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.