It took a while for Malike Sidibe, who applies his style to fashion and portraits, editorial and commercial assignments, to fully commit to mirrorless. It’s not that he didn’t see mirrorless in his future—he latched onto the capabilities and advantages of the Z cameras early on, starting with the Z 6 and Z 7 and eventually working with a Z 9—but the D850 had been his main camera for about five years. The “fully commit” part didn’t happen until he met up with the convincer: the Z 8. “It had everything I needed,” Malike says. “The Eye AF was incredible, and the photos looked amazing. I felt really comfortable knowing the camera was keeping up with me, my ideas and my style. My confidence in its reliability—I’ll use that every day.”
Getting Down to Business
Malike’s style brings imagination and experimentation to the challenges of doing business in a competitive market, fortunately with skills born of a necessary pragmatism. “When you’re in college you see amazing photographs,” he says, “and you want to be able to do that kind of work, but either you don’t have the resources or the access to the studio, so you’re kind of left with figuring it out. That’s always with me. I’m always thinking, How do I make this work with what I have, with what I do have access to?”
Which is absolutely where the Z 8 came into the game. With it, the most important thing he has access to is confidence. He can set his preferences and go to work, knowing the Z 8 is on the job. “I don’t have to worry about the technical side. With how much I move around and go into low and changing light, and how I’ll have models jog, jump and keep moving, I know the Eye AF is keeping up.”
Although he didn’t use the Z 8’s flip-out LCD very much on this shoot, as most of the photos were taken hand-held and on the move, he’s going to rely on it when he’s got a tripod set up to insure continuity in images. “With it, there’ll be no bending, no leaning in to view the image.”
The Push Process
In his video Malike says he wanted to see how far he could push the camera. We wanted to know what his definition of “push” was. Did his growing confidence in the camera lead to something he’d never done, or maybe just something a little different?
I don’t have to worry about the technical side—I know I can move around, go into low and changing light and be confident that the pictures are going to look great.
Malike summed up the Z 8 convincer session with a few words about what he was looking forward to. “I’m excited to bring the Z 8 to my world of photography and use it the way I work. It’s like it was with the D850—I used it every day and didn’t worry about the technical side. It was almost like muscle memory—almost an extension of me.”
“My process is not always like the traditional fashion photographer’s,” he says. “A lot of times when I’m shooting, especially when I’m experimenting with personal projects and want to do all this crazy or different stuff with lighting.” What he was doing on this shoot was pushing the Z 8 to get an idea of what the camera could do on one of his DIY shoots, to see what it was able to handle in all sorts of lighting situations and with movement and his warping of “the viewer’s eye knows where to go” guideline, when he packs the frame with reference points and his motto seems to be “Where to look is everywhere.”
When he said that, we had to know the fate of that beloved D850. It turns out it wasn’t sold off, parked permanently on a shelf or sent to live on a farm in upstate New York. “I gave it to my little brother,” Malike says.
We’ve made a note to check back to see how that gesture turns out.
Malike Sidibe is a Nikon Ambassador. He offers a surrealistic dreamlike take on image-making. He fell in love with photography at age 12 when his father gave him his first camera. Malike's work is a reflection of his creative nature, his inspiration is drawn by the people he meets and the places he has lived. He is a high-energy creative photographer producing innovative portraits and images full of spirit and color. See more at his ambassador page.