future generations to learn from. Hence, it is our duty as visual historians to be selective about what we choose to leave behind – and not just leave anything behind,” Omar insists.
Ultimately, though, he believes legacy is something we cannot control: “We don’t leave a legacy, our legacy is left for us by our hard work,” he concludes. “We can only do our best, be true to our own voices, and make sure they are heard. The rest is up to history.”
Omar Z Robles is a compensated FUJIFILM X-Photographer.
To see more of Omar’s work, visit his website.