Today I took out a camera that reminded me of the small but potent cameras we shot in the film days. If you are of a certain age you'll fondly remember the wonderful feel and the great images that we all created with Olympus OM-1's, Pentax LX-1's and MX's. Most of us had something like them, or a Nikon FM or a Canon AT-1, that we kept in our hands whenever we didn't need some weird feature on our bigger "professional" cameras. In a way, my trashed copy of the Sony A7ii, when used with the Zeiss 45mm f2.8, reminds me very much of the Leica CL and the 40mm Summicron I carried around for years. Shooting in a monochrome setting takes me right back to the feel of my favorite Trip-X film.
When I go out shooting with this camera I feel like I did when I was a young instructor at UT walking down the drag at lunch time, channeling one of my previous instructors, Garry Winogrand. I was never in a rush, was endlessly fascinated by whatever I saw in front of my camera, and anxious to capture everything that seemed transient and beautiful in the world directly around me. Deep down, the feel of today's current small, cheap camera in my hands is a direct link to the insouciance and vigor of unfettered youth. And the joy of just existing.
So it's always a moment of jarring self-awareness when I happen upon a mirrored window on the side of a tall building in the middle of downtown and I stop to take a self portrait. The person looking back at me isn't the kid with the long hair and a scraggly beard, or the middle aged man with curly brown hair. It's an older guy. And it reminds me of how long I've been on this road. This process of looking for images and sharing them. The process of spending time with myself; in the darkroom, in the studio, on the street, in a different city. There is a strand, a string of continuity between all the past selves but each one is a little different and the perspectives divergent.
At some point I hope to discover and distill what all this photographing means to me. And when I do I hope it brings along some clarity to my images. I still wonder why I do this photography thing and what I ultimately hope to accomplish. Even if it's just the understanding that the only important thing is to enjoy the process. At least the process provides a framework on which to build one part of my existence.
I know one sure thing. The camera I shoot with has nothing really to do with my expectations for the image I'm shooting and everything to do with my affinity for the way it feels and operates. One thing that having owned and used hundreds of cameras can provide is the enlightenment to know that the camera is just a foil for the process. A reason to enjoy looking. Nothing more. We all grow old. Everything will become "old school." And then, it will get re-invented just the same, a little while later.