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Thread: Its okay to love your camera

  1. #1

    Its okay to love your camera

    Hi everyone –

    My photographic “focus” tends to be obsessive but transient. For instance, I might carry a 35mm with fast film everywhere for a while, and then do nothing but large format for a few months.

    I recently took the 4x5 out of the closet again. I use a Canham DLC. They’re not universally loved (“fiddly” is a word that comes up), but it suits me well. I’m very comfortable with setting it up and using it, and if it has quirks, they don’t bother me. I’m always struck by what a USEFUL machine it is.

    There are posts here about hardware obsession (including some I wrote). It’s true, time spent fantasizing about lenses is time you can’t be shooting or printing. It’s also true that many of us ARE equipment geeks. Many of us forget the true truism that the photographer takes the picture, not the camera.

    But there has to be a middle ground. Not all cameras are the same, and we get attached to the ones we like. I can literally set up the Canham in the dark. A good 35mm feels like an extension of your body. Cameras are not disposable in the sense that you could swap it for any other camera and shoot successfully right out of the box. A Minolta X-700 works for me, a Pentax ME doesn’t. Your mileage may vary. Some cameras are effortless extensions of your mind, and some are plagues from Hades.

    Keeping in mind that I’m not advocating equipment-diddling, here’s two often-repeated observations I think should be retired.

    First, “other artists don’t obsess over technique and hardware like photographers do”. Maybe not, but the difference is far more of degree than kind. I know a number of artists (painters, mostly), and you bet they discuss technique amongst themselves, including what kind of paint they use.

    Second, ”writers don’t obsess over their typewriters”. In general, no, but I’m sure some get used to a particular piece of hardware. More to the point, the analogy is flawed. The relationship of a photographer to his camera is quite different that that of a writer to his typewriter (or computer). Think of all of the various specialized tasks and functions you might ask of a camera. There’s macro, handheld, DOF preview, AE lock, front swings, fill flash, manual overrides and plenty more (not on the same camera!). Even a Holga (well, especially a Holga) requires initiation to the Sacred Rituals of Rubber Band Placement. It’s a steep leaning curve, with lots of time invested. We bond with our cameras whether we’re aware of it or not. Silly human frailty, but it’s true. Then think of what a writer wants from his computer. It’s just not the same.

    Sure they’re tools, but they’re really intimate, personal tools. They can’t love you back, but that’s no reason not be fond, appreciative, and grateful. Indulge yourself a smile the next time the shutter on your P67 wakes up the neighbors. After all, it’s a part of you.

    Thanks for reading…good light.

  2. #2
    Jean-Louis Llech
    Join Date
    Apr 1999
    Beauvais - Picardie - France

    Its okay to love your camera

    A LF or MF camera might be considered by its (happy) owner like a Stradivarius or a Garnerius by a musician.
    Do you agree ?

  3. #3

    Its okay to love your camera

    Of course its OK, I loved my M3 doublestroke and my FM2. Now I love my TechIII and cambo SC not to mention my Moskva 4.

  4. #4

    Its okay to love your camera


    Photographers may better be compared to musicians, as both need good understanding of technique and exercise a lot to upgrade a little. And I'm sure musicians really care a lot about their instruments. I mean a lot! Think about a Stradivarius, for instance...

    Of course, different players (photo or music ones) show different involvement about technique or instruments and no one should be blamed or incensed about it, neither the perfectionist, nor the joyful amateur. Concerning photography, the very possibility of being a multi-instrumentist is such a welcome gift. On our commom experience, there are days to be fast, days to be contemplative, times to climb trees and times to sorrow under a ton back-pack. Each moment asks for a different instrument or maybe even a different player.

    Nowadays, I've been playing with 4x5 Tachi, 5x7 2D, 6x17 Art, Sinar F and P, 6x9 Arca and SWC. Neither is perfect, but I care about them all! One is flimsy, the other bulky, this one has no moves, that other is old as hell... But it makes me think of it as a family. A big, neurotic, problematic and cheerful family. And just like one may learn to live with parents and relatives, with all their oddities and nuisances, still respecting and caring about each one, I think one should expect to raise some kind of fondness for its cameras. And when I say cameras, you may take the whole pack of photo-stuff, as lenses, enlargers, films, papers, etc.

