Freddie Child-Villiers

East Africa Through the Lens of the X1D

Jumping in his Land Rover with his X1D, UK-born and South Africa-based photographer Freddie Child-Villiers set out to photograph the East African tribes of northern Tanzania and Kenya. Traversing over 20,000 kilometres through ten countries over a span of three months, the X1D stood up against the elements and proved to be the optimal photographic tool.

With a long-time dream to document cultures, traditions and practices that are sometimes perceived as unfamiliar to western society, Freddie Child-Villiers first made this a reality in 2013. Traveling for six weeks through the Kunene Region, he photographed the Himba Tribes of Northern Namibia. In November 2017, he added the Maasai, Samburu, and Turkana tribes to this body of work.

Lempati, a Samburu Warrior
Camera: Hasselblad X1D-50c
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
Aperture: F/6,3
Focal Length: 45mm (XCD 3,5/45)
© Freddie Child-Villiers

NAVIGATING CULTURAL DIFFERENCES

From prior experience, Freddie knew the importance of enlisting the help of a local person to assist with translating and navigating cultural differences. Afterall, not knowing the correct way to greet someone could make or break a photographic opportunity. For this trip, Freddie had not only his wife by his side but also their friend Lerogei. Lerogei, of Samburu decent, was crucial for the success of Freddie's project. He was able to break down the language barriers, explaining the purpose of studio lighting and directing the subjects to take their pose. For Freddie, it was key that every subject understood what he wanted to achieve, and in this, gain their trust and consent. Purposefully traveling through traditional communities where tourists did not frequent, most people turned out to be highly inquisitive and accommodating to Freddie, making it rarely difficult to strike up a conversation.

Nalary – The Mother Of Warriors
Camera: Hasselblad X1D-50c
Shutter Speed: 1/160 sec
Aperture: F/6,3
Focal Length: 90mm (XCD 3,2/90)
© Freddie Child-Villiers

Maasai, Samburu, and Turkana tribes

The photographs that emerged – taken using commercial photographic techniques – were not dressed up or created in a false manner. These are the traditional, practicing members of the Maasai, Samburu, and Turkana tribes, who were going about their daily lives when Freddie met and photographed them. In order to convey their sense of pride, he chose to have them pose within their surroundings instead of adopting a more candid approach.

COMPACT DESIGN

Coming from the V and H System cameras, Freddie longed for a more compact system for his travel work and knew adding the Hasselblad X1D as the third edition to his collection would do just that. In his bag packed with the X1D, the XCD 45mm and XCD 90 mm lenses, plus extra X1D batteries, he still had room to spare. Not only did the size of the X1D lighten his load, but it also made his subjects feels less intimidated. Seeing the reactions when his wife tried to capture behind-the-scenes footage with a bigger camera model versus photographing subjects with the X1D, there was a clear difference.

Naleku, a Maasai woman
Camera: Hasselblad X1D-50C

Shutter Speed: 1/1250 Sec
Aperture: F/3,2
Focal Length: 90mm (XCD 3,2/90)
© Freddie Child-Villiers

Moyakwea, a Maasai shepherd
Camera: Hasselblad X1D-50C

Shutter Speed: 1/2000 Sec

Aperture: F/3,5

Focal Length: 45mm (XCD 3,5/45)
© Freddie Child-Villiers

X1D PERFORMANCE

When choosing a camera for this project, Freddie had a few more pieces of criteria that the X1D lived up to. Going up against grueling conditions, it was crucial to avoid issues such as mirror mechanism failures and lens elements and glass sensors becoming fogged. “The X1D being a weather-sealed, mirrorless camera alleviated some of this risk on paper. In practice, I can tell you, it performed!” said Freddie. On top of that, being able to sync flash at high sync speeds was absolutely crucial for his work, saying, “The X1D's 1/2000th of the second sync was a major deciding factor for me buying it and using it for this project.” Finally, he commented on the exposure simulation on the X1D being a game changer when needing to work fast and with subjects who are not used to being photographed. He said, “Traditionally, I'd use a light meter to meter for the scene and then again for the studio light. With exposure simulation, I could dial it in quicker than ever, using either the rear screen or EVF.”

