GAS or gear acquisition syndrome afflicts most photographers. Let’s face it, reading about gear, talking about gear, playing with gear is fun. It’s also very hard to escape gear talk. It seemingly drives photography on the web. Google the name of a recently released camera or lens and you will find dozens of online reviews which you can read or watch on YouTube. It is much more difficult finding sites that actually discuss the creative process of photography itself.
With the release of each new camera is the idea that your old model is obsolete; that it is inferior; that you should trade it in quickly before its value drops even more; that the new model will make you a better photographer. However, we all know that when the replacement for your model comes out, when your camera is discontinued, it still works the same way it always has. It doesn’t stop working. It doesn’t have an expiry date.
If you want to shake things up in your photography, think of projects you can work on. It can be as complex as a reportage type of story or as simple as photographing say a subject using the rule of thirds and then photographing it four more times at a different rule of thirds intersection point and then dead centre. Or maybe you photograph the same subject at two other f-stops or shutter speeds.
You can also turn to photo books. I’ve been collecting photo books since I was 13. My first book was Henri Cartier-Bresson, Photographer. Books can inspire, can teach you, can show you other ways of seeing.
I admit that I, too, have from time to time fallen under the spell of GAS. At one point I had complete Nikon, Canon, Leica, and PhaseOne systems, however, I have recently replaced one DSLR system for a mirrorless one being sold on the benefits of lower weight and smaller size, things I’m looking for at my age. In the transition I also reduced the number of lenses across the systems I current have and I will likely pare it down more, without adding any more bodies or lenses.
Recently I started using my film cameras again, notably a medium format Hasselblad 500c/m and a large format Sinar F1. Of course they’re much heavier than the mirrorless systems, but film, I believe, has a different look and the “sensor” is huge. The Hasselblad uses 120 film and records and image that is approximately 6cm x 6cm. The Sinar F1 records images on 4×5 film that is 20 square inches. I suppose it’s possible to replicate the look of film, but it’s also the process of creating the image on film that’s different. It’s slower, more methodical requiring more “craft” than digital. The awareness of the technique, the less forgiving nature of film, the fewer exposures on a roll of film (or single sheet!) I find helps with the creation of the art. Rather ironic, given that increased automation and wider dynamic range makes the technical side easier, supposedly freeing on to think creatively.
In the right hands these tools are not obsolete, but are another way to express one’s vision.
All of the images were “scanned” by photographing the negatives on a lightbox with digital camera.
And a color image. This film back had a light leak which has since been patched.