Remembering that photography isn't really about the gear but about the cool things you can do with the gear.

 I make silly pronouncements from time to time.  My family and friends know me well enough to not take everything I say as the "final word."  They know I'll change my mind or my point of view when I wake up and see things in a new way.  Last week I ran a post that declared the Canon 7D my "Camera of the Year."  I hope the rational response is:  "So what?"  When I did my "Christmas List" one commenter posted a response that spanked me back into the reality I wish I spent more time in.  To wit, he said he didn't really care about the gear he just wanted the time and money to go someplace interesting and to be able to shoot there.  And that's the response I'd love to hear more often.

Don't get me wrong.  Gear is a important but only as a means to an end.  But all the tools in the world are meaningless if we don't get appropriate opportunities to use them.  But one of the tools we should have in our boxes, and one that is often overlooked, is basic camaraderie.

In my culture (pampered American living in an upscale neighborhood of intact families) we pay lip service and involuntary servitude to the overarching myth that family overrides everything else.  That nothing can be more important than family.  And I'm sure that's true in its most basic meaning.  But we've re-interpreted that, as a culture, to be an imperative that all time must be spent with family.  If you have a spare second it should be spent engaged in quality pursuits with our children.  If we have an opportunity to travel it's assumed that your spouse will share in the experience (and not via long distance).  In truth we've eroded two fundamentally healthy ways to exist.  In the first place we've surrendered our ability to enjoyed spending time by ourselves.  We feel guilty when we're not including everyone even though we'd really rather have some time to ourselves to read, create or just be a separate human being.  According to everything I've read we rebel in our teen-aged years to be able to differentiate ourselves and become individuals........why do we spend our adult years joined at the hip?

In the second place we've lost the ability to create and maintain friendships with groups of like minded people.  The photograph above was done in Rome a few years back.  These men meet nearly everyday at a little table next to someone's apartment building.  They drink, they play cards, they tease each other, they talk politics and they revel in other male company.  This easy camaraderie is vanishing in our culture.  We've replaced the more intimate surroundings and easy exchange with friends with things like loud and chaotic happy hours and quick texts.  Several mental health care professionals have bought copies of the above to display in their offices.  They say that it reminds them to remind their clients to work on building healthy networks.  Not to further businesses but to further their happiness.

I look at this photo to remember the value of everything I talked about above.  I took this image back in 1995 while in Rome on a shooting trip with my good friend, Paul.  We left our wives in Austin, grabbed a couple hundred rolls of medium format film and proceeded to have a good, long shooting trip in Rome and Orvieto.  We shared information about the best routes to walk and the best sites to see and we ended most days over dinners with wine and stories about time spent ferreting out interesting stuff.

Our interests were aligned in a way that was much different than the uneasy truce that takes place when travelling with a non-photographer partners.  We didn't need shared shooting experiences but we did appreciate the easy mix of technical and logistical information sharing mixed with observations about everything from the classic beauty of Italian women to the virtues of the antipasto buffet at Al Grappolo D'oro.

I think photography is a like living life.  Too much tunnel vision is boring.  The same view every day is boring.  The same conversations, boring.  Only by stepping outside a uniform construct, even if it's just for a few days at a time, informs us and makes us happier.  Just a point of view now that we're getting close to the end of another year.  Space.  It's the final frontier.

I showed these two images to make the point that being in the right place and being awake to life is much more important than what sort of camera and lens I used.  Or how I used it.  While it's good to make sure your shutter and aperture are correctly engaged making sure you're happiness and interests are engaged is even more important.

Note:  I screwed up and cancelled my twitter account.  I've gotten a new one.  Please see the links for the new address if you want to follow my 140 character ramblings.  And let me know your twitter address if you want followers.


John Krumm said...

I live in a "family" town and find it rather isolating, with people you've seen and greeted for years but don't know because everyone is so busy. Getting together with friends involves long term planning. Not much of the drop-by visit, since everyone now is worried that they will drop in on a trashed house that people are too busy to clean. I suppose it's the suburb style. I grew up in the country and we had more visitors and visited people more often than now, and living in a larger city was also more social, out on the street, lots of walking. It's the drive-work-drive-eat-sleep cycle of a "bedroom" community that isn't so healthy for the human psyche, I think.

koert said...

How very true!
Personally I alway get (amd thus am) stuck in the following train of thought:
" I could spend xx$ on going to place Z but wont that be a waste of oppertunity and money if I don't have gadget Y?" So I buy gadget Y and no longer have the money to go to place Z .........Save up, rinse, repeat.....
I really need to break that cycle but, then again I also need a new lens for a new camera.......

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Wow Kirk, John, Koert - how true...

And this "camaraderie" just reminded me of my youth, and an old friend. He used to use a Konica, and Kodachrome 50 and 100, while I used my Canon with Ektachrome 400. It was so interesting how differently we saw the world, and to walk with him, and talk in the evenings. We both dreamed of a fully manual Nikon at that time, but we seldom talked gear.

We just met with people, spent time with them, photographed them. Those were the times... and it's about time to find him again.

Robert said...

I think the time I spend alone is good for my mental state and refreshes me thus making the time with my family better. So I think saying everything I do is for my family and taking time for myself are not contradictory.

A few months ago I wrote about doing what you can with what you have. if any one is interested.

Giacomo Foti said...

Italian here, it's "Orvieto" not "Orvietto" :P

Also I think the restaurant is named "Al Grappolo D'oro" (literally "At the Golden Cluster" where "cluster" is a cluster of grapes)


Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Thanks Giacomo, I've made those corrections. Happy New Year!!!!

Giacomo Foti said...

Thanks! Happy new year to you too, and keep up the amazing work!