Photography appears to be the only art in which the tool is believed to be the magic-maker. The number of times I am asked about my camera and lenses can not be counted. I am more than willing to share which camera I use, but the importance that is given to the tool is something that bemuses me.
I come from a soft sculpture and design background. What I made, was made by thread, needle and sewing machine. No collector ever asked me which sewing machine I used to make my creations....not once. I am pretty sure the same will be true for fashion designers, painters, potters and almost every artist I can think of. My sewing machine was simply the machine that was easiest for me to use and that could handle the demands that I had. That was it, this machine can't make magic on its own.
The same, you would think, is the case for the camera. So many people believe though that it is the camera used that is responsible for the picture. The camera, I hate to break it to you, is a tool. It is a very intelligent tool, it is an amazing tool, but it only works in the hands of those who know how to use it. It won't take pictures without someone handling it. My camera is one that must unfortunately be retired soon. I have no real desire to replace it, because it worked for me....it does the job perfectly and if it had not been for the ever more occurring errors, I would not have even considered it.
When I read the reviews of the cameras I am considering to be my next one, I read things like : "If you are a landscape photographer, you need the 42 MP sensor." That of course can not be true. When there were no 42 MP cameras, landscape photographers were also taking pictures that were wonderful. The latest and greatest camera might be amazing, but it is not needed to be able to take impactful and meaningful pictures. My camera is just a tool...I chose this one because it could do what I wanted it to do and in a way feels intuitive to me. I hike a lot, so I like lightweight equipment. I have a 24 MP camera, because I don't like to wait for my computer to process huge files and I very rarely crop images. I see the world more zoomed in than others and so I like to use a telephoto lens, but am not at all interested in buying the fastest one, because I don't use it at wide apertures. What I would like more than anything from a camera is that it keeps working for longer than today's cameras seem to be designed to do. I would like to not have to replace it every few years. I bought a very high quality sewing machine once and it worked the entire 20 years that I used it 8 hours per day. It will probably still work when I am 81.
The next component of photography is craftsmanship. I am often believed to not care that much about craftsmanship, because I discuss mostly artistry and creativity in my posts. The truth is that I am deeply passionate about craftsmanship. I think it is an absolute essential and incredibly important. First of all, I study camera manuals for months, so I know exactly what my camera can do and I believe that many people get rid of a camera, because they simply don't know what their current camera is capable of.
I am also totally dedicated to learning. I have learned all about camera techniques, about all that makes up the technical side of photography, about light and how to read it, about composition and I took many classes to learn Photoshop. I think that this is so much more important than a camera. I believe in being dedicated to your craft as well as your art. The reason why I don't discuss technique in my blog posts and articles very often is that you can find this information anywhere. I always suggest that people just take classes to learn the craft of photography and to embrace being a student and be prepared to stay a student forever. Craftsmanship is what you need to bring your vision to life. Don't skip learning about technique, light and composition just because you are in a hurry.
The last component and the most important one is the photographer with his or her own artistic vision. This is what you are trying to translate into images if your goal is to take pictures that go beyond documenting a scene. This is at the heart of a good photograph. The camera is the tool, the photographer brings forth the art and craftsmanship helps the photographer translate his or her vision into an impactful photograph. The camera being the least important of the three. Artistry requires self knowledge. If you know who you are and how you perceive the world you will be able to express yourself in your work. Julia Cameron puts it incredibly well in her book "The Artist's Way" : "Chekhov advised : "If you want to work on your art, work on your life." That's another way of saying that in order to have self-expression. we must first have a self to express"
This means spending time on finding what it is that makes you you. If you, like me, write morning pages( also an idea proposed in the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron) you will know that it is highly likely that you find yourself on these pages. Not the person that goes out in the world and adapts, strives for acceptance and respect, the one who simply wants to be seen and fit in...but the person beneath this. The person that is in fact not like anyone else. It might take bravery to bring this out in your art, but if you don't, what would be the point of creating. Re-creating is not your purpose as a unique human being. Be brave enough to be yourself, to claim what makes you different and make this the leading light behind your art. No camera will ever replace this and no matter how technically skilful a picture might be, if there is no vision underneath it, it might be an image of a pretty scene that is well composed and taken in the best light, but it will not have your story imbedded in it.
So rather than thinking you need the latest and greatest camera, spend time learning your craft and getting to know the source of your art, which is you. Know thyself...Don't aim to do better at the same that everyone else is doing, because then the source of your creation would be other people's visions. Focus instead on bringing what makes you different into your work.
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