Create: YouTube Live, Friday

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I’m in the on-deck circle waiting to go live. I’m carbo-loading, in deep meditation and formalizing the 10,000-word essay I’ve memorized and committed to gray matter. My first YouTube film was about using one lens while working on a project/workshop in Albania.

The gear discussion is so tired and so lame and so reserved for those who don’t really make serious pictures, so I have no interest in discussing photography equipment in the traditional sense. I will, however, talk about the results I achieved by committing to simplicity. I have the printed piece to prove it.

One of the best photographers I know uses a single lens and a camera that has to be at least sixty years old. He gets it retuned every five years or so. You don’t know him and you never will. He has no interest in you knowing him. He has no social, no website and no interest in being a photographer. A Magnum photographer, who was in communication with him, encouraged him to submit to the agency because he thought there was a good chance he would be accepted. His reply, “I’m good.” When I speak with him, and these discussions go back to the mid-1990s, we never talk about these things, and we especially never talk about our cameras. It’s embarrassing to even think about doing this. We talk images. We talk prints. We talk books. We talk experience.

Comments 7

  1. Did you used to photograph Tijuana together, Dan?

    I’ve practiced one Leica camera and one lens photography on a number of occasions – mainly due to the cost of extra lenses.

    That photograph is pure eye candy. I want one, again – no, I need one again!

  2. But, but… but… YouTube “pros” only talk about gear, and how important it is to have the best eye autofocus! Are we being duped!? Haha!
    I enjoy the “This photograph was taken with this focal length” type of story but that is the extent of it. In fact, speaking of YouTube “pros”, I’ve unfollowed 98.3% of all these YouTube salesmen just due to the fact that this is ALL they talk about. When I look at their very important Instagram photos with 3 trillion followers, I quickly realize that my 10 year old daughter can compose a photograph better than most of them and she has 0 idea of what brand of camera she is using.
    Dan, we chatted about Eugene Smith recently. I read once that he had 5 Leica’s and several lenses stolen out of his car. Then he used something else. Then he went to Japan and made the Minamata story with an old Minolta, a Nikon and an assortment of lenses. Nobody cared what he used to photograph Tomoko in the bath. Nobody cared because his darkroom and printing skills were legendary and unrivaled.
    Unfortunately, the YouTube generation of photographers (my generation, sadly) has been taken for a ride.
    I’m glad that with the help of true professionals, I was able to not fall into the gear acquisition syndrome (much).

    1. I’m here as much for the comments as Danno’s Wild Ride. This was a great comment. That GAS is tough. I was always aware of it and did my best to avoid it. I think I did ok. But I also like trying out new things. I wish I’d been better about borrowing or renting. It’s like the library. I know it’s an amazing institution, a treasure, something I never want to see go away, but I also don’t use it. It looks like a lot of Dan’s books are library books. That is the way to go, and has been a resolution of mine for a while. It’s late. I’m rambling. I like your comments, Lucas

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      As many as possible. I typically have at least a half dozen books checked out but I also read 80 books a year and the expense alone is prohibitive. Now they are all closed, but in normal times the library is one of my all-time favorite places.

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      YT “pros” seem to be great at one thing, and that thing happens to have found relevance in modern, online photography. Build following. Sure, they dupe the masses but the masses aren’t very well educated, they are lonely, inside, online and are looking for something easy. Gear is an easy conversation. Unless you have a plan. Unless you actually want to make work. Unless you actually have something going on in your life that has relevance. And then it’s a complete and total waste of time. Smith was so far beyond any of these modern folks who have never made an image of relevance, and most likely, never will. That’s not what they’re after.

  3. Well, unfortunate I fell into the GAS trap years ago. I had a very well paid career and worked hard and and spent more time in my non-photography occupation than anything else. I lost friends and family over my commitment to my job. I now realise that my gear buying over many years was a way to compensate for not having what is one of the most valued of commodities: Time.
    Now I still have all this gear, and a a second life as photographer behind me, but I still go out every time with one camera and just one lens. Yes, it’s limiting…but also so free from the heavy load of all that equipment, and also the worries that come with it.
    I am more selective about what I shoot and I am so much better at it!
    My best work ever.
    And I am so tired talking about gear… I’d rather go out shooting.

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      Me too. At this point, it’s insulting to photography to even engage with any of these gear-related conversations. The ultimate pander and thousands are willing to do it on a daily basis.

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