F$%K GAS

Toronto

Toronto

DEFINITION

Gear Acquisition Syndrome (abbreviated to GAS) is a term used to describe an urge to acquire and accumulate lots of gear.

TREATMENT

None

GAS hasn’t received any major medical attention. GAS is not a clinical condition. It can be the result of a psychological lack of personality.

source: Wikipedia.

A lot of people have asked me a lot lately about cameras and getting over the feeling of wanting every fucking camera you see. As much as I hate gear talk now, I really feel like this post is necessary.

I had sorta decided to just ignore requests to talk about this topic. I’ve just really come to absolutely despise talking about gear and equipment. It pissed me off to see people talking about it. Just feeding the monster, ha.

But, this week a good friend of mine had read an interview I had recently done where I mentioned the first camera I ever loved and the only one I actually ever kept; a Leica Digilux 2. It was the first camera I ever bought that I really can say I really was attached to. It was also like a gateway drug to the world of Leica that saw me spend 50k in the next three years. All the while the first camera I ever picked up for something that mattered was that old Digilux 2. That friend had had the camera for a while and decided to send it to me after a talk last week. Grateful for that.

Toronto

Toronto

The photos I’m using in this post are some I did in Toronto on assignment (Aside from the last, haha). It was documenting the cultural diversity of Toronto. In this particular situation my M9 battery died after 30 or so photos for no apparent reason so I did the rest of the night with the Digilux. I didn’t end up using a single photo from the M9.

Toronto

Toronto

It’s all bullshit isn’t it? I’m a member of a bunch of different groups in Seoul and I have just about given up on all of them. I am sick of going and hearing people talk about nothing other than their gear. The last time I went to one it was just a Google session with the members sitting around a coffee shop trying to figure out which versions of the Summiluxicronarit they have. Who gives a fuck?

Toronto

Toronto

How about this for a Google session. How about using Google to say, I don’t know, search for SOME PHOTOS. How about spending the thousands of dollars you’ve spent on the Canon 50mm f1.2 or Sony RXwhatever the fuck it is called and buy a photo book and go on a trip. Invest in knowledge and experience.

I left that particular group after realizing that I had said the previous aloud(with more expletives) while daydreaming that I had wanted to say it. The poor girl sitting next to me looked like she had thought I had a seizure. She then quickly asked me, ‘so what camera are you using then?”

Toronto.

Toronto.

People will always argue the point that they “need” certain cameras or lenses for certain things. Things like BOKEH, HA. Okay, so that argument is still somewhat true. I like a bit of BOKEH every now and then when I want to get some likes from my idiot Facebook friends or go explored on Flickr. Do I need a Noctilux and a Leica M240495043? No, No, and No. Oh, and NO! I have an ancient Sony DSLR and a more ancient Minolta 50mm lens that works just fine. You can ask my Facebook friends, they seem to like it. Total cost is less than dinner at an expensive Seoul restaurant. I can probably eat at said hypothetical restaurant everyday for like the rest of my adulthood for the money I would save from buying a Noctilux. Plus, I think I can make more friends with some food BOKEH photos from said restaurant a lot more easily than by talking about the way aperture blade arrangement change the characteristics of spherical elements of whatever of whatever of whatever………

End of angry rant, ha. Honestly though, it has taken me a long time to figure this out myself. I was as guilty as anyone and thus is perhaps why I am prone to spontaneous outbursts of anti-GAS frustration. If you’re made of money, fine. Buy whatever makes you happy and whatever you think will help you make friends. If you’re not made of money, save for the dates you will invariably be able to go on after you stop talking about the significance of  full frame sensors vs crop frame sensors to everyone you meet. If you feel like there is a more reasonable reason for why you’ve recently bought some new camera or lens then you are most definitely kidding yourself.

Toronto

Toronto

Some people I meet say they don’t suffer from GAS. Or, they say they buy cameras because they like them. Or, they say they “need” things the newest LECANIKON can do. They say that none of these things apply to them. They almost always say “I do it for me, not for other people”. Trust me, as a recovering addict I can tell you if you think you don’t suffer from any of these things but have bought camera equipment in the past six months you’re probably in denial. Ask yourself have you ever taken a photo of your camera? Have you taken a photo of your lens? Have you taken a photo with your bag on the floor and all your gear spread out like some sort of dissection? I’ve done all of the above and I’m quite sure I didn’t do it for any other reason than from some weird subconscious “need” to show off. Maybe my kindergarten teacher didn’t have show-and-tell day often enough. The fact that some people don’t know they’re doing these things is both more ridiculous and more dangerous.

Toronto

Toronto

In the end, we are all fucking geeks. The question you should ask yourself is this:

Do you want to be a PHOTO geek or a CAMERA geek?

