Translations: German Version
[T]hank God, I am now a gear minimalist focused on photography and a big fan of Limitation creativity (you are more creative with less)….. But here’s the truth, I used to be a huge gear junkie, basically having GAS as soon as I got a new camera. I had this problem since the very beginning but now I am cured. In one sense I am trying to help those who know they have GAS (Gear Aquisition Syndrome) to stop having it and trying to prevent others from having it.
I might sound preachy and maybe harsh but please know that I am preaching and being hard on myself first because I wasted a lot of money and time because of my gear addiction. I hope this helps you in some way and I wish someone was there to tell me these things.
When reading this article please understand that I LOVE gear but I am aiming at GAS, the syndrome that makes you hoard gear that you don’t really need and get stuff for the sake of getting it.
My first foray into photography was because of GAS. I had a friend that had a cool looking professional camera and one day realized that I could afford it. And did. I got my Nikon D80. It’s ok to enter photography by loving the toys first, but the problem was, I didn’t stick with the camera I got. It went downhill from there.
I can’t really remember how many cameras I owned, all that I now is that I didn’t need them at all,just the basics. I had a Nikon D80, then it was too big, I got a Samsung NX, then I wanted a retro camera, got the Olympus PEN, then missed viewfinder, got a Pentax K20D. Tried a Pentax Limited lens, loved it s much I bought another one. Then I had something fantasizing in my head about being a film photographer. I got an Olympus XA, Pentax 110 and Pentax Optio i10 then I was like I want the best image quality, got a Fuji 6×9 with loads of film. Then I had another fantasy of being like Ansel Adams, I had a custom made large format 4×5 camera with Graflex Back, Fuji readyload loader and Polaroid loader plus loads of film. Then I felt everything was too big and got one GXR, then another, then another, then another…….I had a Alienbee ringlash and 2 sunpak 120j, a bunch of flashes, reflectors, Vagabond battery pack, etc. That’s the abridged version btw….I had other cameras like the Sigma DP1 and others….I just don’t remember the rationalization behind them.
But it wasn’t cameras only mind you, I had PDAs and Phones. Nokia N900, Nokia N800, Nokia E90, Sony Experia, a random HTC smartphone, Nokia Comunicator 3200, NTT Docomo Sigmarion III, Hp Jornada 720, Nec Mobilepro, Sony Clie z, bunch of Palm PDAs, Fujitsu UMPC, Fossil PDA watch, etc. Thank God I didn’t get too deep into camera bags! A sure way to know you have G.A.S is that you start not only buy cameras but also everything else like bags, gadgets and other gizmos.
Woah you would think I was LOADED right? No, it was just a matter of selling what I had to buy some new stuff. I always lost money in selling plus the ebay and Paypal fees. In total, and I don’t want to even know if you want to know the truth, I lost 1000s of dollars. That could have gone to savings, down payment on a house or a college fund. I’m a royal idiot, don’t follow that route. I remember when my wife’s family members asked if i was rich because I had all of these cameras. I felt very uneasy, but as an addict I rationalized it and said that they couldn’t possibly understand what a photographer really needs. Truth is, you don’t need much gear to create great work.
It’s good to have all that gear, IF you do something serous with it. That was not y case. I shot two rolls of film with the Fuji 6×9 and sold it with 19rolls of Ilford HP5. The large format? about 7 shots. All that lighting setup? I even had a 90inch umbrella! I barely made a few shots with them. I barely have anything substantial with all my other cameras. All the PAA devices? I was still not as productive as I fantasized. Ya see throughout all of my professional camera owner career I stagnated when it came to photography, I was never focused on what I could do right now but always what I could do later, when I got yet another camera or lens.
Here’s how to understand G.A.S., it’s what helped me. It’s a sort of idolatry. Normally idolatry is anything you put in front of God (Yourself, Money, etc), but G.A.S is a form of idolatry in the sense that you put gear in front of photography. The main goal is not photography but the acquisition of shiny new toys.
We lie best to ourselves, because we believe ourselves. I didn’t need all these cameras but bought them. I had reasons, I told myself, to buy them. I had GOOD reasons too, I told myself, to sell them. The line that always got me was “It’s an investment”, all my cameras were investments in my mind. But investments are worth nothing without commitment. Buying that that 4×5 was “an investment” into my landscape photography. Nevermind that I never really actually took landscape seriously. The only “landscape” I got out of that camera was a scene of an empty school yard at nautical twilight. That shot is still in the readyload sheet. So is my two rolls of 120 film, a bunch of 35mm cans and all of my 110 film canisters.
I somehow believed the recurring lie that somehow my photography would be unleashed with a new camera or lens, how much better how I would be. I would think that while being oblivious to the fact that I never advanced in my photography because I was too busy to get cameras to learn anything or too shoot anything. What an idiot. I could have been 3 times the photographer I am today if I didn’t have G.A.S. So much time wasted. Beware of making excuses to buy another camera, you will always find one. Heck, speaking of excuses some dude sued his own parents because of how bad he turned out!
The truth is we don’t need much gear, only the minimum for what we do. Street Photographers need less than wedding photographers for example. The truth is, there is no perfect camera only compromise. What I think is the best camera might be annoying to you and vice versa. It’s all about dealing with idiosyncrasies. Every camera will have issues but it’s not the end of the world. Just deal with it. Throughout all the years of buying and selling cameras and loosing time and money, I could have been such a better photographer. I wouldn’t understate it if I said all I needed (except for maybe the paid work) for my photography was one camera. My Ricoh GRD IV would have been perfect, but seriously, any camera would have done great, even an obsolete one.
Those who bought the x100 quickly felt limited because of the lack of interchangeable lenses. Those who bought the X-pro felt limited because they do not have one more lens. When they get them all and then it will feel limited because of how small APSC is. They also feel limited by the dynamic range of digital. They buy a Fuji 6×9 (superb camera) and then they feel limited because it’s too big, and limited because of the lack of feedback from film….then go back to digital. It’s a infernal cycle that will never stop if we don’t put a break to it. The story above would have been my rationalization if I went with a X100. It’s a cycle, you always find a criticism for a camera and somehow end up with a camera similar to you original one.
I had may cameras, but I could have them all and still not have one thing: enough. When is the amount of stuff we have enough? When is one more lens enough?
Olivier the Photographer. It rimes so it must be true. I am photographer! What did I have to show for it? Cameras. There’s only two ways you can validate yourself as a photographer, either by pursuing your intent or hide behind cameras. I chose the later option. The better the camera, the better pillar it became for me to hide behind.
I then realized what was happening, I was insecure in my photography so I was finding it in cameras. When you get a new camera you feel like you can take on Eugene Smith or somthing. But after the high, I needed my next fix to hide my insecurities. That’s why I could never have enough cameras, I needed more and more stuff to hide behind, to validate myself. I needed to look at a camera and say “Don’t worry man, you’re a photographer, you have a camera, you’re a photographer……” It was of course rooted in my insecurities. Now I am secure in my own photography because I know my intent and work towards it, I’m getting better everyday. I don’t need a camera to feel secure, because I now trust myself to actually deliver.
So the question is, HOW did I remediated? That’s for tomorrow’s next episode folks. Suffice to say is that it was an addiction, I couldn’t help it. The first thing I did is realize I had a problem, there’s no hope if you can’t admit you have a problem while everybody else sees it. I knew I had a problem since day 1, but I never ADMITTED it to myself, therefore I didn’t try to fix it.