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?
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!
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.
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…
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.
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…
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