Inspiration Over Gear. Always.
I am a photographer. I love to shoot. I live to shoot. But I am not a gearhead. I’ll use anything available to me. From film to toy cameras to digital cameras, I’ve shot on it all. But today, with a case full of professional photo gear, I still use whatever tool I have available to me to take pictures. This includes my phone.
In 1997, when I began my photo education, that tool was a 35mm Nikon FM that was handed down to me by my father. My favorite photography course in college was Alternative Camera, which included everything from pinhole to toy cameras. By the time I was graduating from The Ohio State University in 2005, digital cameras had almost completely taken over the industry. So I took out a small credit card loan and bought a Canon 20D with a kit lens. That camera and lens were the only gear I used until 2009 when I could afford the 5DII.
Recently I have been using the Hipstamatic Tintype filter on my phone. It’s a lot of fun for a portrait photographer like me, and I’m really impressed with the resulting images. But the other day I received a message through my Facebook group page where a local photographer whom I had never met, told me that I lost him with my latest iPhone images. He was shocked that I was including these images on my blog with my other pro-gear images. When I asked what he meant by “lost him” he said that these camera apps are “destroying the profession of a professional photographer.” I can’t say I was surprised at his comments. After reading many of the comments written in response to the article that FStoppers wrote about my last iPhone photo shoot, it seems like the photography world is firmly against the recent influx of phone photography.
This argument concerning the importance of the right gear is not specific to photography. Any field of technique has its share of experts. Musicians probably face this more than anything. You need this guitar or that amp or this digital software to succeed. This reminds me of the brilliant intro to It Might Get Loud, a documentary on rock guitarists. The scene opens up with Jack White, guitarist of The White Stripes, building an electric guitar out of a plank, a wire and a coke bottle. Jack White has probably never taken the stage with this primitive instrument. But he could. And who am I to fault him for it. He is able to make music with it that compels me.
This gear-elitist mindset begs the question “Why did you become a photographer/musician/filmmaker/creative?” Is it because you love using the latest technology? Maybe you chose to be in this line of work because you thought it was an easy way to make a buck. Or perhaps you are like me and you feel compelled to create. You can’t go a day without creating something. You feel less than whole if you do. So when someone questions my motives in using my phone to take pictures, I am not sure what to say. Why wouldn’t I use my phone? Especially since it’s with me all the time. And with technology at the point it is now, my phone actually takes decent pictures.
Don’t hear me wrong. I have whittled my gear list down to the bare essentials and wouldn’t go to a job without every light and lens. But it won’t be too much longer until I can confidently go to a job with nothing more than my phone.
I can hear all the collective *gasps* of all the gearheads reading this article, and I am anticipating a flood of hate mail. But mark my words. Just like the film shooters who were reluctant to make the switch to digital, those who fight the progression of digital technology will find themselves not only drastically behind everyone else, but possibly completely obsolete.