Thoughts on my Style, Criticism, and Expensive vs. Cheap Cameras

Sony DSC-W100. Taken with Leica M-P, Zeiss 35mm f2.

So, it’s been some time since I’ve talked about this camera. I credit this camera with being the camera that actually taught me what photography really was. It wasn’t the Leica M9 or Leica M8 I had before this. Wasn’t the M6 or the M3.

It was this, the Sony DSC-W100.

Sony DSC-W100.

You may be thinking, how is this possible? Well, it is simple.

Pun intended.

Take the two photos above. Each taken with the camera not pictured. Of these two photos, I far prefer the one taken with the Sony. This isn’t a testament to the technical capabilities of the camera, don’t get me wrong. It is something else entirely.

Iksan, South Korea. Sony DSC-W100.

The photos are essentially of the same thing. When I took the photo with the Leica, I didn’t consider the background. Not really, anyway. I didn’t need to. With an ND filter and f2 there was no need. There isn’t much context. There isn’t much soul.

The second photo, taken with the Sony, took a lot more mental effort. Settings on a camera are like learning times tables. Eventually, you just know what is what. A photo like the first with the Leica didn’t take any effort. The Sony photo, I had to consider the background, the context, and the framing. I took one without the strap, and then realized the strap would make the photo more interesting. The settings, well, they just set themselves. It is a point and shoot after all.

Iksan, South Korea. Sony DSC-W100.

My first meeting with this Sony was when I found it under the seat of my Aunt’s car. It had spent two hard and long Newfoundland winters there and it showed. It took some TLC to get it going again. After I did get it going, I realized after my first 10 or so photos that this camera wasn’t something I was used to. Its limitations forced me to think about things like composition and background. They forced me to use the flash and figure out how to make the flash work for me. The camera forced me to learn how to “make” a photograph instead of taking one. Taking a photograph involved settings and maths. Making a photograph involves vision and instinct.

For instance, if a background is busy on a Leica I would be more inclined to shoot wide open. On the Sony, I am forced to find alternative ways to frame a photo or use flash to isolate a subject. It is an interesting dichotomy.

I have two basic styles of shooting. First, I like to shoot with things like a rangefinder. I like soft and nostalgic photos. I like taking them. For me, making a photo in that situation is figuring out what scene would work. It is figuring out where and when. It is about making photographs that I will want to remember.

Fond memories, as it were.

Iksan, South Korea. Sony DSC-W100.

The second style is reserved for less fond memories. Nostalgic? I suppose so, but of a different kind. These photos tend to be harsher and darker. Some people have criticized (politely and constructively) for getting away from this style. The fact of the matter is, I just haven’t been in that “place” for some time. Over the past couple days I had been. I should say, all these photos were taken from in my apartment in the small-ish town of Iksan, South Korea.

Iksan, South Korea. Sony DSC-W100.

All photographs, in my estimation, are somehow self portraits of the photographer who has taken them. Maybe I shouldn’t generalize but for me this is certainly the case. My photographs directly reflect my mood. If they are nostalgic, I’m probably feeling such. If they are moody, the same. I don’t take photos with much conscious thought. They just are, what they are.

Iksan, South Korea. Sony DSC-W100.

I don’t take photos with my mind. I heard Anders Petersen once say that he shoots with his gut and edits with his brain. I think I do everything with my gut. I do it all without much thought or reason. Maybe I’m weird, I don’t know.

DSC00073-Edit

Iksan, South Korea. Sony DSC-W100.

On a different note, there are two cameras featured in this blog post and one is literally worth the price of a coffee while the other is worth as much as many of these cars pictured. To be honest, I just as much like the photos from the Sony. I love shooting with a Leica, if I’m happy. Being happy, a Leica feels like my friend. A Leica feels like a dependable dog that I want to take out for a walk. I usually have a jump in my step when I’m shooting with one.

The Sony, on the other hand, I take out when I’m down or depressed. I don’t want to feel happy when I take photos with it. I have no idea why this is the case. I take it out when I need time to think about something else. The photos tend to be more chaotic, probably because they match my state of mind when I’m using it. The camera has died several times but always seems to come back to life with enough time and prodding. People say I should buy another, I’m not sure I should. I don’t think a new one will ever be the same.

Iksan, South Korea. Sony DSC-W100.

