Cameras do matter (sort of)

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

A month or so ago, I wrote a long post talking about a Sony digital compact camera I had that died. I wrote about how much I loved that camera. Wrote about how it taught me more about photography than almost any camera I had every used.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

I talked about how it cured me of G.A.S. True that, and kind of funny that it took a compact camera from 2006 to do it. Well, since it has died I’ve tried to fill the void with other cameras. I’ve tried numerous compacts. They just aren’t the same.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

After speaking to a friend about this problem, he mentioned that whenever talking about the Sony and why I liked it so much I always said the reason I liked it so much was that in the way it worked. It reminded me of the film Ricoh camera I had similarly loved.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

It is funny. I remember buying the Ricoh GR21 on reputation alone. At the time, I had Leicas and other such nonsense. I spent most of my time worrying about how to take photos. How I SHOULD take photos. I don’t think I actually “saw” anything.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

At the time, I was living in a small town south of Seoul. No matter where I had taken photos before I feel as though I had done so in order to try and take a good one.

I had it all wrong.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

I had it all wrong because I hadn’t yet figured out that photography to me wasn’t ever going to be about that. Was never going to be about taking a “good” photo.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Photography is about memory. Not the making of memories, but about the capturing of them. I remember the day I took this photo of the bus. Remember where I was and what I was doing. Remember who I was with. All because of a simple trick of light and chemical.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

I remember where I was for all of these frames. I often say the camera doesn’t matter, but I think I was wrong about that as well. The camera matters because it is directly responsible for the way you feel when you take a photo.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

I remember the first day I shot with the Ricoh. I was having a hard time understanding why what I thought was a hipster vanity camera cost as much as a semi-pro DSLR. I think when I started shooting I forgot about that.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

I forgot about everything to be honest. Shooting with it wasn’t much of a thought process. You just shoot. Everything is in focus, most everything is in the frame. The flash is just a switch, no poppy-uppy bullshit. I think that was the first day of real photography I had done. The first real roll of film I had shot.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

I wasn’t thinking about anything really. Wasn’t thinking about shooting. The compact camera lends itself to that. The viewfinder lends itself to feeling attached. It just works. There isn’t any barrier between the moment I see and the moment I shoot. Different than what I’d felt before.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Probably my biggest regret in photography is getting rid of that camera. I didn’t do it because I wanted to. Things happen and it was an expensive luxury.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Ironically, a while ago I deleted nearly every photo I had every taken. Almost everything I kept came from this camera, that digital Sony, or a phone.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Maybe not that ironically. The photos here, are from 4 rolls of film (tmax400 pushed to 1600) shot over the course of the month before I last left Korea. I think most of them I kept because they did something the thousands of photos I had taken aside from this hadn’t.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

They reminded me of Korea. Reminded me of how it felt to be here when I wasn’t. I didn’t go out in search of photos from a particular camera. That isn’t how it works during the mass purge of an archive. Just happened to have gone that way.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Not a coincidence.

This is the same reason I fell in love with the Sony compact I wrote about last month. It made me feel the exact same way when I shot with it. I don’t remember shooting with it. Don’t remember thinking to shoot. It kind of just happens.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Perhaps more ironic is the fact that the photos from the Sony remind me most of these from the GR21. Two cameras that couldn’t be more different to most people. The lens cap of the GR21 probably costs more than the entire Sony. A completely different focal length, medium.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

They look similar because I feel similar when I use them. So, going back to my earlier point, cameras do matter in as much as how they make you feel when you use them.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Probably not the case for all.

Definitely in fact.

Newfoundland, Canada. Ricoh GR21.

Newfoundland, Canada. Ricoh GR21.

For me though, it is completely the truth. The only truth. Photography is nothing more or less than an expression of capturing how I feel. Perhaps that is why I almost feel like I’m looking through my own eyes (a second time) when I see these photos.

And now I understand,

is why I take them.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GR21.

So, I admit freely that the camera does matter when making a photograph. I’ve understood this only through figuring out how a camera makes me feel. And, I at least know which to find.

Too bad this one wasn’t cheaper and less fucking rare, ha.

😦

Anyway, until next time.

From Seoul, South Korea.

June 21st, 2015.

