By MICHAEL PERKINS
AT THIS WRITING (May of 2022), APPLE HAS JUST QUIETLY ANNOUNCED the discontinuation of the last model of the iPod, meaning that, twenty years after the sleek MP3 megatoy changed the entire music game, it’s now, officially, an antique. The global pang this news generated, while mostly associated with memories of earbuds and iTunes downloads, should also feel familiar to many photographers.
Shooters are constantly saying goodbye to tech that, for a time, defined our work, only to learn that we can produce even better work with whatever replaced it. Sometimes, as in the case of analog and film media, we can easily mistake a given iteration of that tech with a kind of golden age, as if it were the equipment itself that determined our skill or talent. And while we’re talking about music, I don’t know anyone who has a closet of every tape deck or turntable or tuner they ever owned, while I know plenty of photogeeks who have a shrine of their favorite cameras. And yes, this is a confession.
A makeshift shrine to Steve Jobs following his passing in 2011. Yeah, obsolescence sucks….
A few weeks ago, a little more than a decade after Steve Jobs himself ran out of tech support (as shown here by one of many makeshift fan shrines left outside of Apple Stores around the world at the time) I said goodbye to what wound up being my last DSLR, a stalwart that made it ten years before its shutter seized up, earning its honored place in Camera Valhalla. I knew the math on the camera’s lifespan, and knew that the time had come to have the doctors “call it”(translation: repairs would be prohibitively expensive for a device that was already obsolete), and yet, I was (and am, to this minute) unable to chuck it out into the darkness where useless trash (which is what it now is ) properly belongs.
To return to the 160g iPod: yes, last night, after reading of its official extinction, I hauled the unit, now frozen and lifeless for well over a year, out of its still-mint factory box and sniffed back a quick tear. I now have the means, through other toys, to enjoy everything it once gave me, plus more, meaning that, as with the dead DSLR, I wouldn’t be using it even if it still worked. Because it’s not about the equipment, which, in both music and photography, is purely a means, a conveyance. Your camera is not your eye, or your heart, or your hand. Don’t mistake the tool for the one who wields it.
By MICHAEL PERKINS
IN THE EARLY 1950’s, AS TELEVISION FIRST BLINKED INTO LIFE ACROSS AMERICA, storytelling in film began to divide into two very clearly defined camps. In theatres, desperate to retain some of the rats who were deserting their sinking ships to bathe in cathode rays at home, movie studios went for stories that were too big to be contained by the little screen, and almost too big for theatres. You remember the wider-than-thou days of Cinemascope, VistaVision, Todd-Ao, Cinerama and Super-Panavision, as well as the red-green cardboard glasses of 3-D’s first big surge, and the eye-poking wonders of House Of Wax, Creature From The Black Lagoon and Bwana Devil. Theatres were Smell-O-Vision, True Stereophonic Reproduction and bright choruses of Let’s Go Out To The Lobby sung by dancing hot dogs and gaily tripping soda cups. Theatres was Big.
The other stories, the TV stories, were small, intimate, personal, compact enough to cram into our 9-inch Philcos. Tight two-shots of actors’ heads and cardboard sets in live studios. It was Playhouse 90 and Sylvania Theatre and The Hallmark Hall Of Fame. Minus the 3,000 Roman extras and chariot races, we got Marty, Requiem For A Heavyweight, and On The Waterfront. Little stories of “nobodies” with big impact. Life, zoomed in.
For photographers, pro or no, many stories can be told either in wide-angle or tight shot. Overall effect or personal impact. You can write your own book on whether the entire building ablaze is more compelling than the little girl on the sidewalk hoping her dog got out all right. Immense loads of dead trees have been expended to explore, in print, where the framing should happen in a story to produce shock, awe or a quick smile. I like to shoot everything every way I can think of, especially if the event readily presents more than one angle to me.
The release of the new iPhone 6, which dropped worldwide today, is a big story, of course, but it consists of a lot of little ones strung together. Walk the line of the faithful waiting to show their golden Wonka ticket to gain admission to the Church of Steve and you see a cross-section of humankind represented in the ranks. Big things do that to us; rallies, riots, parties, flashmobs, funerals….the big story happens once a lot of little stories cluster in to comprise it.
Simply pick the story you like.
Remember, just like the phone, they come in two sizes.