Photo-Philosophy

Reflections on Experiencing an Attack of Anti-GAS – By Dan Marinelli

Take a look at my collection of Point and Shoot Cameras. I have only used one of them in the last two months. Any guesses on which one?

A Prefix

The bulk of this article came to me in a fit of restless (non) sleep. It was about 03:30am when I sat down to write it. I had just had open heart surgery and the time off from work had given me ample time to reprioritize what was important in my life. I had just finished reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I was also trying to employ a more minimalist ethos to my somewhat cluttered life… I felt like as though I needed to rationalise my camera equipment and get real about my photography!

Gas

The concept of GAS is common, not only among photographers, but also among enthusiasts of other leisure activities likes golf, surfing, skiing, playing guitar, etc. to name just a few. While in some ways, looking into the material nature of your hobbies is gratifying in other ways it can be a bottomless pit of despair:  “I’m never going to be a real photographer until I get at Leica M6”, “ My pictures look crappy now, but as soon as I get a Zeiss Sonnar they will look amazing”, “Some stupid celebrity uses this camera and it makes their pictures look fantastic”. In other words: You will take better pictures if you only had something you currently don’t…

These are really just rationalizations the head makes to reconcile the fact that spending time browsing cameras online is NOT photography, just as hitting up a golf or guitar shop to fondle some new hardware are definitely different than playing golf or guitar. Do you see where I am headed with this???

In any of the aforementioned disciplines, you must remove as many variables as possible to achieve consistent results. Yet we consistently introduce new variables (willingly!) that will hamper consistency and decrease performance. Why? Exploration? Discovery? The Scientific Process? While these ideas seem worthy on the surface and definitely hold a romantic appeal, I believe this is just more rationalization. I believe we subconsciously do this to give ourselves an excuse, a reason why we didn’t do as well as we hoped: “ Those pictures came out bad because that new camera sucks!”

These are, at their core, blatantly false statements. In reality, your roll came out bad because you didn’t get the composition right with that new lens because it’s a different focal length that you’re accustomed too. Your shots look grainy because you chose the wrong film stock or developer. You didn’t get the focus right because you suck with rangefinder patches. In other words, it’s all really your fault.

Now to be sure, spending a modicum of time to periodically research and test new equipment can be fun, insightful and ultimately improve your performance. But at what proportion? 10% of the time? 20%? Maybe 30% max.  I would pose to you that many, if not most, have this proportion severely out of whack and quite possibly in reverse. Spending 50% or more of their time researching, browsing and tinkering on their equipment, when they should be out there having real fun.

Here’s one extra bin of SLR’s. All great cameras that work perfectly, all for sale on eBay as I write this…

Do you really need that new camera?

Why not take an honest assessment of all the stuff you have laying around? How much does one really need? Where are the legitimate gaps that actually are holding you back? Maybe I truly need a compact P&S that accepts a filter (but I probably don’t). Make sure these gaps are real and not machinations of your overactive materialistic mindset. Stop making excuses, start getting real and go out and take some photos… is what I told myself…

A challenge

So I challenge myself to try to improve my consistency and performance by limiting my choices (aka excuses) when it comes to equipment I will:

– Pick one camera and one film to shoot with for the next 3 months.
– Spend some time really getting to know the combination.

– Develop a look or a style that reflects who I am.
– Adapt to the camera, use its constraints in my favor.
– Embrace the emulsion, most legit photo books, exhibitions are made with one camera and one film.
– Act like a pro, buy at least 5 rolls or more of that film (it’s called a pro pack for a reason!) and stick to it.

Here’s another with a few Half Frames and Holga thrown in for good measure. Oddly enough my Nikon FA ended up in this bin and it has been my favorite 35mm SLR as of late.

A Confession and Conclusion

As I said at the beginning of this post, I wrote the above to myself so that I would get a little more serious about taking photos, and a little less serious about buying and trying new equipment. After all, how many cameras can you shoot at one time…?

The pictures attached are merely but a portion of cameras I had laying around at the time. I didn’t even snap a pic of my dresser drawer where I keep my collection of all black Pentax Lx’s, Kx’s and Mx’s (aka my retirement account). I almost never shoot with them, I just open the drawer and act like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Yes, my precious.

After originally writing these thoughts, I committed to shooting exclusively with a Yashica Samurai and Ektar 100 till the end of the summer. I’ve run the Halfframeclub for almost 2 years but only shoot half frame a few times of year – I wanted to do something about this! 

But alas, I have not kept true to my word. I recently bought another Ricoh AF-40 point & shoot for $6, I am already 14 frames into a roll of Superia 400 and am going to enter the Sunny 16 cheap shots challenge… It’s been fun too!