One of the biggest reasons Freddie uses Hasselblad digital medium format cameras is the quality when printing his work: 

I'm frequently printing photographs 2, 3, 4 meters in length using the files from my Hasselblad H4D. Almost ten years on and these files still hold up better than many of today's latest DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

I choose to shoot as much as I can with a digital Hasselblad system. It extends the longevity of my imagery guaranteeing that my clients receive an excellent product, sometimes even years after the photographs were taken.

About Freddie Child-Villiers

Freddie Child-Villiers has been working as a full-time professional photographer since 2009. Entirely self-taught in photography, lighting, and retouching, he specialises in commercial imagery for print and digital media. With a wide range of fashion, luxury, and consumer goods brands as clients, Freddie also creates images for private buyers. Freddie Child-Villiers was a finalist in the Hasselblad Masters Awards in 2010 in the categories of wildlife, fashion, and up & coming. He received the Photographer of the Year Award from ELLE Magazine, South Africa that same year. Check out more of his work here.

Hasselblad X1D-50c

The X1D-50c is a state-of-the-art mirrorless digital medium format camera with amazing features packed into a compact format. Portable and powerful, expanding the capabilities of medium format imaging to achieve your greatest vision. Request a demo of the X1D-50c.

DANIEL MERCADANTE

THE RAINBOW ROAD SERIES

Inspired by the cold blue evenings of his New England hometown, Daniel Mercadante decided to experiment with rainbow lights and long exposure. The results: The Rainbow Road series.

Read next story

Mats Lind

Abstract Art on the Slopes

Instead of shooting standard sports photographs, Mats Lind wanted to create abstract images of the world’s best skiers gliding down the slopes. With only a second to capture his subjects as they sped by him at 100 km per hour, Mats blended multiple exposures together to create painting-like imagery that illustrates the exhilaration of competing for a world championship title.

Read more

BROCK ELBANK

HOW DO YOU C ME NOW?

Over a span of 33 months, Brock Elbank photographed 30 individuals with Congenital Melanocytic Naevus (CMN), an extremely rare birthmark that can cover up to 80% of the body which less than 1% of the world’s population is born with.

Read more

HANS STRAND

LOFOTEN LANDSCAPES

Known for its dramatic scenery and arctic beaches, Hans Strand took both the H6D-100c and H3D with him to capture the Norwegian archipelago’s diverse environments.

Read more

KARL TAYLOR

THE VALLEY OF LITTER

British photographer and Hasselblad Ambassador Karl Taylor decided to make a drastic statement; with volunteers collecting thousands of pieces of garbage from the nearby coastline, Karl staged studio shots with the H6D-100c using a baby placed at centre stage in the valley of litter.

Read more

COMMEMORATING 100 YEARS

SID AVERY AND HIS HASSELBLAD

Audrey Hepburn. James Dean. Elizabeth Taylor. Iconic American photographer Sid Avery photographed them all, many of the shots taken with his Hasselblad 500C.

Read more

THE STORY BEHIND

Herring & Herring

Creative maestros Dimitri Scheblanov and Jesper Carlsen combine to form one of the most talented photography teams in the world of celebrity and music photography, Herring & Herring.

Read more

THE FIRST HASSELBLAD 1600F

As a passionate photographer fascinated by bird watching, Victor Hasselblad wanted to create a camera that could capture the beauty of nature and easily fit in his hand – a portable, high-quality piece of technology.

Read more

TOM OLDHAM

THE LAST OF THE CROONERS

Portrait photographer Tom Oldham's award-winning series, The Last of the Crooners, features a group of jazz musicians found right at his local pub, The Palm Tree, in East London.

Read more