    So, I agree with you and I hope many more will also do.


  5. #5
    MIke Sherck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Elkhart, IN

    Its okay to love your camera

    - Every guitarist I know has a favorite guitar. - Every drummer I know has a favorite cymbal - Writers do actually spend time (or used to, back in the day,) thinking about typewriters. I knew some. Heck, I knew a watercolorist who hid his brushes to keep others from using them. He may have been at the end of the bell curve, though. - How many basball players had a "lucky" bat?

    The point is, many of us develop fondness/appreciation/familiarity with items we use frequently and on which we depend to perform some task reliably and repeatedly. I've stayed out of the conversation so far because I'm never sure where I am on the curve -- but after thinking about it for a few days, it doesn't seem at all remarkable to me. Yes, my camera is a tool and can easily be replaced by another tool if the situation warrents. But, just as I have dogs which I remember with special fondness there are also inanimate things I recall the same way. I hope it doesn't mean I'm insane but if I am I think I'm pretty harmless.

    Mike S.
    Politically, aerodynamically, and fashionably incorrect.

  6. #6

    Its okay to love your camera

    It is OK to love a camera you built yourself, or that you bought for a song and have lovingly cared for for decades - but if you love a camera system that would cost to replace as much as most people pay for a car...

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    God's Country

    Its okay to love your camera


    Good question... :>)

    If you use a certain instrument long enough it does, indeed, become an extension of your own personality and, thus, becomes a long and valued friend... one who you feel comfortable with.

    It's also okay to recognize that, at times, you'll choose one friend over another. The reason? It's because of the inherent dangers in trying to have all your needs fulfilled by just one friend. By that, I mean... if a certain friend disappears from your life, you're in trouble if that friend is the only one you have.

    Lastly, like your human friends, "camera friends" will do different things with you. For example, if you need to be contemplative (and that's your mood), then you're going to choose a friend who will provide you with this freedom... a 4x5, 5x7, 8x10, or larger. However, if you need the freedom to walk around and be with people yet still want to take quick candid shots...then your 35mm is the friend of choice.

    So, isn't it nice to have all these friends?

    Good luck in your analysis...

    Life in the fast lane!

  8. #8

    Its okay to love your camera

    Kevin, I don't know if this relates to your question but many years ago I attented a seminar on learning to play the steel guitar and the teacher was asked if a red quitar sounds better than a blue guitar. His reply was if the person playing the guitar hates the color red he (or she) won't play as well as if they liked the color. Don't know if that makes sense to any one else but I have always kept that in mind in a lot of situations. (Never did learn to play that guitar anyway, guess I never found a color I liked!)

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Its okay to love your camera


    I think its a combination of mechanics and inanimate personality that seperate cameras from paint brushes, and view cameras in particular from their digital relatives. IMHO, The more mechanical a thing is, the more a person can find to like or dislike about using it. People who use these things more often than not exhibit a passion for, or condemnation for a design or product.

    Fly rods, shotguns, cars, trucks, airplanes, sailboats, locomotives, enlargers, musical instruments, and cameras are all contenders. FWIW, I've heard people exclaiming how happy they are with images they've captured with the latest digicam, but I've never heard anyone remark about the joy using it gives anything near the enthusiasm lavished on Leicas, Nikon SLRs, Rolleis, and view cameras.---------Cheers!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  10. #10

    Its okay to love your camera

    Q: "What kind of camera equipment do you use?"

    A: "I carry four or five cameras. I think each camera has its own character, so I like to choose a camera by the type of woman I'm shooting. For example, I use a Pentax 6x7 on a tripod and also a little ditgital camera. When the woman is big, maybe I'll need a big camera, when she's small, I might use a smaller one. If I feel old, I use a Leica; it makes you feel like such a wise man - like a grandpa. Then I become a paparazzo and use a Plaubel Makina and shoot like Weegee. So that way I reveal myself. Each camera has its own philosophy. Obey the camera. For film I used to use Kodak Tri-x. Now I use Kodak TMax and Fuji Presto 400 for black and white. It depends on my mood. Also I used to push film- now I shoot it normal... Normal is the best. Obey the camera! Obey the film! This is the ultimate secret of photography."

    Source: Interview with Nobuyoshi Araki, March/April issue of American Photo

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