ARRIVING AT SERIOUS
BY MICHAEL PERKINS
THE CAMERA THAT YOU MOST COMFORTABLY DEFAULT TO in nearly every shooting situation is, by any working definition, your “real” camera, regardless of format, age, size, or the opinion of any other photographer on the planet. You, as I, have heard many a reference made by shooters to cameras “that I use for serious pictures”, a phrase which betrays our inherited classism as to what constitutes a worthy piece of kit. It also betrays how rigid we are in our thinking, since any box that captures and refines light is a camera, whether it’s a Leica or a repurposed tomato can.
Of course, there’s a difference between what we know intellectually and what we “know” emotionally. At the beginning of the digital era, some of us that were raised on film felt as if we had to actually “justify” using them newfangled cameras with their zeroes and ones and pixels. That embarrassment was eventually replaced by another, as we seemed to need to explain why we chose images taken with a Samsung instead of a Sony. And now, with cels becoming daily shooters for millions of us, that final bit of internal camera-shaming might actually be drawing to a close.
You may actually be able to pinpoint the exact moment that you began to regard your phone as just as “real” a camera as your other models. That moment may have come about as a consequence of cost, or convenience, or pure accident, or it may simply have happened because your iPhone just began giving you consistently great results. In my own case, my cel photos began, over the past few years, to be used more often as the “official” recording of an event on social media (including this platform), as I began to not need to use my more fully-featured gear to make the so-called “actual” representation of an idea. It hasn’t happened completely: I still tend to make my “preliminary” or “sketch” versions of an idea on the phone, then render what I consider the finished product on my DLSRs. But the cel is nosing out its older brother with greater and greater frequency.
As I write this, I am finishing out an extremely long stretch away from home, and have used the extra alone time to observe how many times I have opted for daily posting of cel images of key subjects for the immediacy and ease of keeping my online presences current, rather than waiting to return home and post the “real” DSLR versions of the same things at a later date. The above image, created and refined completely on my SE, is an example of such. I like the traditional DSLR version, but this one was more emotionally… immediate.
Let’s be honest: I may never get to the point where I literally leave all my traditional stuff in the hotel room and go shoot something “crucial” armed only with my iPhone. However, I am now comfortable with going for longer stretches working only with what’s in my pocket, and the idea of letting my cel have the final say on the nature of a picture is, at least, no longer unthinkable for me. And I fully realize how many zillions of others have already reached that point, and thus, how pathetically backward some of this post might make me seem. But I am slowly, nervously, trying to convince myself (and others) that you can, in fact, teach an old photog new tricks.