The past month has been defined by the gradual onset of spring. Winter is slowly fading, and although it hasn’t given up easily, the warmer weather and longer days are slowly winning out. This has led to an increase in the amount of time spent outdoors, which in turn has led to more opportunities to shoot. Still, I’m far from having the kind of time I used to have to get out and shoot; perhaps this is the new normal? As much as I’d prefer it not to be, I think it may be.
I have been meaning to do a write-up of a camera I have been loving lately, the Ricoh GR. It has come to be my go-to camera every day, everywhere, for virtually every situation. The focal length was a bit of a problem at first, and it’s still not my favorite, but I’m learning to work around it and challenge myself; other than that, the camera is essentially perfect. If Ricoh made more of these, in different focal lengths–say, 21-28-40, or something–they’d sell a boatload. It’s awesome.
But that leads me to another point I’ve been pondering: gear. I’ve come to despise talking about gear. I spent the better part of 5 years obsessing in varying amounts about the type of gear I was using. I was fetishizing the equipment rather than what I was doing with it, and in the process spent a lot of money buying and selling various types of gear. I was a digital convert, a film purist, and Leicaphile…in short, I’ve covered the gamut of gearhead obsession and self-identification.
Over the past few months I’ve given myself some distance from gear-based forums. I’ve stopped following many on various social media outlets that only talk about gear. And amazingly, it all came about naturally. I just…stopped caring. I no longer care to debate the optical qualities of a certain lens, the megapixel count of a given sensor, sharpness, resolution, etc etc. I just don’t care. Because I don’t care does not mean I am on some high and mighty, holier-than-thou moralistic crusade; if that’s what interests you, then knock yourself out.
There are camera collectors, and there are photographers. I believe that due to the technical side of the art form, those two necessarily converge at some point in all those who take photographs, but how much varies. I used to be equal parts collector and user, and in some instances was more collector than user. If you take photographs of your cameras, or choose your camera as an accessory you’d like people to see, you’re in that territory as well. Like any recovering cameraholic, it has taken distance and time to be able to see that about myself.
What I’ve come to understand, only more recently, and with the benefit of space to reflect on this, is that my priorities were skewed. Yes, the addition of a new camera is always a thrill, but it’s a cheap thrill. Before long, you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of adding yet another piece of gear to achieve the same rush again. Eventually you don’t even use the equipment you have assembled, despite your reasoning to yourself that you’re only acquiring the gear to use, and that it will help you somehow. It won’t. The ever-shorter window that you own the gear before swapping it for something else means you can’t. You don’t get to know it; rather than becoming a trusted old friend, the article in question is never more than a passing acquaintance, something you only know superficially before bidding it adieu and welcoming another.
Increasingly, I have spent more time shooting for myself. And if I’m honest, I can barely tell the difference in varying optical qualities of lenses and sensors most of the time unless I’m looking at them side-by-side at the pixel level. When it comes to photographs that mean something to me, more important is that I have the photos, not that they are technically perfect. When someone looks at the photos of my life, will they care if I used the Summilux or the Summicron? When I look at them in ten years, will I care? Will I even notice?
So the GR may not get a review, as I have done with previous cameras. I have to say that consistently, it is the camera reviews I have done that garner the most page views. I get more traffic from them than from anything else I have posted over the years. I guess that says a lot about others as well, and how the prioritization of gear has consumed photography for a lot of folks.
Expect to see less about gear going forward.