Cameras

As a photographer I had a lovely time writing occasional articles on my craft for the Daily News. I couldn’t help exaggerate

Cameras: use them or lose them

Daily News Jan 4, 1985

One of the least-known hazards of photography is other photographers, especially those who would rather talk than take pictures.

They generally introduce themselves at the most inopportune time. Queen Elizabeth is roller skating down Gottingen Street and you’ve got it all in your viewfinder when you hear a voice in your ear:

“Hello, I see you’re a photographer. I’ve got three zoom lenses, two camera bodies with motor drives, a couple of automatic flashes with interchangeable power packs, several tripods and studio lights.”

Well, what can you do? If you’ve got any manners, you’ll put down your camera and listen to your well-equipped colleague. You might learn something.

“Really? That’s a lot of zooms. Are they fast enough?”

Skirts flying, the Queen sails past Cornwallis Street, hits a manhole and tumbles headfirst into the mud.

“Why certainly, I just use my flash if I don’t have enough light.”

Sirens wailing, an ambulance screams around a corner on the trail of the mud-caked monarch and runs straight into a busload of flag-waving schoolchildren.

“But all those flashes and batteries must be a heavy weight to carry around.”

Screaming children rush from the burning bus. Prince Philip bestows the kiss of life on an unconscious girl as the wreckage explodes behind him.

Certainly is, That’s why I never take it with me. By the way, shouldn’t you be taking pictures of all this?

A military helicopter lands amid the carnage to disgorge a squad of heavily armed paratroopers. “Well I suppose so, I don’t see anybody here from any of the papers. Maybe I can sell it to them. Nice talking to you.”

Riot police begin clearing the streets. “Sorry Bub,” says one of them, “no pictures”.

All of which goes to show that no matter how much equipment you’ve got, it won’t do you any good if you don’t use it.

And most people don’t.

British Journal of Photography once counted the number of cameras sold in one year in the U.K. and compared it with sales of film. The magazine concluded a lot of cameras were sitting bureau drawers most of the year.

It is not unusual, I’m told, for photo labs to process one roll of film with two sets of Christmas snaps on it– one from this year and one from the year before.

Why, we might ask, would perfectly sane people spend millions on photographic gear only to leave it lying in bureau drawers? Because, we might answer, they’ve go the visual equivalent of writer’s block.

And who can blame them? Afer blowing their budgets on all kinds of photographic muscle, they’re expected to take award-winning pictures every time. That’s a recipe for creative consitpation.

Novelists, so the cliche goes, spend hours crumpling up wads of typing paper before they finally come up with the words they want.

Photographers should do the same with film. A roll of black and white could cost you less than an evening in the pub and you don’t have a hangover to moan about next day.

The main thing is to shoot a lot and expect very little. And don’t be surprised if, before you reach the end of a roll, you’ve started working on an idea.

At the very least, you’ll be carrying your camera with you more often. So the next time the Queen goes sailing by on roller skates you’ll be too busy to brag about your equipment.