There is most definitely a difference.

Anyway, to those of you who really dislike gear talk accept my humblest of apologies. Regular scheduled programming to return soon. Also, I’m planning a trip to Hong Kong if anyone is there let me know. Unless you’re a GAS sufferer.

I don’t think that situation would be good for my health.

Anyway, peace kids.

I have a photo of my Leica Digilux 2 to find so I can Instagram it.

F$%K GAS

F$%K GAS

25 thoughts on “F$%K GAS

  1. Your article rings true; indeed a camera is not required at all. I have expressed myself at times through charcoal, acrylics on canvas, ceramics, glass and still maintain a smithy where I forge iron and steel. I would even consider some math a vehicle personal artistic expression. My wife sings professionally, my father puts up fantastic architecture, my brother does CGI of talking animals, my daughter dances and does Wushu at a high level and my son is a brilliant story teller. Artistic expression is not dependent on gear.

    Why then, is photography so popular? First, photography has been automated to the point where even a child can pick up a camera and achieve quick and satisfying results. Digital photography gives instant feedback and a steep learning curve with respect to artistic merit. Some enthusiasts also choose to work on their craft, mastering techniques, the use of film and gelatin silver prints as media and some even explore chemistry and alternative processes.

    Secondly, photography provides the opportunity to express our love of gear, to collect cameras and share these loves with our peers.

    Despite my love of the visual arts, I am unashamedly a collector first, a technician second, a writer third and artist fourth. I see no harm in that and recommend that we all embrace the grand diversity that photography offers.

    • Dan, I agree with you in the respect that a camera isn’t needed for creativity. Of course, if photography is your hobby it is necessary to have a tool.I suppose my point is the creativity involved in photography is more often than not hampered by an abundance of equipment than helpful. As I said in a previous comment the best road to creativity for most is through the need to circumvent perimeters.

      With that being said, I also agree with the “collector” argument. I believe you are in the category of person to whom I hardly meant this for and that is probably why we can both laugh at this at it should be laughed at. I also, enjoy talking about cameras with collectors and for that value. I can also understand the desire to use something that you collect in the same way an art collector looks at a painting. In fact, the most probable reason for GAS in general with things like guitars and cameras is the ability to use what is collected. I equate it to my father’s addiction to vintage cars. Remember him once saying he felt like he was having the ride James Dean never had while driving a Lotus Mark IX.

      I think the person I targeted my somewhat satirical argument at was the “me” circa 50k worth of Leica. I was not a collector, but someone who lusted after every camera and wanted to purchase them without the understanding that they were not the key to being a better photographer. I never once realized during those years that I kept using the oldest of the bunch when I actually had to photograph something that mattered. It is to the person who constantly buys new equipment in the hope that each piece is the key to their creative vision that I worry for. I see far too much snobbery in photography and showing off especially when it comes to equipment to the point where a lot of students I teach feel as if they CANNOT take a good photo because they do not have the right equipment. It is that person whom I hope get something out of this and decide to just say fuck those guys with their Leicas and giant Canikons and go out and just take photos. A friend of mine recently told me he wanted to quit photography as a hobby because he was getting “teased” at a photo club meeting because of his camera. The satirical nature of my argument only thinly veiled my anger at such situations. It really isn’t kindergarten class show and tell.

      Anyway, I digress, ha. I know you understand all of this, and I really appreciate your insight. I’m glad you commented as your comment allowed me to elaborate on to whom I meant this for and to whom I didn’t. Collectors, rest easy 😉 It’s a different sorta thing when you understand the motives behind the decision to buy.

      • I think we’re all pretty much on the same page; we all agree that a $100 second hand camera kit can deliver great images and that the difference between a cheap uncoated pre-war Elmar and a current production Summilux multicoated aspherical is far less important to art than confidence, a good eye, the experience to work a model, the knack of reading a street situation and the vision to make it say something.

        However, for the purposes of thrashing out the fine details, let’s say I had two lenses of similar specificaltion, say a valuable Noct-Nikkor 58mm 1:1.2 and a much cheaper Non-Aspherical FD 55mm f/1.2 and a late afternoon portrait shoot with a typical outdoor background. Which should I take out?

        My own preference would be for the Nikkor, with its creamy bokeh, rather than the Canon which renders horribly (IMO).

        Should I own both? My decision to buy them both was to see how they compared (besides being a greedy hoarder). I do use the FD, but only on shoots where the lens may be damaged, such as a beach shoot or climbing on rocks.

        I would be interested in hearing how Josh (and the other readers) would answer these two questions.

      • We are getting into fine lines here now, which is fine. I’m glad the argument has gone deeper than I had initially intended.

