[A]fter the self talk, there’s usually an action I do so that a man in brown magically appears in front of my door with a new camera. This article is outlining the steps I took to move away from G.A.S and let go of the camera.
On the road to recovery from gear, I almost relapsed if I didn’t catch a greater trigger than just looking at gear online. Right after pretty much severing myself from Gear, something happened. I started buying more and more photography books and software. Heck I found myself searching for what software I needed to buy but didn’t need. I was shifting the addiction from gear to books and software, and if I didn’t cut it there I would have been in trouble again. That’s when I realized there was also a money pattern on top of the pattern of looking at cameras: I conditioned my brain to buy buy buy if I had the money. That 4×5 camera I was talking about? The G.A.S attack came right after I did some branding work and poster work for a Hedge Fund. It was a pattern inside another pattern. Careful to be concious of your triggers!
Replacing GAS actions with Photography action
When G.A.S. hits it’s usually self talk, and then taking action. How cool the camera is, how happy I would be, then I would immediately take action like search for the camera online, and then bring my finances in alignment and then hit buy. Your brain does not discriminate habits, it can’t make the difference between good and bad habits. Only I could take the bad habits and transform them into good habits, the key is I HAVE to replace the habit because habits can only be overwritten, not deleted. I made my self talk retorts such a habit that they come as automatically as I see something pleasing to the eye (Read: Sexy camera in half leather case). But I also had to counter the action steps to counter the G.A.S actions steps I took.
The fork in the road
Imagine a road, and there is a split in the road. One path goes right, the other goes left. Every step you take in the left road will make your further and further away from the right road. I am sure that that isn’t the case for everybody but that was gear addiction for me, the more I went on the gear road, the further away I was from photography. When I realized this, I was sure the opposite was also bound to be true. I had to search out for my intent, what the heck did I really want? Did I really want to become the best darn photographer I could be or did I just want to own cameras? There’s nothing wrong with both….some people just want to collect cameras….. But I wasn’t one of those, I wanted to be a photographer and be the best I could be (That will also be the case until I die). After that soul searching, I started walking back, towards the other road. I also broke free creatively while doing so.
Replacing the routine
Like I stated in the previous article, the key to reforming habits is to keep the triggers and the rewards, but change the routine. Alcoholic Anonymous folks have a buddy system, when the trigger is pulled, simply call your buddy or mentor asap, changing the routine from alcohol to people. In my case, I knew my triggers, simply seeing a hot camera. My rewards was the feelings of fullfilement: I own a camera, therefore I am a photographer. Owning that large format camera made me feel in the same lineage as Ansel Adams. Owning that 35mm camera made me feel like I was just like Bresson or Kertez or something. Fulfilment was the key, I wanted to be a fulfilled photographer. I simply had to do something that gave me that fulfilment that did not involve buying more and more.
I said in the first article that G.A.S is like idolatry. The cure to my G.A.S was simply to shift my focus from the idol to the source. My idol was gear, the source was Photography. The more I immersed myself in photography, the more I was oblivious to gear. I started viewing gear as good, but G.A.S as a hinderence to my photographic intentions. If I wanted to be the best photographer I could be I needed to stop investing into gear and invest more into Photography. That’s the simple secret. It gave birth to my motto: There is more to photography than gear. Gear is good, but it’s like being in a secluded house when there is a whole earth to explore. Before I could not see beyond the camera, but now I see photography……a much more interesting subject than I would have imagined possible.
Every thousand mile journey starts with a first step. I saw the long term goal: To be a photographer, and just took the first step. Each step that I took took me closer and closer to my goals and further and further from gear. Here’s the specific steps I took to liberate myself from gear addiction.
Believe you can do it
If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will do so for you. Before doing anything I believed two things: I believed I would become better and I believed I would let go of the camera. It’s mind over matter. If you think you will fail or if you think you will succeed, you are probably right.
