The Equipment Myth

I love Wired magazine. I have subscribed for years and remain a card-carrying member of the digerati even though that label has long fallen into disuse. Yesterday a complementary copy of "Vogue for Men" dropped through my mail slot courteous of Wired but I really think they have missed the mark thinking this is something, someone in my geek-demographic would be attracted to. I'm willing to drop some decent cash of an LCD TV, PDA, phone, computer accessory especially when Wired gives that gizmo some good press and I think I'm getting reasonable value for money. The message that Vogue for Men seems to be pushing is that you aren't a real man, that you haven't made it, if you don't wear a $16k watch, $3k suit, $2k shoes and own a boat that costs more than my house. Instead of inspiring me to want these things, or even just cheaper facsimiles of them, it makes me want to toss the mag out in disgust, which is exactly what happened in this case.

This got me to thinking how camera manufacturers and magazines push the same kind of foolishness and how we photographers buy into it every day:

"Your digicam is nice but you need a DSLR for serious applications."

"Your digital rebel is all well and good but you need to step up from the entry-level line to be taken seriously and you'll earn no respect at all without L-series glass."

"You want pro-results, then you better fork over for a pro-camera with a full frame sensor."

I get mad when I realize that I buy into this "philosophy" (hype) myself. by dismissing my own work as 'playing' or 'fooling around' because I don't have professional equipment. What I do have have are real-world responsibilities; people who depend on me, a mortgage a job - photography is a creative escape but that doesn't mean that I don't take it seriously. My realities are that I don't a clothing budget that covers $3k handmade shoes just as I don't have the disposable income to buy a $5k camera body or thousands more to replace my 'consumer' glass with 'L-series' equivalents. But how dare you suggest that I am not serious about photography because of my modest means. I won't go into serious debt just to carry a serious camera. I understand that manufacturers, magazines and retailers all have a vested interest in me regularly replacing my equipment; just remember that all these entities are businesses not artists.

The implication that the right to call yourself a photographer comes with a high price tag is distasteful in the extreme. I'm guessing that the shoes you are wearing right now do a pretty good job of protecting your feet and that a $3k pair of replacements would not help to walk around any better. Likewise, I'm betting that your current camera can take pictures that can result in remarkable prints. Good photography doesn't have that much to do with how much the photographer spent on their equipment. When you are gone and someone comes across your work they won't care a jot about what camera you used - either your images will, or will not, speak to them and that's the only thing that counts.

Don't buy into it and perpetuate the lie.

Posted on Sunday, 26 March 2006 | Comments (6) | Editorial