Unconventional ways of choosing a camera.
There are so many written and video materials about cameras, camera comparisons, and technical features that I feel people somewhat forget to talk about other important aspects of photography equipment, which leads me to write this article.
I remember reading an essay by Araki, written in the ‘70s. He writes about how he chose Pentax 6x7 for its loud slap of a mirror so that the naked dancer (in a strip club) felt his presence. What an interesting way of thinking about camera. Many other photographers that I admire talk about their cameras as their friends, lovers, or just continuation of themselves. Gradually I also learned a different way of having a relationship with camera gear.
And so I want to share some of my “unconventional” ways of choosing a camera (after being a photographer for many years). So here we go…
Choosing camera because of the sound.
One of the crucial aspects of photography for me is the sound that the camera produces. The camera is always close to my eye, and thus close to my ears. I am also aware of the rhythm my shutter creates for my subject and me. No matter how good a camera is technically if it does not fit me sonically, I found it unfit for an artistic journey. For me personally, the sound of closing shutter, slap of a mirror, winding lever should be pleasant to the ear, inviting to take next picture.
Choosing camera because of the year it was produced.
There is something mystical in holding an object that is the same age as you. It easier to associate yourself with it, to forgive its flaws, or finding a way to deal with them — as you do with yourself. Photographers often talk that camera is just a tool, and they are not wrong, but with time every tool absorbs character of its owner and often becomes something significant.
Or maybe you want to produce a particular look that only cameras of a certain period can. In any way a year the camera was built may have a lot of meanings.
Choosing camera because of its looks.
Everyone has their preferences. But we all feel awe one way or another when we meet a design that fits our standards of beauty. Whenever someone asks me advice about what camera to choose, I always answer — choose one that you like, that speaks to you and start from there.
Camera looks may invite people in, or it may push them away.
Choosing a camera because of its size.
For some people, size matters. Small cameras are suitable for being discreet; big cameras are good for a slower pace. But the size of a camera can affect you also differently. It can give you courage (or push you to find one), it can intimidate your subject, or it can hypnotize it.
Like with everything, I suggest to start small and move up in size gradually.
Choosing camera for its ancestry.
Your dad gave it to you. Or maybe your friend. Like anything in this world — the camera may possess some special meaning that binds you with it. A camera may be like a book… you use it wondering about a person who used it before you.
Choosing camera because of its flaws.
Now, if you a “hentai” like me, then you start to search for flaws of the cameras and lenses and use them into your advance. Sometimes sharp, clean, perfect — is not something that you are going for.
There is a reason that old lenses make a come-back. Sometimes low-res or washed out jpgs, scratches on film, un-tuned shutter speeds can transform a dull image into a piece of art. Everything can be useful in expressing yourself.
Do you have your own unconventional ways of using a camera?
For me camera is always a pre-destined encounter. I love to stroll in old camera shops looking for the one that calls to me. If I encounter one — than I have one more reason, one more drop of motivation juice to continue this photography journey I embarked on.