By MICHAEL PERKINS
THIS FORUM IS NOT, AS FREQUENT VISITORS HAVE LIKELY SURMISED, a platform for discussion about the technical merits of one kind of equipment versus those of others. It is neither a critique of, nor recommendation for, any particular piece of gear. At least that’s not the intent. The reason The Normal Eye “focuses” on aims and intentions, rather than devices is very simple. Devices are not the key determinant of what makes a good picture.
Since photographs are a transmission of the inner eye through the hand and into the camera, aims and intentions are the deciding factor in a photograph’s eventual worth. And the raw fact of present-day technology is that virtually any instrument bearing the name “camera” can produce an image that at least approximates what a thinking, feeling person has imagined. However, no degree of expense, toys, or trickery can compensate for the absence of that thinking and feeling. None.
The marketing of equipment is based on the simple aim of making people spend progressively more for kit, and, at regular intervals, looking upon what they presently own with a mixture of disgust and anxiety. It’s the same way that cars, furniture and personal fashion are sold. Moreover, a significant part of the camera market is based on envy (he takes such better pictures than me: it must be his camera!), which is one of the most reliable ways to get people to part with their money. The fact is, over time, we probably need fewer and far simpler cameras than we spend time lusting after. You won’t be more qualified to make pictures because you “earned” it by buying the moment’s hot happening machine. You are already qualified by your desire and your vision. Now.
Years after you’ve learned to love some of your best shots, are you seriously giving the main credit for those images’ communicative power to the devices on which you produced them? Was the image seen here, a night-time shot at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, shot on a Leica, or a snapshot camera? Was its creator a trained journalist, or a talented amateur? Who cares? It is a masterful picture. And, today, even the most modest mobile cam can make it. All that need be supplied to close the deal is vision and desire.
We’ve often joked about G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) leading us merrily down the path to bankruptcy, promoting the idea that it’s always our next camera that will finally make us a photographer, but that humorous concept is based on a very unfunny reality: that we too often think that there’s some kind of magic in that box. Well….in fact, there is.
But only if we put it there ourselves.