Action Step: Appreciating your own gear
I made it a point that upon seeing my cameras, I make a conscious effort to appreciate them. I can safely say that I didn’t appreciate most, if not all of my past purchases, so it had to change. When I look at My Ricoh GRD IV, I always say to myself how much it takes great pictures, how great it handles, how much I love having it. It makes me attached to my cameras, making me focus on what I have instead of what I do not have. When someone says online how awesome some other camera is, I immediately shift my toughts to my current gear and how awesome they are. So when someone says “XXX is amazing”, instead on dwelling on that camera and it’s looks, I dwell on my own and how amazing they are. If find it a necessity to actively be grateful for my gear because I don’t even want to entertain the idea that another camera would serve me better….it’s the classic G.A.S excuse.
Action Step: Go out and shoot
A reader emailed me to say that he was researching a certain camera when he stumbled upon my website, he said I made him want to take what he already owned and go shoot. That pretty much sums it up. When I am tempted to dwell on another purchase, I just go out and shoot. If I can’t, I just make a mental check to see when I can actually go out and shoot. Even if I don’t follow through for any reason, it doesn’t matter because the action step is simply to replace “get something else” with “Go out and shoot”. The more you take great shots with your camera the more you will appreciate it too.
Action Step: Work on your photography
Sometimes it happens, you just can’t go out to shoot. It’s ok, there are other ways to work on your own photography. You can always go in your catalog and get a fresh Vision for your old stuff. Or you can simply do some readings on photography, how to get better, the past photographers, or maybe watch a documentary (See a listing of streaming ones here) or work on your own blog. G.A.S mainly works on impulse, letting it slide off your mind by immersing yourself in photography will allow you to sober up.
Action Step: Accountability
Well, be accountable. To yourself, but hopefully with a partner. Tell your partner that you won’t buy a new piece of gear and hopefully your sense of pride won’t let you because if you do, you would fail in front of someone else. I didn’t have a formal partner, but the unease to always give some explanations to my wife for every piece of gear was a sort of accountability.
Action step: Finding fulfillment
You find photographic fulfilment by working towards your photographic intent. My intent is to express myself through my photography, ergo, every step I take torwards that intent mades me feel fulfilled. If you want to be a pro, working each day by reading some professional books or techniques will make you feel fulfilled. Simply stated, aligning yourself with your intent will make you feel fulfilled. When I have a G.A.S trigger, what I do automatically (because I rewired my brain) is to simply do something that aligns myself with my intent. I either go shoot, or read photographic stuff or simply think about my own photography. I then feel fulfilled, and, like having eaten all your veggies, you won’t have space for cookies. It’s the same trigger, same reward, but different response. Instead of wanting more gear, I want more photography
Final Blow: Marrying photography
The final blow to G.A.S is to get married to photography. It’s like to tell that nasty boyfriend or girlfriend that they had heir chance but you’re moving on by getting married. How do you get married you say? You simply create something tangible photographically. What do I mean by this? Well you can print, create a blog, do a project, share at a photo club, etc. Creating something tangible with your photograhy will make you have a vested interest into photography, “marrying it”.
I really recommend making a blog, it doesn’t have to be amazing but a modest blog will do, a tumblr is perfect. Every image you put in there will strenghten your willpower against G.A.S. because you are investing in your own photography. Even if you don’t get comments it’s ok because you are working on your own photography for your own pleasure. Speaking of comments….I just had a thought….what if a part of why people have G.A.S was simply because it’s what gets attention online? You post about your camera you get comments, you post about your photography, you probably don’t……something to think about further….
Here’s how I invested in photography: I sought to make a portfolio, forcing me to actually get the images. I feel like a million bucks being the one who shot my images, a much superior and ever lasting feeling than actually buying a piece of gear for a short euphoria. Way afterwards I made this blog, and with my super partner Don “Streetshooter” we made Street Presets and Inspired Eye. Many of my Magazine readers tell me that they just want to go out and shoot and be better. To me that confirms my theory that investing in one’s photography will remove the G.A.S. Amen!
Food for thought
The big gleaning from my past addiction, I think, is that photography and gear operate on the basis of the inverse square law. The more you invest in gear the less interest in photography. The more you invest in photography the less interest in gear. That’s what my experience and my research (Lurking around forums and all) taught me, if your experience differs I’m all ears. The whole point of the article series is not to make you stop being an addict, but only to channel that addiction to photography. I was a gear addict, now I am a photography addict, a huge difference
Next article is about what’s in my camera bag to appease some curious Googlers. Stay tuned!
Be yourself, Stay Focused and Keep on shooting.