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.