Nice to meet you . . .
Creating a rapport with other photographers is a definitely a great thing and I would also include ― very healthy. Now, let’s go to a real conversation that ensuing between a couple of my friends and I. Recently my friend Don Springer aka Streetshooter had this to say:
Many of my friends are writing on their blogs and in forums etc that it’s the shooter and not the camera. Well, not to be argumentative but I probably am as my wife definitely thinks so….. all the time. See the camera is much more important then most realize.
Don certainly has his viewpoint and I appreciate his candidness. My other friend, Wouter, has a different opinion and he replied to Don with the following:
Some of my friends say that the camera does matter, but don’t make it larger that it is. You see, there is so much more to an image. You are the brain, the thoughts. You have the feelings and you see the world. You make the conscious and subconscious decisions. You are not a tool, unlike your camera. My name is Wouter and you have a name too.
Now, let’s get back to Don’s statement. Yes, the camera has something to do with it. I think we can objectively agree that a camera is a tool to create images ― a lightbox. Now, the keyword is “create” or better yet we’ll use the term “creativity.” Not to imply that certain images are creative and others are not but simply to single out that they are creative (in that whole encompassing definition) and created by the photographer whose vision is unique and one of a kind [Jose, you know what I mean, again my apologies] because you see, therein lies the visual dichotomy we as photographers are often faced with ― Are we creating or are we snapping away in a sort of documentary fashion because the former and latter, in the end, is still photography and so its unique.
Back to the tool ― the camera. How important is the camera in ones creative process. To Don, I think its rather important. In my humble opinion, its not. I know Don’s had a plethora of photographic gear over the decades, some a plethora of gear over the years (yours truly), but the point is or better said, the question is the following:
Are we getting to know our gear to the point where Don refers to as “Zen” photography or are we simply not giving the gear a chance, if it doesn’t meet some sort self perceived criteria of adequacy in our creative process. That’s the bigger question I think.
In our day and age, where cameras are truly interchangeable and in a sense disposable, we often fall trap to the powers of marketing and advertising in thinking the next iteration will be the “one.” I’m guilty as charged guys/gals and I think that we as togs often have that techie bug unconsciously there and sometimes making itself more conscious than we need to haha. Its true I think, it happens, but we live and learn(thanks Gran Combo) and in that process we hopefully grow as artist.
Like Wouter, I agree the camera is simply a tool towards our vision. A camera can’t take the shot, it can’t frame, it can calculate exposure, it can’t do anything without our guidance and direction. Its just that ― a lightbox but that’s not to say that all tools are the same. I think if we are intellectually honest with ourselves and our readers/viewers we know the answer to that. A Nikon D800E can do some things that a Lumix LX7 can’t, and will never be able to do but the corollary to that is the opposite. Can I do the same work with both cameras? I’m sure I can but I’m also sure my approach would be different. I know for sure I can give any camera to Wouter and he can also do the same. Don, I’m sure you can as well if you really really wanted.
So nice to meet you ― I’m Jorge and I make pictures sometimes.
Hi, my names Don and I make photos all the time. I admit to having a collaboration with my camera and all things photographic to make my images.
I also admit, I never really thought about my cameras as being tools. I know that Jorge and that Wouter fella over there in some far off land thinks about cameras as tools. That’s all fine and dandy, well until the tool breaks down or GETS IN THE WAY of vision.
It’s not the most important part of photography but it is a part of the image making process and as such, deserves the attention that one wants in return from ones camera.
My cameras are my friends and that’s why I name them. This isn’t aimed at that Jorge guy or that Wouter fella……..next time youse go out and make photos, leave your image capturing tool at home……see, something just ain’t gonna work……
I’m constantly photographing Don, with or without a camera, its part of my ritual. Sometimes I see a frame within a frame and voila magic but no tool at the moment. The important part is that feeds my “vision monger” (a great book by the way, highly recommend it) and this whole process is cumulative, it adds up little by little.
I tried naming my cameras, my LX5 was called Emma or was it my LX3, I don’t remember, but the point is that quickly faded because I see my camera/s as tools towards a vision. If a camera helps me towards my vision it stays, if not, then Ebay or some forum always welcomes them.
Don, have you tried loosing the zoom and just photographing with, let us say, a GF1 and 1 lens for a while. Get rid of that zoom and work it, my friend. I’ll make a bold statement about the Ricoh GRD series but I’ll save that for another post. 🙂
Ya know Jorge…I was sitting on some grass right near a tree. The rest of the class was off making photos of whatever they made photos of. There was this old guy leaning against the tree. I asked him if I could make his portrait. He said I could because I wanted to make a photo and not take a photo. The he told me that once I made the photo, I had to promise him that I would never show it to anyone forever. I looked at him and he just smiled back at me. So I made the photo and never showed it to anyone except him one time.
That was way back in 1972 and I still live the lessons that Minor White taught me. I teach them to others but I never will show anyone the portrait. I guess it will be buried with me.
What does this have to do with photography……..?
I’m mobile now. I’m not really sure, I’ll reply later when I get home.
I give up, do tell me, but I’ll say this, I don’t agree with keeping portraits or any images for that matter to oneself, photography is to amazing for it to be kept a secret.
At that time I wasn’t 100% sure of what Minor was teaching me. It wasn’t until I was on the ride back to Philly talking with my friend Bill that I came to understand the lesson.
See, I asked Minor if I could MAKE a portrait. He agreed because I wanted to MAKE not TAKE a photograph.
So when we made the agreement about never showing the photo to anyone…..the entire lesson, in fact the entire 4 days with his was a lesson on INTENT. You know me brother and I’m the guy about INTENT.
My intent was to MAKE not TAKE.
I wanted to MAKE a portrait of Minor. I never said I wanted to exhibit it etc.
Minor’s intent was to teach me the meaning and purpose of INTENT. I learned that making a photograph is for life. The image lives after we don’t. Your intent must be clear or you fail on your efforts.
I will never show the photo because I agreed with Minor that I wouldn’t. I think sometimes that he thought I would break the vow but I never will. In fact I will destroy the photo when I near my death bed.
My intent is clear. Thanks Jorge…….
Here that Wouter fella from the ancient and broke overseas Europe. A camera that works perfectly fine is a tool, a tool that breaks down like my GRD3 still remains a tool. A cursed tool, but still a tool. I never said or intended to give the camera less relevance, but I do honestly believe that there is so much more to the image making process. It is not a science.
If for some the cameras works inspiring, respect. Not my case though. Some camera makes you more exiting to go, they bring fun or get you in a flow. You however, are the one that gets in a flow.. The VISION is within you. You take, make and have intend.
I admit to not having a relationship with my cameras. I don’t name them. I love it though when I have a camera that doesn’t get in the way of my photography.