        In some ways I believe both questions are moot as the “you” in the situation (whether it be you, Dan, or a hypothetical you) is already the owner of both lenses. Also, it seems to me that they understand the differences and need for both. If “you” can afford both and your motivation for owning both is as you state then by all means. The crux of my initial argument was more to the point that “you” doesn’t NEED to own both. If the “you” is not you, Dan, an experienced photographer and collector then perhaps having the choice isn’t a positive. Furthermore, I would argue it is a hindrance. It is a hindrance in that if “you” only owned the cheaper of the options (we will assume it is the worst choice in the portrait scenario) he or she would be forced to actively make a creative decision as to how to “deal” with the shit bokeh. Through this exercise, they might use the environment to create separation or find an area to exploit contrast as opposed to relying on the bokeh of the more expensive lens or putting up with the shit bokeh of the other. There are a plethora of ways to make a photo with the cheap lens so owning both is far from a necessity. Most of the people that I encounter could do well to have such limitations. They might very well be surprised by the results. I took one of my favorite portraits after the aperture on my 35mm Summilux jammed at f8 and I was forced to use my aunts compact camera. The environment that ended up being the backdrop for the photo (IMO) made it a much stronger photograph than the wide open bokeh-ed out portrait with the Summilux would have been. I hadn’t even considered shooting it any other way until I realized the ring had jammed.

        I hope this answers both questions, at least from my point of view.

      • In reply to Dan’s question that he posed, I don’t think it’s necessary to own both. I think it’s a silly notion to own and choose not to use the lens that you both prefer and is more enjoyable to use overall. I understand one if more valuable than the other, but gear was meant to be used, not babied. Say if you were to take a photo with your not so great FD that you actually really liked, I think that the thought of “I could’ve taken it with the Nikkor and now I’m going to wonder what that would have looked like” would bother some people, so not even having the choice to begin with, and shooting and owning only the lens that you like would make the most sense.

        When I worked hard to afford purchasing the 85mm f/1.2L II, I didn’t leave it at home when I thought shooting situations might not be great and buy an 85mm f/1.8 to use in its place. I just shoot with my 1.2 because I’ve always wanted to and why bother using and owning the other variant?

        If I happened to own both, I would end up selling one or the other in order to afford the other. The one that saw less use would be sold in a heartbeat and I would use the one I preferred more.

        Let me know if I understood the questions you posed correctly!

  2. Everyone is guilty for it most definitely and it’s so easy to get caught up in the technicalities.

    The one thing I do like however, is how a new and different camera can help me see things in a new light such as the xpan did.

    And now with the GR, it has re ignited that passion in getting out to shoot; trying something new and shooting wide. It adds to the overall enjoyment of getting out to shoot. Because at the end of the day, you have to enjoy what you’re doing.

    It’s great to stick to one camera and body and get to know it inside out, I get that. But it can also get you stuck in a pigeon hole shooting the same thing. I use my 5d for paid jobs and work, but I don’t care to use it much for my personal work and far prefer a film camera and small point and shoot in my spare time. Change can be good, it can be bad, but to me, I get great personal joy out of trying and shooting with something new and it helps my vision for sure.

    I think so long as you’re using all of your said gear and worrying about the images you make with it rather than the technical qualities only of the images, it can be a good thing

    I think the issue, like you had mentioned, is getting too caught up and worrying about the gear and only the gear and not making images on a consistent basis.

    From Toronto with Love,

    Tyler

    • haha, Tyler I guess we should preface this by saying we are good friends. I also somewhat agree. However, I think the pigeon hole you speak of is in itself the actual problem. That shouldn’t be attempted to be fixed with a new camera or lens. The fixed-ness of that single tool should be the spur for artistic creativity and not a crutch for artistic procrastination. I’ve heard before the most artistic and creative of minds are spurred by the existence of limitations, not by appearance of opportunity..

      That love right back at you bro, but from the land of kimchi and K-pop.

      • Well put, I guess you could almost relate this situation to a romantic relationship…

        It might be fun to fool around with many different women because it’s all fun and new to you each time…or you could stick with that one girl who’s just right for you and be completely satisfied with that

        XP

  3. I’ve been following your blog for a couple of monthes now. In the morning I turn on my computer and after having a smoke & a cup coffee I might be lucky to find your latest message of the day in my mailbox. I’ll read it and have thoughts about what you wrote like “Oh well today is not his best day…”.

    It’s like an deveolping process in my brain. I’ll have my second smoke after reading your message and then I brush my teeth and walk to work.

    Your friends comments about your images… Just like my friends comment my images. My wife is telling me that the world is so rich of colors… and that I take depressive b/w images. A lot of my friends don’t understand the message of my images. and I’m to lazy (or to arrogant) to explain to them if they don’t get the message in my pictures.