Truthfully, it has many faults. I mean, the distortion is horrible (not bad at 50mm equivalent like above but horrible at 38) and takes the completely stupid Sony memory cards. These are basically the reason I hate using it more than anything else. Fuck, I hate those stupid cards. I’d love to just edit the photos from this camera on my phone or iPad.

However, it is the camera that taught me how to be a “photographer”..

It is the camera that stopped me taking photos.

And started me making them.

Iksan, South Korea. Sony DSC-W100.

________________________________________

On a side note, the Wearethestreet workshop still has some spots available for our July workshops in Seoul. If you follow the link above you can find all the information needed to sign up! Would love to see some of you out for it! I’m excited to hang out with all of you, plus Junku, Sean, Nick, Aik, and Chulsu as well as the Leica Korea team.

Or, at the very least, come out to the exhibition!

Wearethestreet Workshop and Exhibition Poster @Jt_inseoul.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on my Style, Criticism, and Expensive vs. Cheap Cameras

  1. As always Josh, wonderful written! Cameras can produce weird feelings and relations, I remember how I bought a second hand em5(the old one) and had an instant let down from the kit lens. Half a year later I added the Panaleica 25 and loved it, small, versatile, and awesome. Traveled with me through Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and China. In China I got an XT1 body, total gut decision, best thing I ever did. I could hardly afford the body, so I adapted an Olympus OM 28 lense, never changed it. The shooting style was so different from both, the Olympus feels very digital, is quite fast but at times totally confusing, while the XT1 let me slow down, compose, think, and the feeling was very analogue but direct, somehow mechanical. After I lost the Fuji I’ve been down for quite some time. Whenever I take the Oly in my hand, I miss the Fuji. Weird, feels like I betray the Olympus, like ditching an old friend. Recently I moved more and more to my smartphone, mid range Huawei one, but the camera is killing it. Though I took the Olympus with me, 23 pictures of the 24 hourproject I shot on my phone(it is quite hard at night to find an open wifi spot in Shenzhen to transfer my pictures, get the vpn running and upload them). I stopped caring about absolute quality but prefer convenience these days, still…

    I miss you Fuji!

  2. I like the distinction between taking and making photos and I think, as you say, it’s not the camera that counts, It’s the camera that goes with the mood of the moment and the envy to make something good. Each camera makes you see different results and have a different approach. There are no good and bad cameras… only well made photos!

  3. Hey Josh,
    Leica as your ‘happy’ camera, Sony as your ‘down’ camera. I guess the grittiness of the examples here on the Sony side testifies to that. Curiously, they are straight greys, while the lone Leica image is toned warm!
    But then again I guess a small sensor p/s will help creating a sense of grit thanks to its less nuanced response to contrast and to lower resolution. It just works. Images #4 (buildings in snowy dusk), 5 (messy rooftops) and 7 (snowy parking lot) are just outstanding examples. I’m not wishing for you to be depressed, but the work you do then is just mesmerizing. Small consolation, I know.
    Hope you’ll be shooting Leica more often…

  4. Very good description of what the “best” camera is. Beside the one you always having with you – it’s the one that fits your mood for the moment. And the winner is definitely the one that fits yor mood. Making my iPhone for example, the practical best camera, because it’s always with me. And sometimes fits my mood better.

    Now I only have one camera to fit my mood (beside the phonecam) Fuji X100T. But I have noticed that my relationship with my camera and how I handle it differs a lot depending of how my mood is. So I kind of treat it like two or three different cameras. I never go with the same settings or behave in my thinking of how to make or take photos without interference from my mood. My mood almost always dicide how the camera is most wanted to be to make my day.

    Same goes with my post processing. My mood is in charge when it comes to the post processing. What I feel for the moment – which not always is how I felt while shooting, decides what will happen to my photos at the end.

    I’m probably unnecessary circumstantial for my own best. I have tried to streamline myself, but I alwas end up in changing depending of how my mood is. I have just made up with this way to be and finds it being the best way to stay in touch with my inspiration and motivation no matter how I feel.

    Love, peace and soul and never stop sharing your wonderful photography and words.

  5. it’s more like what you’ve been through with your Sony. Some of us has been following since when and where you dug out your camera 😛 You’re just so committed with it. You just won’t easily trade this for anything.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s