I know a person who owns a very nice camera. It’s quite expensive. But he does not take it out with him to make photographs, even when on vacation, for fear that he might damage it or it might get stolen. It seems to me that he loves his gear more than he loves making images. I have another friend who takes her equally expensive camera everywhere she goes. It is always out of its bag, shutter clicking away, in all kinds of weather. Seems to me she loves making images far more than she loves her gear.
This is something we all face at some point if we do something for the enjoyment of it. We have to choose which we love more: the activity or the gear that is used in making that activity. I’ve seen people struggle with this choice in sports, art, leisure activities, etc. To be sure we often spend lots of money on the gear but something is lost, in my eyes at least, when we make it more precious than what it is meant to produce. In cycling I’ve seen racers lose races for fear of damaging their bicycle and in the above example…well, that speaks for itself. I understand valuing the gear, but should we do so at the expense of the experience or the art?
At some point, I suppose, we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to risk our equipment in service of our art: our life. A well known photographer, David duChemin, likes to say “gear is good, vision is better.” With that in mind, can you put your gear in service of your vision? And if so, might you be willing to risk sacrificing your gear in service of your vision?
Note: The image above was taken while my 23 month old son and I explored a back alley near a coffee shop in our town. If ever there is a risk to expensive photographic equipment, using it around a young child is it. But you know, I wouldn’t trade any of the images I have made while spending time with him for the safety of my camera. The camera is replaceable; the images and the memories are not.