Posted by Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer at 13:30
It's Thursday. I'm trying to figure out how to get rid of a bunch of still serviceable photo gear without having to ship stuff everywhere. Suggestions?
But first, speaker wire analogies continue....
The image above was photographed with some pretty lux stuff. A Panasonic S1R coupled to a Panasonic S-Pro 24-70mm f2.8 lens. This was shot at Enchanted Rock a couple of weeks back and I'm certain that if we were to blow it up to eight feet by eight feet and print it the file would knock the socks off of anything coming out of my iPhone XR. Really. Cuz....enlargement. More pixels. Super lens.
But then I photographed this cityscape (below) with my iPhone XR and I think it's a technically good image as well. Not because I'm a decent photographer but because the subject matter interests me and the camera in the $700 phone did a great job. When I look at the images side by side here on the web (arguably the only place I'll ever end up putting them) they seem...equivalent to me. No better and no worse.
If any of my engagements with casual photographs were transformed into brow beetling and intense "viewing sessions" during which I sat in a perfectly positioned chair, ancient brandy sloshing in a crystal snifter at hand, with both images writ large and perfectly illuminated, would I see a difference at a viewing distance that makes sense? Probably not. And I've been looking at prints for the better part of 40 years (yes, ever since I was a toddler).
But here's the kicker: There is no takeaway here. I enjoy both images. The one above for its sublime sky and the one below for both the saturated green of the water just beneath the tree line and --- the .... sublime sky. It's the content, almost always, and rarely the technical stuff that draws me, my friends, and a larger audience to enjoy photography. It's the same in music. The actual art is the breath of life. The content, the intention, the selection and style of presentation. The granules of pigment in paint, the film grain, the tiniest third order harmonics in the music, are all incidental to the art itself. Critiquing the quality of substructure is absolute folly. Now moving on to the question of the day.... below:
Over time some photographers become hoarders of a sort. We try stuff and if it doesn't work out of the box we send it back and try again. But there are so many times that we'll try a product and it will work in the moment. Maybe the product matches the style of photographic work that a client drives over a year or so. Then the styles change or the subject matter that drove the initial purchase goes away, replaced by something else that might benefit from a change of tools. Since we're all relatively affluent and masters of rationalization we rush out and buy new tools that more closely match the parameters of the projects at hand. Kind of human nature for a large part of the population.
When we pull up short, stop the game clock, reset the paradigm... or, whatever, there is engendered a re-evaluation of our needs and wants as they relate to our professional practice. And Covid-19 is presenting a hard stop.
I looked around the office yesterday and was unamused by my own avarice. While I can't toss away good hard drives, filled with "priceless" photographs, I can downsize the stuff that's growing like mold in the walls of a swamp house. Here are examples: I have three identical battery powered monolights that are in perfect shaped and served me pretty well during the time over the past three years when I was dragging them on and off airplanes to shoot portraits in locations not served by wire-borne electrical power. The lights were inexpensive to purchase with an average acquisition price around $200. I have three dedicated wireless triggers, one for each light, and a motley assemblage of reflectors which are of the ubiquitous Bowens type.
Now the lights sit in a rolling case and I haven't used them in the better part of a year. What to do with them? I could offer them for sale on the web but then I'd have to deal with multiple buyers, endless questions, the fraught-ness of shipping them out in good working order only to have one or more arrive damaged. Would it be better to find a struggling, young artist to bequeath them to? How does one find a truly deserving young photographer who truly needs better tools?
But then there is all the ephemerata of smaller, less valuable (but more hardy) grip equipment. The multiple super clamps, the Lowell Tota-light I couldn't bear to give up. The weird and variated collection of light stands. The hodge podge of light modifiers. The seven generations of Apple laptops (going all the way back to the "Blueberry" iBook) which I can't let go of because I can't upgrade them and then erase all the hard drives...)? The two Leica slide projectors. The drawer of indistinct, older camera parts and accessories. The filters which seem worthless now but always, when I get ready to move them on, remembering having to re-buy another identical one for now more money when a new need arises. The half-used rolls of seamless background paper. The un-used pop-up background purchased for a marketing shoot with a satellite company that went bankrupt before we could use the background for their portrait sessions. And the seemingly endless binders full of CD's and DVD's of advertising projects that no one wants or needs any more.
If you can't already tell I'm in the mood to purge the endless physical anchors binding me to the way I used to do things in the past.
What's my vision for the future? A small case of speed lights to take the place of decades of bigger lights. (already purchased). A larger case of LED fixtures for the present (already in house and ready). An ever smaller collection of cameras and lenses. (trying to rein that musthavecamera thing in). Just enough light stands for an individual portrait shoot. One perfect portrait modifier which will sit proudly in the studio and sneer at the lesser ones bought on a lark.
In impulsive moments I feel like dragging the big garbage "can" over to the door of the office and just shoveling stuff in until I can see the tops of all the horizontal surfaces in the office and can walk, unimpeded, across the studio floor. Tabula Raza.
And then there's the unkempt nest of wireless microphone systems, weird audio interfaces, viper wraps of balanced cables and so much more. None of it getting much use. All of it falling into obsolesence.
So, if you know of an easy and cost effective way to rid oneself of endless photographic clutter would you be kind enough to give me your considered advice in the comments? I'll blend the best of the ideas and see if I can move forward and take myself out of the paralysis of owning too many small and cluttery things. Thanks.
One more thought... The image of an old copy of the English edition of Zoom Magazine (below) surfaced in my endless machinations to bring order from chaos. It reminded me why the job of thinning out possessions is so hard. You come across a magazine you haven't opened in 25 years and find yourself fascinated by the huge page sizes, the beautiful quadratones of impeccably nude people, see amazing colors and smart work. Mostly done by people who owned one or two cameras, no lights and certainly no ever expanding collection of lighting modifiers, and you remember why you didn't recycle the magazine in the first place...
I guess this is a ramble with a certain amount of circular direction and no beginning or end. Well, until we drop quite dead surrounded by a life time of unstructured collecting.
Posted by Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer at 10:27