Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Waving goodbye

In my second year of uni in Britain, I bought a medium format camera. I had absolutely no idea what kind of camera I was getting (as, regardless of the fact that I have a degree in photography, I know next to nothing about cameras), all I knew is that my teachers were being snooty about using a 35mm for second year work and I'd heard that they were particularly good for landscapes. My project was going to be about Celtic hillforts, so that was well within the definition of landscape. I found one on ebay, bid higher than I wanted to pay (getting caught up in the moment, and all that) and soon was the owner of a medium format camera.

My first experience with it was...well...not the best. It was the middle of winter, I was trekking up big hills with lots of heavy kit, I hadn't read how to load the film or even use the bloody thing before we'd left the flat, and it was freezing - something not fun when you have to take your gloves off every time you need to make an adjustment. I didn't have a light meter, and was using my 35mm camera, with its built in light meter, to judge what speeds to use. It was horrible. It was heavy, and unwieldy, and needed a tripod (something that was expensive), the film was expensive (at around £12 for 12 pictures? Oh yes it was.) and I didn't have enough money to be able to afford much of it.

And then I saw the pictures, and fell in love. They looked amazing. The level of detail, the square image instead of the rectangle, it was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to use the camera for every single project that I ever did. If there was a way to use it for holiday snaps, I probably would have found it. I did my final year project with the camera, and although didn't end up getting the grade I would have liked I was happy with what I turned in.

For the last two years, my medium format camera has sat in its box in my closet. I've taken it out several times, I've taken it to the States with me on holiday, and I haven't taken a picture with it once. I've been too busy, I've not been able to afford the film or developing costs, I don't want to lug my tripod around with me to take pictures of things that I see every day. There are so many reasons I haven't used it.

The point-and-shoot digital camera Matt bought me for Christmas several years ago suffered a fatal blow a few weeks ago when I turned it on to take a picture of my newly-finished knitted socks and...absolutely nothing happened. Nothing at all. It just sat there, a lump of metal and wires and glass in my hand. I took it to Jessops (a large photography chain store) to see if they thought it could be fixed. The guy looked at it, said 'Huh.', and told me that they could send it away to Canon who might be able to fix it for about £110. But that he thought it was pretty pointless, as it was an older model and I could buy a far better camera for £120 upstairs. Now, this means that suddenly I need at least £120 for a new camera, and when I really want the camera for is the last weekend of August. And there is no way I can find £120 by the last weekend of August without some serious begging, borrowing, and possibly stealing.

I walked home, fairly dejected at my lack of photographic ability, and told Matt. "Why don't you sell your medium-format?" he asked, glaring at his laptop which was not connecting to our wireless network as he wanted it to. "I mean, it's not like you've used it in years. Besides, you could get that digital one you've been talking about from Nikon. The proper one."

Standing there, blinking at him, all I could think was 'But I don't WANT to sell my medium format.' And I don't. Having that camera means that I'm not just this person stuck in a boring crap job where I do pointless things all day that no one really cares about. It says that I didn't get my degree for nothing, that I could still do something with it if I wanted to, and that there's more out there than this. This crap, boring life of working a 9-5 job that I don't love or even like most days. It sits up there and says, 'You're a photographer. You're creative and artistic and more than what you do every day, just because you have me.'

I'm going to sell it, I think. I'm going to borrow a crap digital camera from someone, and take a picture, and put my camera on ebay. I think. I don't know if I'll actually be able to, because it means that I have to give up that vague hope that someday, I'll be able to make my living by taking pictures of things. It means saying goodbye to that dream. And I don't know if I'm ready for that yet.



Blogger xmalx said...

I know exactly how you feel. I have just started to apply for normal job, instead of jobs that I trained for. Personally I find it very hard to get rid of stuff which is important to me. What you have to balance is how much you are going to use the medium format compared with a digital SLR. It also dosn't meant that you have to give up your ideas of turning pro one day. You will also keep in practice more which will improve your photography. It also works out a lot cheaper in the long run and maybe one day you can buy another medium format when you are rich.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

I have the same sentiments with many of my art supplies that have sat neglected for years. If I part with them, I make it official that I'm not doing art - whereas if they're there, there's the chance I COULD.
I finally eBayed my oil paints, as they were the most neglected, and I was surprisingly relieved. Not just for the space, and the money, but to be rather liberated of the guilt of not making oil paintings.

Buying a good digital camera that you can use on a regular basis will make you a better photographer than rarely using a phenomenal camera methinks.

And when you are rich and famous, you will have the luxury of medium format cameras. Or even the ridiculously expensive digital ones.


3:04 AM  
Blogger ecogrrl said...

Oh god, you have NO idea how much I sympathize. I'm trying so hard to believe I'll still be a freelance writer soon, when the number of projects I've completed in the last year It's a little bit heartbreaking.

2:46 AM  
Blogger Auglaise said...

Thanks guys! I really appreciate knowing I'm not the only one...even though it sucks for all of us. ^_^

2:19 PM  
Blogger .Wyle.E.Coyote. said...

Your post made me sad. Does this mean I should sell my guitar, sword, armor, and shield? Are you saying I'm not going to be a Cruisader Rockstar with red hair and a black horse, that slays dragons and rescues princesses?

Practicality dictates that the space in my home could better be used for something I'd use every day, instead of a guitar I tried playing once back in Middle School.

Not even close to the same thing, but it just made me think.


5:11 PM  

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