Resistance with the Fuji-X
by James Conley
The first sign that things were afoot was the loud chop of helicopter rotors above the cafe. Echoing off the medieval streets of Rennes the capital of Brittany the sound was magnified while also scrambling the helicopter’s location. In American-accented, intermittent English, the millennial waiter impatiently speculated that there was a protest of some kind. He had no details, and was far more concerned with finding the correct English words to convey the care and attention he put into the pour-over coffees on the menu.
Because I was just running some errands, I was a bit under equipped for a protest. In the bag was my Fuji XT-2 with a Power Booster Grip, the most excellent Fujinon XF 18-55mm (which I got as part of an X-E1 kit, and is 6+ years old now, but still one of the best lenses I’ve ever owned), and a Fujinon XF 23mm F2 R WR. I had the camera wrapped in a scarf, which would prove to come in handy.\\
The helicopter entered a slow, circular holding pattern as vans of police began disgorging their passengers onto the street. As the helicopter made its counterclockwise way, and the police marched in groups of ten to take positions on medievally skewed street corners, the waiter extolled the virtues of cold brewed coffee. Glancing up on occasion, he was perturbed not at the police presence, but that protesters would be ruining his business day. His torn jeans, man-bun, and millennial love of sophisticated ways to make coffee did not make him a comrade of any protest.
I enjoyed the coffee while grabbing some images of the helicopter. Caffeinated, I headed down Rue Orleans where, just before the Palais du Commerce, was the first set of assembled police.
It is impossible not to think of pawns on a chessboard when beholding rows of assembled riot police in monochrome sci-fi armor: coordinated, restricted, ordered, and able to strike only with diagonal moves.
The protestors were decidedly the opposite: apparently the ragtag common worker, relying only on the correctness of the cause to supply the strength to #resist the oppression. The cause was a bit unclear, but there was no doubt that the protest was organized by two of the largest labor unions in France, and was part of a coordinated series of actions across France on October 9.
I spent the next couple of hours weaving in and out of the crowd. There were several violent scuffles between the police and the protesters, and a few clouds of tear gas. (The scarf was helpful, but I was wishing for goggles.) I’ve been working on creative approaches to using short video clips as trailers to the still-image stories, and the XT-2 is perfect for this: a quick button switch between video and still meant that I could capture both without having to take my eyes away from the action.
It was a bizarre surprise to have a casual day interrupted with a major protest event, but it was great to get to witness it. And to share it with you.