Fujifilm South AfricaGraham BartholomewTake TenX-CommunityX-H1X-SeriesX-T4X-UserXF16-55mm F2.8XF50-140mm F2.8XF56mm F1.2

TAKE TEN: Graham Bartholomew

It’s always amazing to come across local Fujifilm photographers whose work has found the international spotlight. Graham Bartholomew’s unit-stills photography has marketed many films and series across the globe. We caught up with Graham to chat more about life on set, local crew and his favourite Fujifilm gear.

Graham Bartholomew

How did you get started with unit-stills photography and why do you love it?

I kind of stumbled into unit-stills photography. While I had always enjoyed photography as a personal hobby, it wasn’t until roughly ten years ago when I was invited out to Morocco to work as a digital and retouching assistant (processing and editing images) for a film. I spent a few days on-set and I became completely hooked. I began working on smaller local productions and small budget international films, till I got what I guess was my lucky break – shooting Alicia Vikander as the lead in the latest Tomb Raider. From there I managed to secure bigger international films.

I love observing people, capturing the raw, unfiltered and unposed moments that naturally happen on a film set. Often these unposed moments, when the cast aren’t aware I’m shooting, are when I get some of my most iconic images. I’ve always been a natural observer, rather than an active participant. I think that is my biggest asset – my endless fascination with quietly observing my surroundings.

Tell us a bit more about a day on set shooting.

Being on-set is my happy place. There is an energy and a kind of camaraderie that, to me, exists nowhere else. Over the years, I’ve gotten to work with Directors and Directors of Photography that I had only dreamed about.

I have gotten to know and work with South African crew – my film family – whom I cherish and steadfastly acknowledge as amongst some of the top people in their respective fields in the world. Local crew members are dedicated to their craft, unfalteringly hardworking and passionate about film-making.

Before we start filming, I will always read the script. This is crucial to get a better understanding of the bigger picture (pun intended). The international Picture Editor sends me a photographic brief that lists their photographic requirements and if there are any special shots the Production Company may require. It’s also quite usual to have a team Zoom meeting with key figures.

On a daily basis, I go through the call sheet so I know what scenes are being shot and plan accordingly. I can usually be found next to the main film camera, so my shots mirror what is being filmed. Once I have these main shots, I have the creative freedom to move around and find other angles and compositions that I feel will work in capturing the essence of the film.

The majority of shots taken during the day are photos of cast performances. These will be used in a variety of marketing and publicity packages, including anything from first look images, social media posts, to posters and billboards.

I also capture some behind the scenes images. The important shots are generally interactions between cast and key crew like directors and cinematographers, and then some wider shots showing the filmmaking process with camera crew and gear in shot. I do love these shots as it’s important to document the work behind the scenes that goes into what you see on screen.

What’s your favourite job thus far?

I would say Desert Warrior (not released yet), starring Anthony Mackie, the new Captain America. I spent four months in an exquisite, otherworldly part of the Saudi Arabian desert. Physically, it’s always tough working in the desert. It takes a toll on my precious camera and lenses, but it was incredibly rewarding meeting and working with so many amazing crew members from around the world, I think from over 20 countries.

The other would have to be Serenity with Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. We filmed for two blissful months in gorgeous, tropical Mauritius – I can’t complain about that.

Is there a movie you wish you could have shot?

Saving Private Ryan. Shooting with Steven Spielberg would be a dream come true, and then also being inspired by Robert Capa, the photojournalist who landed with the Allies during the Normandy invasion and one of the most famed war correspondents ever.

Which Fujifilm camera(s) do you use and what’s your favourite lens?

I currently have two Fujifilm X-T4s and one older back-up X-H1, which still works fine. My workhorse lenses are the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f2.8 and the XF 50-140mm f2.8. But my favourite at the moment would be the XF 56mm f1.2. I love this, especially on night shoots since the few extra stops make a massive difference in low light situations.

What’s on your photography bucket list?

I would love to do a trip through Chile and Argentina’s Patagonia; the majestic mountain ranges, fjords and glacial lakes, and visiting the gauchos wrangling wild horses. I fell head over heels in love with horses after shooting the unit-stills for Disney’s Black Beauty.

Can you share a favourite photography tip?

I don’t necessarily have a favourite tip, I’m completely self-taught and will always strive to learn new things every day. However, be inspired by other photographers, research their work and shooting style. Reach high and shoot as much as possible. You learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid of failure. I’m constantly going through my old work, critiquing it and seeing my mistakes.

Find more of Graham’s work here:

Website: https://grahambartholomew.co.za/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/grahambart/

Leave a Response