The eternal struggle.
My daughter: “I think you’re more on the devil side.”
My other daughter: “This is probably my favourite post.”
It’s a paradox Peter. The camera is both all important and not important at all. Most important is the point of view. Once you discover that then the gear serves you. That is, I believe, what you are experiencing: Life as a perfect contradiction. Let it be both and roll with it.
I’ve spoken of it here before. I truly believe, unshakingly, that a photographer has a quest to create the best images he or she can. a great camera certainly will not stop the iconography.
I also have found there is a limit to what gear can achieve for you and it is most likely what you are experiencing too. The answer lies not in the gear but experimentation and in pushing, discovering, new in-camera techniques, new ways of expression. It’s delving into your own point of view and discovering new ways to communicate that.
“Do not try and bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth…there is no spoon. Then you will see it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”
―Spoon Boy to Neo, The Matrix.
Seriously, you are correct: it’s a paradox and I should embrace it (and roll with it).
The closest I come to “bending the spoon” is the Mamiya 7II with Kodak Portra film.
But even that is a compromise, because it does not have the versatility of some of the other gear I’ve tried.
I love your core belief David, which you have indeed previously stated here: “…a photographer has a quest to create the best images he or she can.”
So yes, I’m experimenting, and pushing.
Whoa (you have to say that like Keanu) I love that quote, one of my favourites from that movie. I really think there is a lot of truth to it, it reflects my head space.
I think your work with the Mamiya 7, even though I have not seen much, is really wonderful. It feels like something else. That is to say, It has a sensibility that is different from your other work. It feels like it has you on another thought pattern.
Unfortunately, I too, am very much aware of the compromise. It can be tricky and frustrating at the best of times. I am actually feeling, at the moment, of abandoning digital and small formats altogether, but I’m not sure I can get my head around the things that I find limiting with film so much it is my only option. I wish Kodak or Fuji could develop the Nespresso Machine of C-41 development for a start. Then there is the fact that commercially it isn’t going to stick with clients in the short term.
I love your restless energy and brutal decision making with gear, don’t lose ever lose it because it really is a part of your work too.
David, you always seem to cram a cornucopia of good ideas in your comments that compel me to respond.
I too crave for “Nespresso Machine C-41 development”, but I’m okay with letting a pro lab do my processing and scanning (it took me a while to accept that, but I’ve finally bent the proverbial spoon… Whoa!).
So, I’ve abandoned digital again, partly because I want to get off the gear-upgrade treadmill for a while and focus on the images. Partly because the plastic look of digital (that is not remedied by the faux grain add-ons) is irritating me. And mostly because I want to be “in the moment”. Case in point: I photographed some images for a family celebration this weekend and I have no idea what they (will) look like. But when I was there, I was actually enjoying the proceedings and not sneaking peaks on my LCD.
With respect to the Mamiya 7II, I haven’t taken many images with it, so that’s why you haven’t seen many. But I love what it gives me, and I love how I “see” with it. I love the rendering of that 6 x 7 “sensor too.
The other camera that gives me that, via a much different path, is the Mamiya RZ67. I will own one of those again one day soon (the sale of my Leica M240 and Leica lenses will make that easy now). It’s really the best portrait camera I’ve ever had the privilege of owning.
Lastly, my “brutal” decision making is often not well understood, and not well-received, by some readers. Often it drives me nuts too. But it’s necessary. I’m glad some people totally get it.
Likewise, I always feel compelled to comment. What you have to say always seems to resonate.
I look forward to seeing more from you with the Mamiya 7. Concentrating on the images is the best reason. It’s easy to forget that. It’s quite a leap that so many talk about but never take, so good on you. I also totally appreciate being in the moment too; it’s just a totally different head space like that. I can shoot film and scan a print and genuinely love it. Digital is different, I have to work it for ages and I’m forever tweaking it because it doesn’t look quite right.