I’ve also since watched Hamish’s video on why it’s okay to like cameras AND still be a photographer… as he points out, it’s possibly best to recognize them as two different hobbies, both capable of bringing you joy.

I think my main point here is to encourage you not to get confused about these often distinct hobbies. Sometimes we spend all our time doing one of the hobbies (camera researching, collecting, buying) to avoid doing the other (photo making) – possibly out of fear or some other negative emotion toward our photography work, or even our life as a whole. You should absolutely be interested in cameras, research them, tinker and experiment with them – if that’s what you enjoy – but it’s important to not let it become an excuse, a distraction, or a source of frustration or irritation as it had for me. And if it does, I recommend challenging yourself – perhaps like I did – I might not have been successful, but I still came out smiling…

Thanks

Dan Marinelli

@halfframeclub and www.halfframeclub.com

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Tobias Eriksson
    August 11, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Two thumbs up!

  • Reply
    Aivaras
    August 11, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    Deep article. Enjoyed reading it and found myself in some places 🙂

    • Reply
      Dan Marinelli
      August 11, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      What kind of places???

      • Reply
        Aivaras
        August 11, 2018 at 4:43 pm

        Like thinking to myself, that next camera or lens wont give me that much as more shooting 🙂

  • Reply
    Blinx
    August 11, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Interesting article, Dan. Within a given format the biggest technical difference has always been film, developer and printing technique. Lenses add to the look somewhat but rarely make or break a shot all other things being equal. Cameras influence the image hardly at all, so long as functionality isn’t too quirky or the operation restrictive.

    The biggest change is the print is no longer the output of choice. 35mm users were content to work within the technical limitations of, say a 16 x 12″ or smaller photographic print, and embrace it creatively. Now 99%+ photos end up on a screen to be dragged, enlarged and visually edited by the viewer, who may be watching on a phone or a panoramic desktop monitor. Personally, I don’t find digital display alone to be a satisfying way of looking a photographs, and I think that goes some way to explaining the obsession with gear at the expense of outcome. At least wit a print, or printed book, we get to say how the picture is seen.

    • Reply
      Dan Marinelli
      August 11, 2018 at 3:09 pm

      I agree with you, I am trying to get back to printed work both personally and for the Half Frame Club which is working on it’s 2nd zine right now.

  • Reply
    Koen
    August 13, 2018 at 10:51 am

    I feel you Dan! This was probably the last push I needed to simplify things, so for the next 3 months It’ll be 1 camera, 1 lens and 1 film 🙂

  • Reply
    Wayne
    August 13, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Nice article. Enjoyed reading.

    Or, choose one main camera/lens….Say, Leica IIIA and 35/3.5 Summaron LTM (less than half the cost of new digital and still very compact) and keep on collecting those old classics. I have a substantial collection as well. I don’t think any of them cost more than a night on the town. Can’t really remember many of those nights on the town, but the cameras remain a joy to shoot every now and then. My conscience clears every time I process a roll out of one of them.

    • Reply
      Dan Marinelli
      August 13, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      I think that approach would work great. Maybe even try bringing one of those classics out for a night on the town, could help preserve the memories 😉

  • Reply
    Neil
    August 13, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    It’s an interesting article but just to throw my two pennies worth why is it with photography we always have to tell ourselves to use one camera one lens, as if this is some kind of gateway to artistic perfection? What’s wrong with say carrying a few lenses, if you wanted to get closer and compress perspective a bit you could switch to a 90mm? I agree with someone buying loads of lenses and cameras for every eventuality and not using them, I’ve been there and done that, and learned from it. But I don’t want to limit myself creatively either, I don’t shoot ‘street’ so I guess I’m a bit different, if I did then perhaps that approach would work.

    • Reply
      Dan Marinelli
      August 13, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      There is nothing wrong with carrying a few lenses if you need them, especially if you have an interchangeable lens camera. When I go out to shoot for the day I only carry one camera, no bag, so it wouldn’t be an option for me but when I travel for a week I usually bring a 28mm or 35mm, 50mm and 75-150. I think one reason for the one lens thing is for uniformity in a body of work. Say if you wanted to put a gallery show or a book together, it would be greatly aided if the majority of those images had a cohesive look provided by one lens, camera, film, etc. It really depends on what your goals are as a photographer…

  • Reply
    5 frames with... Kodak T-MAX 100 ( EI 25 / 35mm / Yashica Samurai X3.0) - Dan Marinelli « EMULSIVE
    September 15, 2018 at 11:13 am

    […] that I decided to shoot this camera exclusively all summer. It actually prompted me to write an article about GAS for 35mmc. I also wrote a full review on the camera for the #halfframeclub […]

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