22 thoughts on “Cameras do matter (sort of)

  1. You said it: The camera doesn’t matter. Your feeling matters. The best camera is the one that gives you a good feeling, going out of the way and just let you shoot. In the end it’s just you 🙂

  2. I too had a Ricoh once and got rid of it. Now I wonder if I did the right thing, the X100 I am using now is a great camera but it doesn’t quite have soul like the Ricoh did. Is it possible for a camera to have soul? I think so…

    • I’ll tell you man, that Sony felt like it did to me. I fixed it with parts from eBay for 28 dollars all in. Seems to be resurrected again but we will see. As much as I loved the GR21 it is hard to justify like 1000CAD for a compact. Problem one. Problem two is even if I wanted to spend the money they are like impossible to find haha.

      • I just went on Ebay out of curiousity and there is one going now, but for $1080 US. Ouch! They do throw in free postage though which is kind of them…Ha

      • Haha, the other problem is they can’t be repaired so if I was going to buy one I would want to be pretty sure it was good. I think I’ll keep a look out here for one in decent condition. Luckily the Sony seems to be working again which is a start. Will probably buy the first GR21 I see though ha. For as much as I love the Sony, the lens just isn’t wide enough for street photography for me.

  3. There is a bit to do with feel. I recently picked up a Nikon Df and quickly fell in love with it. Shooting with it matches my style and I find I enjoy shooting with it more than my other cameras. Can I get good results without it? Of course, but much prefer to shoot with it.

  4. Blimey, you must see the world differently to me, I sometimes think the 35mm on the X100 is too wide. Good luck with your Ricoh hunt.

    • Haha I guess we all see it a bit differently. Very rare someone doesn’t talk to me after I’ve taken their photo because I get pretty close. Maybe it’s my way to get over being normally shy. And thanks! We will see how it goes. Hopefully my wallet agrees with me when I find one 😉

  5. I enjoyed this article…and I understand. Any modern camera will give technically good pictures, but what we felt when we took the pictures can’t be removed from the pictures themselves; that’s the whole idea behind photography (in my opinion) we are saving memories for later in life.

    I also print some pictures for the same reason; I want to dig through a big box of prints when I’m older and relive them again instead of logging on to flickr…not the same 🙂

  6. O yes. Enjoyed the article also. I almost regret also selling my GR III. Strange thing is, baught a second hand Ricoh XF1 for more zoom, but an old Panasonic Lumix without RAW feels more natural…. And my D80 of course! With 1.8 50 mm or 1.8 25 mm and even kitlens 18-55 mm VRII.
    Thanks for the post.

  7. Oeps, some stupid mistakes.
    Of course it is: FUJI XF1 and of course 35 mmm….
    (O yes. Enjoyed the article also. I almost regret also selling my GR III. Strange thing is, baught a second hand Fuji XF1 for more zoom, but an old Panasonic Lumix without RAW feels more natural…. And my D80 of course! With 1.8 50 mm or 1.8 35 mm and even kitlens 18-55 mm VRII.)

  8. Oeps, made some stupid mistakes.
    Of course it is: FUJI XF1 and DX 1.8 35 mm…

    (Enjoyed the article also. I almost regret also selling my GR III. Strange thing is, baught a second hand Fuji XF1 for more zoom, but an old Panasonic Lumix without RAW feels more natural…. And my D80 of course! With 1.8 50 mm or 1.8 35 mm and even kitlens 18-55 mm VRII.)

  9. The very same way I felt about my phone! I can’t photograph without it or its past model. It became part of my body. Perhaps also how you felt on your Sony. Oddly, I felt too comfortable with it and i wanted a challenge from a selected camera.

  10. Really nice photos. I love the little Ricoh’s. Do you use/have a GR1S? A bit cheaper and readily available, or are you in love with the 21mm?

    • I have used all of them including the original GR1 (and even the older ones). I think I just like being as close as possible so wider the better. That said, I shoot almost always with a 35mm lens now so go figure.

  11. Really good article and set of photographs! I can understand why you mentioned Hosoe, Moriyama and Koudelka when seeing such a distinct aesthetic (i.e. gritty, grainy and contrasted). One geeky question: what film were you using at the time? Or are you still using.

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