I have a full RZ kit that I hope I will never part with. I mostly shot with that system for about a decade, before going digital, I’ve tried digital backs on it but it’s cumbersome set up so it’s mostly sat unused. I still love it but I have a sort of love affair with Contax 645 at the moment, oh and the Blad Zeiss 110 f2 FE, and Schneider Technika 150mm 2.8. I am genuinely pleased with my M9, within it’s ‘window of bliss’ it works exceptionally well, but it has it’s limits. I’ll keep it, I think.
Film Development is still an issue though, I just need to get my head around a workflow I’m comfortable with I guess. Despite living in London, a lot of labs have shut down, the one I use is a 2 hour round trip and then another to pick it up again…Then there is the scanning, the spotting, all those things I fell in love with digital for back in those days. Have to get my head going back to 10 Frames per roll too, the expense and the constant changing. Not to mention I have been taken hook, line sinker for the portability/quality ratio of the M9. Gulp, digital has made me lazy.
It’s that compromise again….
The M9 comes the closest, for me, to film.
Your daughter is superwise!!! 😊
They both are!
Great post…and super graphics!
I would tend to agree with your daughter here: you have tended more toward the Dark Side on this…
Perhaps you are finding balance in The Force?
(Because there just wasn’t enough movie imagery going…)
I know you’ve been a fan of my graphics!
Yes, I have been more on the Dark Side… but I’m trying to be good. Everybody loves a redemption story, right?
What a wonderful post and thread.
It wasn’t the X-Wing that allowed Luke to blow up the Death Star, after all, was it? I certainly do think that camera minimalism allows us to focus on using The Force.
The Mamiya 7ii makes sense – you are so at home with the rangefinder approach, and the 6×7 film images are bound to please you. Your March 14th (Green Room) and 17th (Window Light Portrait) images are amongst my all time favourites from you.
The paradox will mean the question will never be settled, but I imagine that a camera system that is intuitive and unobtrusive enough for you to not be thinking too much about the camera while using it on the one hand, and that same camera system delivering close to your ideal image quality and rendering on the other, will be a camera that gives you the most peace. (It might not be limited to one camera system). Perhaps too, the continuation of the search itself is part of the formula that brings temporary respite from the circularity of the paradox. ‘Testing’ will disrupt it, but only delay it a while.
(And I haven’t even had my morning coffee yet!)
Thanks Linden. I am fond of those two Mamiya images too.
One could say that the Mamiya is going to lead to missed shots – ones you could have gotten with the M9. However, the other arguement is that when you do get a shot, it’s going to be beautiful and you’ll be able to enlarge it to huge sizes.
And anyway, if you don’t want to miss a shot, carry a 6K digital cinema camera, always have it recording, and never turn it off. That way, you’ll never miss a shot. Except, guess what? – you will anyway.
Okay, if you were shooting football for a living, you’d be using a camera nothing like the Mamiya. Then again, you did very well shooting your kids’ soccer games with a Leica.
I still have the M3, and I’ve shot their soccer and baseball games with it.
Dear Peter, You loved the rangefinder experience, why selling everything? How come the M3 comes short in your shooting experience (and all the lenses) if it’s just a colour issue with your digital body (Leica M)? Why bother? You have such a nice way to get to the point in your photographs.
I just took this photograph when I came back home tonight after a concert when I saw the moon.. It”s not perfect, I made 3 photographs and went to my daughter’s bedroom to show here that photograph because I knew she didn’t look or see the moon before going to bet, and I said to myself while showing that photo, why Peter sold is Leica? I read your post while traveling in the morning… This is so easy to work around any imperfections. Why bother? When I made this photograph, I was happy. I was happy to be back home.
I like your spontaneity though. I think that you will make good photographs anyways without Leica cameras. You have such a good eye. I’m sorry to ear you sold everything tho…
All the best. Jocelyn
Just to clarify: I still have the M3.
Obe One vs. Anikan Skywalker … Anikan won in the digital age in 2005!! …ahh, but then Luke came along in 1977 with analogue and good won out….
How will it all end??
Who cares, just enjoy the ride!
Which is what you are doing Peter 🙂
Ah, the Zen of photography! Good luck. The only way to know you have gone too far in one direction is to actually go too far.
Best wishes on photographic enlightenment. 😉
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