I am holed up in the command centre of the vast global entity that is Paul Amyes Photography taking shelter from the heat of the Aussie sun and pondering what 2014 will bring while my minions work hard to bring about my plans for global domination. Actually the end of the year and the beginning of the next are very good for such musings, so good that the Romans actually had a god of transitions, beginnings and endings, he was called Janus and January was named after him. He is depicted as having two faces, one looking to the past and the other looking to the future. This has led to the whole idea of making New Year’s resolutions whereby a person makes a promise to make an act of self-improvement commencing on the start of the New Year.
“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
Photography is a very broad church and people do it for all sorts of reasons and one of the attractions is that equipment has a fetishistic appeal. There is something about cameras and lenses that makes us lust after them, day-dream incessantly, continuously peruse websites looking to put together the ultimate camera system. The term fetish means “an inanimate object worshipped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit” and camera equipment is certainly worshipped, which implies a religion, which explains the virulent brand wars that flare up on online forums such as dpreview.com. It is probably just as well that this is online for if the protagonists were ever to meet in actual life ethnic cleansing based upon camera brand would surely be the result. Then look at the magical powers that are imbued by certain lenses. Oh if only you had a Leica 50mm Noctilux f/0.95, a Canon 85mm f1.2 L or a Nikkor 400mm f/2.8G IF ED VR then you could truly ascend to the astounding heights of photographic greatness as you’d never ever take a bad picture again.*
“Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”
From reading the forums it seems that a lot of people spend the equivalent of a small third world nations GDP in trying to get the ultimate image quality only never to see those images ever displayed larger than a low res web image or to never to take the equipment out because it is too heavy and cumbersome. I often wonder at how many millions of dollars worth of photographic equipment lies in the back of cupboards unused.** Before the mob assembles and proclaims me a sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, self-satisfied, smug, pietistic, moralizing, unctuous, mealy-mouthed, hypocritical prig and lynches me I would like to say that I am guilty of all the above (except for the bit of fantasying about a Nikkor – ugh!). Now at the grand old age of 50 and after nearly 30 of them practicing photography in one form or other I now realise that no one piece of equipment that I’ve bought has made me a better photographer.***
“The old year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!”
E. P. Powell
Getting back to our two faced friend Janus and looking back over 2013 I can see that going out and taking photos, working on projects and showing them has made me feel photographically satisfied. So if like me you’re sitting at home wondering what 2014 will bring might I suggest a modest proposal? Instead of buying gear and hanging out on gear forums use your photography budget to travel somewhere photographically interesting, or hire some models, or devise a project and do an exhibition or publish a book. Set goals that are realistic, I’ve been wishing National Geographic and Magnum will come knocking for years now to no avail, and write them down. Then break down those those goals into their key components and then work out a time frame in which you can complete them. Looking forward to 2014 I have an idea of where I want to go and a rough idea of how to get there. It gives me something to look forward to, something to work towards and will give me a sense of accomplishment when I achieve it.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”
* I bought a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L several years ago and I’m still taking rubbish. Can I get my money back?
** There’s no way I’m admitting to what lies in the darkest recesses of my cupboards, nor its financial cost. My wife sometimes reads this blog and there’s no way I will incriminate myself.
*** Actually one item did make me a better photographer, it was a tripod.