The Nikkor 35 MM
The Lens of the Storyteller
Like many young photographers starting out in the business, I used to think that the body of my camera meant more than the lens I was shooting with. Depending on your field of work, this may be true— megapixels, sensor size, dynamic range and lowlight performance certainly have an influence on the quality of, say, a print advertisement.
But for me, the artistry lives within the lens because it is the vehicle of perspective. As I deepened my relationship with this craft, I grew obsessed with collecting lenses— my most recent of which is a 35mm f 1.8. Primarily as a portrait photographer, you may be asking why I invested in a lens like this as traditionally the wide angle of a 35mm creates a small amount distortion when representing your subject up closely. The draw for the 35mm for me is as much artistic as it is challenging to my traditional workflow. With longer focal lengths usually used in portraits—my most popular of which is an 85mm lens— it’s easy to take pictures from afar, tucked behind my camera body.
But as I move into more documentary style work, I find that the 35mm lens puts me right on the forefront of where the stories are happening. Shooting with a 35mm forces me to have a relationship with my subject because of the proximity. It forces me to think creatively about how I compose my images, as more information—more action— is in the framing. Whereas with an 85 I may be able to mask certain things through distance and separation, a 35 forces me to deal with the immediate and to do so in a way that engages all the fundamental techniques in photography.