I have recently gone functionally insane. Maybe as a result of photographing 60+ weddings annually for a fair few consecutive years mixed with trying desperately to analyse social media’s psychological effects on the industry around me, trying (and mostly failing) to find my own identity as a portrait photographer as well as running a slew of workshops and attempting to do the youtube thing at such a sporadic rate, it’s no wonder it’s mostly terrible!
But the reason I claim to have recently taken the full plunge and moved entirely round the bend is down to my photography fetish. Not a (scarily common) form of fetishising people in my photography, but a deep motivation to keep photographing no matter how tired, burnt out or depressed I may be.
And this has hit fever pitch with my recent acquisition of a moderate but lovely Fujifilm collection of gear to add to my misfit of a camera bag. Disjointed nonsense that includes but isn’t limited to a canon setup (my primary love) which has everything from lensbabys and petzvals to pancake lenses and broken lenses I can’t part with because I am positive they are sentient and wouldn’t forgive me for being so cold. Add to this a more modest Sony setup (Jamila’s main squeeze), which seems to be entirely based around a rather fetching Sigma 35mm and an adapter that allows her to steal all of my canon glass. Even when just trying to become semi-literate in the vastly differing menu systems, I find myself often taking on the expressions of someone watching their neighbour wax an owl. And that’s before you’ve even taken a photo with the fucking things!
So why put myself through the pain?
My dad said years ago, when I was accruing an embarrassing amount of musical instruments in the peak of what was my former life, that at least I am not spending the money on drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. And this is true. There are worst things to do than spend my own hard earned money on something that inspires me, helps with a skill I am learning or even just scratches the itch that most men seem to have for techy bollocks.
But I have been left with the overhanging thought of why do I want/need such a variety of stuff that all essentially do the same thing. And the simple answer is inspiration…
You see, when you spend an average of 600-700 hours a year using a camera for work, not to mention the days on end editing and reviewing images, discussing images that are to be taken and, because you are what can only be described as monotonous cretin, decide to also take photos in your spare time, inspiration can be hard to come by!
I see the three camera systems I own (not mentioning the film &/or polaroid collection I am amassing) as individually flawed and uniquely brilliant in their own right. The intelligent people that put these machines together all did so with a different set of priorities and ideas of what their own, brand loyal consumers would value and crave.
The Canon is my baby. It’s what I know and understand. It is an extension of my own self and I rarely notice it when I am working. I have my own way of using it, which I am sure the developers would mostly disagree with. But I know how to get every singly drop of IQ out of it.
The Sony is an item of pure convenience. I am sure my beautiful wife won’t mind me saying that “her” Sony A7R3 makes it almost impossible to take a bad photo. In fact, I would go as far to say that it has had the single biggest impact on the improvement of my photography business outside of good old fashioned hard work. It’s EVF and incredible autofocus, face detection and resolution means that almost anything looks incredible! Which explains why the vast majority of shit photographers that are way over-hyped on Youtube are Sony users…
So where does the Fuji fit in? Well, the Canon which I pick up a few times a week without fail, does what I tell it to (very well) and then it gets put away. Its functional, I love it dearly and it never (touch wood) lets me down! But it doesn’t make me want to go out and photograph on the days I am needing an inspirational kick up the arse. I will never part with it, I know I take some of its brilliance for granted, because it’s always there.
The Sony just makes everything too easy. I don’t feel excited to use it. It has a few features that are very helpful compared to the Canon, but it is possibly the most sterile camera ever! It has no personality. No quirks or anything to really latch on to. The camera has no presence!
The Fuji, simply put, makes me want to make photographs. Its modest enough to bring around personal situations without feeling like you’re the dickhead that brings a guitar to a party. The image quality is more than sufficient for most functions I could need it for. The film simulations, and more importantly the ability to create your own, gets me in the mindset for the style of work I’m aiming for and makes me more involved mentally with the task at hand. The ergonomics and physical use of the camera are it’s biggest selling point not only in making me part with a significantly unnecessary chunk of change in the first place, but also to part ways with my time when I have more important things to attend to but cant resist the urge to take it out again.
In fact, if not for the mind-numbing absurdity of a certain portion of Fuji users, it’s one of the one pieces of gear I would be happy to stand around and chat about with complete strangers! And I am someone who doesn’t make much time to talk gear!
And to efficiently summarise the point here…
There is a terribly destructive trend with some of the figureheads of modern photography (YouTubers) to implore that every other photographer should always not only immediately buy the newest and shiniest offerings from whatever company is scratching their ballsack (by clicking the link in the description), but also develop sudden disgust for their old but perfectly functional gear! Jared Polin has recently begun declaring the DSLR “dead”. And if he says something, you know it must be well thought out and not financially motivated! I have long bemoaned the trend of certain companies (Sony, Fuji) deploying overly groomed cardboard cutouts on youtube to pretend they love their products with ‘zero financial incentive’.
There are music lovers who still prefer vinyl to remastered, overly compressed reissues! There are footballers that still prefer Puma Kings to whatever plastic socks Nike are getting 6 year olds to manufacture! The Keytar didn’t kill the guitar or the keyboard! I can name many photographers that are part of the recent resurgence of film, be it 35mm or medium format! In fact my current favourite YouTuber shoots 7x16 film shots of historically significant buildings and landscapes.
Can well all stop being sold the utter bollocks that just because something is new, it makes everything older than it redundant! New cameras aren’t taking massively better images, they just make it easier and more convenient! Sometimes the struggle makes the image!
Use what you like, use what inspires you. Don’t be brand loyal for the sake of it. And reconsider taking your purchasing advice from someone who is not only going to benefit from it monetarily, but also someone who you know of more for their catchphrase and their merchandise than you do for their images!