Tech vs Talent
David Duchemin has been ranting for as long as I have known him about how gear heads mix up tech for talent, vision for glass. Many, many years ago I used to work as a camera sales man in ‘Ronnie Marquin’s Highland Camera and Video’, in Waco Texas. The store is long gone now, but I used to have rich doctors and lawyers come in and tell me they wanted to start taking pictures of their kids or they were just getting ready to leave on a cruse and they wanted a new camera for the trip. I would show then an AE1 or the OM1 and they would grunt and then ask for the Canon F1. I would then sell them a camera that I would have killed for. I remember watching them walk out of the shop and thinking, this is just wrong. These guys are swatting mosquitoes with cannons Canons. They had far too much camera and for the most part no skill. But I wasn’t running a workshop I was selling cameras and as much as it made me frustrated, no lets be honest, jealous, that they walked out with a camera I could have made sing and they would only make grunt, I had to let it go. I was making money for Ronnie. A costly camera doth not a photographer make.
I can’t tell you how many times I have had people tell me “Wow, you take really great pictures. I bet you have an amazing camera!” I used to get my feelings hurt. I mean, come on, yeah – a nice camera and nice piece of glass can help a photographer a lot, but without talent it is just a black box, and believe me there are a lot of black boxes out there. I don’t get those comments quite as much now a days. These days what might be true is to say “Wow, what a nice digital camera, I bet you can take a lot of images and really hone down your craft!” Now that doesn’t roll off the tongue like the other, but it is much more accurate. The only thing a nice camera did for most people years ago was make your screw ups a lot more expensive. But now in the digital age, a nice DSLR will give the newbie a chance to excel and to be much better. It is still no replacement for talent, but it will allow the new photographer to shoot and experiment and at virtually no extra cost.
I will close this bit of a rant with this story:
When Jack London had his portrait made by the noted San Francisco photographer Arnold Genthe, London began the encounter with effusive praise for the photographic art of his friend and fellow bohemian, Genthe. “you must have a wonderful camera…It must be the best camera in the world…You must show me your camera.” Genthe then used his standard studio camera to make what has since become a classic picture of Jack London. When the sitting was finished, Genthe could not contain himself: “I have read your books, Jack, and I think they are important works of art. You must have a wonderful typewriter.”