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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Probably not the case for all.
Definitely in fact.
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.
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.