Thoughts on: ‘Big, Fancy Cameras’

Before I put my opinion out there, I’d like to quickly mention that¬† I have nothing against people buying fancy cameras. Do what you will with your own money.

 

It began with my dad asking me repeatedly if I’d like a ‘big, fancy camera like the other Indians we met in Bali’. The answer to this question has always been a firm ‘no’, mainly for fear of my father actually going and buying one with a price tag upwards of 40,000 INR.

My mother has often wished that we have one, because then “I’ll be able to click professional pictures” like her friends, a good ten years younger than her and the capacity to travel without complaining about the price, the oncoming exams after the holiday break or the overwhelming need to tell us all of how “this world is going to the dogs, Srobona, you must be prepared” at every bend in the road.

 

Two weeks before a trip to Darjeeling my father unveiled the Nikon camera (I cant be bothered to specify model, lens, etc.etc. -for reasons which this post seeks to make clear) he bought on a trip to Goa and said, “look, Srobona, see if it is of any use.” My mother, having forgotten the several years worth of her expressed urban desire for the social inclusion of owning one of these, immediately reprimands my father saying, “for Gods sake we could have bought a laptop with that money.”

As much as I wish to distance myself from my mother’s general sentiment – I had to agree with her there – I simply did not see the point of it.

I have always been averse to using a ‘big , fancy camera’. Yes, it was mainly because of the price tag and that attitude of ‘being different’ from the rest, but I won’t rest my case on these points, because I know, as any law school debator does – these aren’t arguments at all. (The second more than the first, but lets just assume we’re all rich upper-middle class holiday goers.)

Now, you might have wondered why I’ve drag my mother into all this, but it stems from her belief that you need a professional camera to take good pictures. Her exposure (ha, pun) has been the company of the sort of Indians who can afford to take 20 days off whenever they want to and stay in a protected forest, wake up in the morning and spend whole days with binoculars, looking for birds.

But that’s not the point. The image of the ‘globe-trotter’ with a ‘big, fancy camera’ hanging around their necks, snapback and Quechua bag is an appealing one. You seem to be ‘qualified’ if you have one, it lends some sort of legitimacy that stretches beyond holiday and travel-talk during hours-long evening tea chit-chat. It seeps through like a stain you can’t really wash off.

Often, when I show my mother pictures I’ve taken, she responds immediately with , “Yes, but you should get a proper camera. Work hard, earn a lot, buy one. There’s more to life to just working – but earn money.

What I’m trying to say here is that I think a picture taken with a phone, as all my photographs now are, is not inferior to one taken by a big, fancy camera. Thesis statement: you do not need a big, fancy camera to take a good picture.

Yes, a top-notch, technical camera can help take a good picture, but the additional benefits that such a camera can bring are not the fundamental features of a good picture – I can take a good snap with my phone, thank you very much.

I think what makes a picture great are things which are not dependent on the camera at all – mood, light, form, timing, etc. etc. There is some amount of thought, skill and artistry involved in taking a good picture that cannot be brought bought with a good camera.

Now, pre-empting a few rebuttals –

Under my paradigm, if everyone was to buy that laptop instead of the camera, would that not bring greater harm to the advancement of photography?

I think this is a classic case to show how important creativity is in the world. Mere advancement in technology cannot bring the best result – pointing a high-res camera at something will give you fantastic details, clearer images, etc. – which is all required for the development of *waves arms about*..this…but the thing is, merely¬† better details and clearer images will not make a picture a good one.

My father says he bought it because we’ll be able to take clearer pictures of Kanchenjunga with it.

Ah – this is where my argument might fail.

On the trip, I tried my utter best, which involved crouching high, climbing a fence and other socially abnormal behaviour to get a good picture of the Himalayan peaks, but through the fog and the unwillingness of the Sun to blOdY CoMe Out And SHine FoR fUCKs Sakes, my best picture was of indefinite white and grey streaks in the sky.

Later on in the trip, when my father dragged us to one of those aforementioned protected forests at 5 in the morning to ..look at animals…I encountered a second such instance – apparently less than a kilometer away was a single-horned Indian White Rhino. I snapped away furiously but all I could get on my phone were images which could have passed off as NASA satellite images of craters on the moon. I would have had to encircle it with red marker like evidence in a conspiracy theory documentary, and much like it, not many people would believe that the grey mass, was indeed, an endangered animal.

 

I digress, but in those moments I really did believe that the fancy camera sitting at home would have made the trip much more worthwhile in our well-loved capitalist social-media obsessed way.

Why, I hear you ask, did we not take the camera along with us? And this is where I think I make my point – “because,” said father-dear, “it’ll be a pain to lug around.”

I cannot possibly be worrying about whether my (his) 40,000 INR will be safe amidst all the jostling as we move our luggage from flight to bus to cab to jeep to train, from one hill to another, or if I’m holding the camera firm enough as I lean over the edge of step-cut tea estates to capture the contours of the mountains, on top of the general pressure of “I need to get this picture really quickly right now before the shadows move” or “Shit the car is moving again, I won’t ever be able to snap this valley in this angle a second time – maybe on the way back.”

I’ve never appreciated wildlife photography. I don’t really know why, but the closest I’ve ever got to really liking it is – Ren Hang. Anyway.

 

It’s two in the morning and I’ve had four cups of coffee, so before I further lengthen this attempt at dissing a practice in order to hide my insecurities of being too middle class for my fellow tourists over the world, with their poses both infront of and behind the ‘big, fancy camera’, I’d very much like to hear your views on the subject. So if you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “Well, it wont be me,” I’ve just spotted you – come back and tell me.

 

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