    Your latest message about the GAS hit me this morning. And yes, somehow I made the same progress as you did about two years ago. Photographers round tables… and then they only talk about GEAR. BORING!!!

    If I would have this or if I would have that then I could do this or I could do that. Bullshit, just get your ass up and out on the street and face the trues and catch what’s going on. There is no need for fancy digital cameras and lenses.

    I almost sold all of my collected equipment and bought me a Pentax 67. Inspite to have ONLY one Camera and ONLY one lens.

    How did my plan turn out so far?

    Yes, I bought a couple of lenses and sold a few of them. I’m guessing and testing which one I should keep. I spend hours and hours to read reviews on the internet about lenses instead of going out and take pictures. STUPID!

    Well I’m getting better but I’m not cured so far. Actually I’m looking for a Pentax 67II because it is more easy to work with. That is what I believe… SILLY

    My camera gear addiction is getting better but I’m not over the “I NEED THIS URGENTLY OR I DIE” hill. But the progress is developing in a positive way.

    Me? To be honest I’m very happy with my little Fuji X10. The camera offers to me everything I need!. On the other hand I love film. I die for film. I love to smell film. I love to take my Pentax 67 and look at it. I’ll polish the black shiny prism with my wooljacket. I’m still a GEAR Geek. But I’ll fight it in my own way.

    After a day out on the street I’ll can’t wait to develop the films taken that day… Like a little boy opening his xmas presents I open the developing tank and look at the film negatives. BOY this is soooo good.

    Still crazy after all these years…

    Keep on going and thanks for sharing all your thoughts!

    Michael

    • Hi Michael, it’s certainly a struggle we never completely free ourselves from. I give up doing it with cameras then I buy more of something else. The addiction, is to shopping, no to cameras. Glad you’re doing well.

      Josh

  4. JT, I have been following you for quite a while now, and we have only met once, briefly, but you were always known as “the guy that has all of THE cameras”. It is funny how much people change over time. But I love reading your angry rants because I often find myself in the same mindset at the same time. For the last two years I have owned a Nikon D800 and the f/ 1.4 lenses for it which ain’t cheap. I found myself lusting for a Leica M240 to accompany my M6. But after I was deployed to Afghanistan, I really couldn’t lug a Nikon D800 around and wasn’t even supposed to be taking pictures in the first place. But some rules are going to be broken. So I bought a Ricoh GR as soon as it was announced and carried it with me everyday, everywhere in places I was not supposed to. I shot with this camera 99% of the time even though I had a weather/ water resistant Nikon kit that cost five times just gathering dust in my hooch. Near the end of my deployment, I put the camera in my backpack in the same pocket I had a couple of energy drinks I was going to use to give to Afghanis in exchange for a couple of pictures of them. One of the sodas exploded and leaked sticky liquid inside the camera (it was sitting there for a good hour). The camera started to glitch up and I had to send in to the service center. Fast forward, and on return from deployment I ended up visiting Atlanta, New York, and Mexico City while on R&R. The whole time I was carrying my Nikon kit as my Ricoh GR was still at the service center awaiting parts from Japan. I realized that I didn’t need all those heavy lenses while I was walking 10 miles a day that might get me one or two creamy bokeh shots. I didn’t need to constantly worry about someone stealing my camera gear out of my hands while I walked through back alley markets in Mexico City. There is only so much time you have each day to go and experience a place on a vacation, so why worry about changing lenses out constantly or nailing that candid shot at f/ 1.4 without being noticed with a huge expensive camera in your hands. The truth of the matter that I have found is that the simpler your camera gear, the more it forces you to turn inwards in order to create photos, or capture the moment that is unfolding in front of you. It has taken years and lots of money to figure this all out and I am not sure if I have still truly figured it out as my Nikon D800 still sits in a bag in my room, as well as my Leica M6 kit. But I don’t miss them when I am out in the streets…..

    • Hey Michael! Good to hear from you. I think the most important thing you’ve said is the realization that expensive camera gear really is often more of a hindrance than anything else. I sometimes carry around that old DSLR with me just because I like the look compared to something else. My point certainly wasn’t that we should own no cameras, but more that we shouldn’t lust after every camera.

      Be careful of those energy drinks sir! And stay safe. Hopefully our paths cross someday!

      Josh

  5. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. We all envy cameras we think will make better photos and thus make us better liked. A better camera can take a better picture just like a better gun can shoot more accurately or powerfully, but if you don’t really know how to use it, well, you know what I am talking about…

  6. I’m doing much better with this, but just returned for a reminder and to stop me from clicking a ‘buy now’ button for a lens I really don’t need.

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