I recently stumbled on a blog and as I skimmed over the first sentence I just automatically finished it in my head. Do you ever do that? Someone is talking and you begin to answer because you’re sure you know what they were going to say or ask and suddenly you find yourself wanting to shove your foot so far in your mouth that you swallow yourself up whole? Obviously I have no experience on what that might feel like…purely based on hearsay of course!
Anyway… The sentence began with ‘the most important piece of equipment’ and I immediately finished it off with, ‘is you!’ Turned out, I got the answer wrong for that particular statement but I was on to something all the same.
A camera is a tool. It does not have a vision and it cannot feel the emotions. It is merely a mechanism made of plastic, glass and metal… No matter how fabulous it claims to be, it cannot create an image with out your help.
I am positively fascinated by architecture. Never, when I have marveled at a structure, have I thought to myself, ‘I wonder what type of hammer they used’. Maybe it’s because I’m not an architect. Maybe if I was I’d think to myself, ‘hmmm, I bet they used the Stanley 3000’? But honestly, I don’t think I would. And yet as photographers, one of the very first questions we ask or hear is about our cameras. Why is that? Are we trying to say that it is the camera or the lens that produced and made an image what it is? Are we trying to imply that the image stands on the merits of the equipment rather then the artist?
Now before you start forming all kinds of opinions on me let me give a few ideas on why I think we do this. The first and most obvious is that of the budding photographer, when we are new there is a lot to figure out. The desire and need for learning seems endless, you may see an image and wonder how that was even possible (usually because of the constraints of your own equipment) so you want to know what was used. The other obvious is that when you really admire someone’s work you become curious about what tools they use to create that work. There are other reasons of course that may be legitimate, good old-fashioned curiosity probably being #1. But should it really be question number one? At every wedding I’ve shot there is always that token someone, the one who comes up and hovers for a few before they ask ‘so what kind of camera is that?’ And then they want to talk about cameras and aperture and ISO, completely missing the fact that that camera they were curious about needs to be used to create a document of the moment’s that I, the artist am seeing.
The point I want to make is that the camera is not the artist. The camera does not create the composition, find just the right angle and pause 1/2 way down on the shutter breathlessly waiting for the expression that she knows is coming. The camera cannot. After all, it is only a tool. It is the creator, the artist, and the soul behind the camera that creates the image and evokes the emotion.
When you feel yourself wondering what camera they use, wonder instead (first) about the elements that make the shot so intriguing to you. Recognize and appreciate that it’s not the camera that sees the art – it’s you. And that is a wonderful thing because you cannot be duplicated! You can hand over your camera to anyone else and they won’t see exactly what you see, nor capture exactly what you capture.
I love my camera. Just as a painter needs his brushes, I need my camera! But my camera is not the only one to take credit in what is produced, I had a pretty big say in it too!