On Being a Photographer - Part Two
Writing is a very cathartic activity for me except that when life gets so hard that I no longer feel like I am really alive but more or less bent on surviving, then I quit writing at least not for an audience, not for you, my dear readers.
I keep on taking pictures though... almost everyday. This is so vital to me that most times, I feel like I am truly breathing in and out three, ten, twenty times better whenever my eyes notice something worth catching and even better something worth keeping.
Not that my treasure is really growing nowadays.
I have been thinking a lot about this. My best pictures “ever” are quite behind me. And not at all because of my quite defective vision. And not because I am getting older and backward-looking either.
Now don’t take me wrong. I still take good pictures, some of them being nonetheless very good. Thank you. But maybe my passion is getting dampened, a little bit like when a couple gets older. Man and woman still in love but in a more sedate way. Still good but not as inspiring as before nor as breathtaking as during the first years. And yet with a lot of happiness and a sense of fulfillment after all.
There were times though when my mind was truly overflowing with thousands of ideas and my eye behind the camera would do the trick. Ideas metamorphosing into challenging pictures.
Now I keep on taking “pretty” pictures while working on a few projects without caring very much whether my pictures will end up in an exhibit or not. There were times when I had to put on an exhibition every few months or I’d feel like a failure. I was putting a lot of effort into sharing my work. Now this is more like: whatever happens...
Is this wisdom? Have I learnt to be patient at last? One thing I know for sure is that I am not talking about renunciation but something more like serenity after all.
So there I am, still taking pictures.
I use all sorts of cameras. Small ones, easy to carry around. Professional ones. Impressive lenses too. So impressive that when I am walking around with my very technical-looking Nikon round my neck, people stop me and start asking me questions about taking pictures. Well not really about taking pictures but more about me being a photographer. And actually not really people as in men and women but men only.
Men do that all the time. They can’t refrain from doing it. I call this the phallic complex.
(So far I still have to meet the girl who would be so interested by some large and heavy camera and lenses that she’d walk up to me and start asking rather stupid questions. Girls talk a lot about cameras when they want to buy one though. Sharing information can be quite enjoyable then.)
Two weeks ago, I was walking through a very charming medieval village in Brittany. Looking around. Taking a few pictures of course. I walked by a couple of men sitting at the terrace of a very small café. Actually I would not have noticed them. But then I heard...
“Using such a camera pays off, doesn’t it? I am sure that all your pictures are excellent.”
Usually I don’t answer this kind of comment. But his remark really got on my nerves. I stopped, took a good look at the man. He was nice actually. My age. Phallic complex again, I know.
“Well actually I am the one who takes excellent pictures. Because my eye is right behind the viewfinder and my finger on the shutter release. I am the photographer after all.”
I turned towards Popeye who was right behind me. He was sporting a very nice camera too. But he is a man, right?
We had a good chuckle over it once we were driving away. But honestly I hate this kind of remark.
Were I rich enough to buy a Stradivarius, would this incredible violin transform me into an excellent concert violinist because it would start playing on its own?
I know that this can become a serious problem for many would-be photographers. (I am not being derogatory there.)
For quite a long time I was pretty happy with cameras of average quality, mainly because I could not afford those quite expensive cameras professional photographers have to use. And I learnt to master photographic techniques with those quite “humble” cameras.
Why do professional photographers need those impressive cameras? Mainly because they are asked to provide high-quality pictures. Getting high-quality pictures calls for high-quality equipment. (Especially since most professional exhibits require rather large format prints.)
But on the other hand, high-quality equipment does not necessarily ensure excellent pictures unless you are good at taking them.
Nothing could be simpler actually!
And this is the reason why most of the time I am buying my top-of-the-range cameras and lenses secondhand and yet brand-new. (Would-be photographers [and I am uncomplimentary there!] buy them only to become disheartened very quickly when they don’t get those wonderful pictures they have been told they’d take so easily. And they end up selling them a few weeks later... So sad.)
I usually buy my cameras and my lenses from some stranger who was led to believe that owning a Stradivarius would turn him into Yehudi Menuhin.
Do not worry though... I do not believe that I am the next Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange or Robert Adams or...
Sometimes I wish I were. I am not.
But I sure know how to play my Stradivarius-Nikon-whatever...
*Good Night, and Good Luck*