By MICHAEL PERKINS
I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF AN IMPULSE PURCHASE. Everyone who buys things (so…everyone) has some code in their DNA that dictates how they go about the process, and I know that, for some, there is a virtually unbroken space of time between I Want It and I’ll Take It.
I don’t know what that’s like.
Every purchase I make, great or small, is, for me, a matter of exhaustive research, self-reproach, deliberation, and/or paralysis. And right now I’m experiencing all of those things to an excruciating degree, because right now, like, this week, I’m about to purchase a camera.
I buy cameras not when I want them (which is all the time), nor when I first need them (which is when most sensible people might do so), but only after my current camera is literally disintegrating in my hands, or about the time I am desperate for a replacement. The result of this desperation is an intense program of investigation of all products and their respective claims. I search endlessly for the best functions, price, performance and reliability, but not just for reasons connected to the making of photographs. I mostly do all this homework so I will ensure that it will be a long, long time before I have to go through all this agony again anytime soon.
Wait, does this come in full-frame, too?
This approach, of course, drains any potential enjoyment out of the project, with dread replacing anticipation and fear of failure subbed for excitement..or what I call the hooray-damn syndrome. It’s sick…that is, it makes me literally ill, with many a temptation to chuck the entire task and maybe attempt surgery on my old camera, or perhaps sacrifice a goat over the gravesite of George Eastman.
This is typically the portion of the program where someone in the audience raises a hand and remarks, diplomatically, “wait…that’s not normal, is it?”
Well, I can only speak for myself, of course, but I suspect that all my agita and itchy rashes are not, strictly speaking, what I’m supposed to be feeling. And yet, wading through the goopy internet soup of conflicting reviews, opinion-makers, influencers and, let’s face it, plain old cranks is enough to make me regard organ donation as a seaside romp versus selecting a damn camera that works.
Part of this dilemma lies with the manufacturers, of course, who market features and options with as much aggression as they do the basics of their devices. It’s a little like saying that a car manufacturer gives as much weight to the floor mats and cupholders as they do to the engine or transmission. Cameras are so loaded with toys that add to the flash of their newest models that it’s easy to drown in effects that one may seldom, if ever, use, when the main idea of the purchase is making pictures, which, when all is said and done, is not that bloody complicated. We say we came for the steak, but we often reach for our wallets at the first sound of the sizzle.
Maybe my buying anxiety is just another version of my wanting, throughout my life, to reduce the chance that I’ll make the wrong decision…in anything…where I’ll live, what I’ll work at, which toothpaste to use, or whatever. I’d love to know what an impulse purchase feels like. If I did, I’d have someone take a picture of me making one.
If I could only decide which camera to use…
By MICHAEL PERKINS
T.S. ELIOT ONCE ASKED, POIGNANTLY, ‘WHAT IS THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING?‘ as if there could be no lonelier thing in this weary world. However, had he been a photographer, he might also have mused about the sound of one wife sighing, as her husband assures her that “I just need one more shot“, or “you can all go ahead, I’ll meet you at the gift shop.” Such assurances would be enough to send Mrs. Eliot’s one hand clapping T.S. soundly about the ears.
We really do hear the steam escaping from our wives’ ears as we mutter about whether we need a prime lens or a wide-angle for our next masterpiece. We understand that it’s not much fun watching your beloved stare at a pile of junk in a dark alley, pondering whether it all makes a profound statement about the state of the world. We get the fact that you might prefer that we answer your question about whether your mother should come and live with us, rather than mumble, “if I close down to f/11 to get past that glare, I’m gonna lose two stops of light…”
In short, we know what a colossal pain it is to be with someone who constantly hauls around a mad gaggle of gears, gauges, geegaws and gadgets. We even realize that you might have a hard time remembering the last time you saw us walking around on only two legs…..you know, without the tripod.
We stipulate that, sometimes, a hunk of rock is just a hunk of rock, not a canvas on which to mount our genius, just as “a little light reading” to the rest of the world might mean a beach thriller by Robert Crais, not the flash attachment section of the B&H Video catalog. We even admit that it’s a little catty of us to stare across the room at a restaurant and make our one contribution to the table’s conversation with, “look at that stupid guy. He’s not even framing up his shot!”
Yes, ladies, we need to not so much “get a life” as to get a slightly larger, wider one. So, thank you for reminding us that, if we fall off this mountain by stepping back for the perfect composition, we might make orphan our children. Thank you for occasionally filling us in on certain details of said children’s lives, such as their proper names, birthdays, distinguishing features, etc. Thank you for not wincing when we name the family dog Steiglitz. Thank you for not leaving us for dead when we use the foil cover from your best picnic casserole for a makeshift bounce reflector.
Mostly, as in the above scene, we humbly thank you for not seizing the opportunity to dump us and our dratted gear in the nearest abyss.
And then taking a picture of it.
And then laughing, hysterically.