Pretty much everyone takes photos… at some level. So, to ask the question, “what’s the point?,” the answers will vary. A lot. In the spirit of the game show, Family Feud, I’m going to guess our audience says…. memories. Ding, ding, ding… #1. #2… to share with friends. #3… it’s fun. #4….to make a living. #5… I’m an artist!
The thing I find interesting is, #5… I’m an artist, is probably considered the most smug, elitist, self absorbed answer on the survey. Yet… that answer… that person… actually can claim ownership of all the other answers. And while I personally feel sheepish about considering myself an artist, I can easily lay claim to all the other answers. So, maybe #5 doesn’t lie within the eye of the beholder. Maybe it’s for his/her audience to decide.
Regardless, if you’re a hobbyist and truly enjoy answers number two and three, number five should serve as motivation. If you’re that person that aches to be better… to see better… to process better… to produce pictures that move an audience, art and creativity are probably what fuels you.
So now let’s move our discussion and title’s question to equipment choices. What are you buying? What camera are you using? What lenses are you buying? What accessories? And… what is the point?
It’s no secret we’re all dazzled by technology.. the latest, the greatest… the “OMG, how did I ever live without this gear.” And, there are imaging and technology companies out there working hard to make our world a better place… provided we’re willing to “subscribe” to their system and update pieces of our kit every 12-18 months. It’s requiremed that we feed the beast(s). Plural because our beastly hunger drives their beastly bottom line.
Stop believing this. It’s going to take some effort on your part. But, stop. Stop now.
If you enjoy photography, surely you’ve seen the work of the masters; Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Richard Alvedon, Annie Leibovitz, Diane Arbus, Elliott Erwitt, Edward Weston and on and on. How many of them are shooting with the mirror-less Sony? How many of them “need” the new 16-35mm f/2.8 zoom… with image stabilization? Or the latest version of Lightroom.. Photoshop… and an array of different plugins.
Simple. They don’t.
You stand on the shoulders of several generations of great photographers that accomplished great images without the latest, greatest whistles and bells. Though I’m sure they all wanted and probably used excellent equipment, I’m certain they didn’t use a pickup truck or rolling ThinkTank bag to haul it around.
Art, creativity, vision… call it what you want, is story telling. It’s conveying an idea or a point of view to an audience. No one said the audience has to be large. It might be those you’re sharing memories with. It might be those you’re sharing an experience with. It might be a client who’s asked you to capture something they need to record. It might be just you… just you working on your skills, comparing previous efforts to current results.
Someone else wrote that creativity requires friction…. kind of like “necessity is the mother of invention.” In our case, maybe friction means reduce the size of your kit. Maybe, instead of walking out to the house with three lenses… or a zoom that covers the “walk around” range, grab one prime lens. Go out with the mindset that you’re going to make photos with a 50mm point of view… or a 35mm point of view. Now I know you’re going to give me all the reasons that you “need” those other items that fill up your bag… I’m telling you, you don’t. Consider this… I’m writing this blog in TextEdit… Mac’s version of Window’s NotePad. Sure, I have Word on my computer. But what would be the point? After all, I could write this on a typewriter… problem is, I can’t give you all a hard copy and I need to get it online. I can convey my ideas to you simply and directly with TextEdit.
The technology from the face of your lens, to the film plane or sensor, is fundamentally the same since photography was invented. Everything from the sensor back is computer. The business end (lens and shutter) remains the same. And, photographically speaking, that’s where you create. That’s where the “decisive moment” takes place. That is what resides between your mind and your eye. That’s where you realize your vision.
If you do this long enough, you’ll learn to embrace a resentment to big camera kits and big gear. You’ll learn to trust yourself… to trust your ability to be innovative… be creative. Create an image with the tools you have.
Many of you are aware of my fondness for rangefinders. That fondness is more like a love affair with simplicity. Analog controls… a single prime lens… a tool that casually resides on my shoulder. A tool that waits to respond to my need(s) to record a scene or an idea. It simply and elegantly makes itself available to my commands.
I’m the one calling the shots. Not the camera… not the equipment… not the beast.
For me, shooting for me… that’s the point.