One of the mottos of (some?) crossfit trainers is “I don’t care about your results, I care about your effort”. Does photography follow the same logic?
Imagine a gym where a guy turns up in a linen suit with a robot lifting the weights for him. Thanks to Elon the conqueror, this could be a reality very soon. “Honey, I benchpressed 700 lb today!” “Well done, dear”.
While this obviously sounds ridiculous, our reliance on machinery and artificial intelligence in other hobbies is far less subject to objections. In photography, it has even been a (collapsing) market driver for years.
This difference ties back to the crossfit paraphrase. Are we in photography for results, or for the effort and associated learning?
There doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong answer to this question. So let’s instead try to dig deeper into the appeals of both options, and what that could imply for our gear.
First, let’s clarify the notion of effort. Few of us enjoy the idea of making anything harder. Life is full of challenges as it is, so why make a recreative hobby stressful and hard?
This leads us to the first possible dichotomy between photographers. Those of us who enjoy the photographic challenge, and associated feel-good benefits, are possibly those with the ability to savour a challenge, and savour the very concept of learning and personal improvement, because life hasn’t beaten us to a pulp. Anyone struggling to make ends meet or find time to do everything the day throws at them might be less inclined to make photography difficult when it can run smoothly on full auto.
Then again, proponents of the hands-on approach will systematically report how wonderfully fulfilling it is to achieve something the manual way, whereas full-auto success brings a result, yes, but very little satisfaction with it. So maybe those struggling with a less than fulfilling life could consider a change of photographic philosophy to welcome some dopamine into the daily drone?
That’s not for anyone to decide for others. Individuals must choose what feels good for them.
But this is the hardest part. Knowing what we truly want, at a deep level, implies having the time and mental energy for introspection. Exactly what those who seek automation and guaranteed results for comfort may not be able to muster.
Note that I’m not implying that everyone who elects the technological way in photography does so because of an overly busy life. We can legimately enjoy technology for istelf. Or we may want to ensure memories of important moments of our lives are faithfully recorded without introducing the risk of fluffing the decisive moment in search of some hypothetical photographic epiphany 😉
We all step into photography for individual reasons that shouldn’t been generalised or systematised.
What I’d love to understand is what makes us happier as individual photographers and what gear best suits that.
In a way, the cameras I’ve been ranting against for years – the Sony a7Rx range, specifically, but most modern cameras, really – might well be the best for many of us.
Could it be that the configurable buttons and menus that send my blood pressure spiraling can actually allow each and everyone of us to build the ideal camera? The camera that suits our specific needs, evolve with our photographic maturity and guarantee growing fulfillment over time?
Have I been unjust towards those cameras all this time?
I still loathe those ergonomics, the lie that one size – even customizeable – fits all, and still think those who peddle that ideology should be dropped head first into a shark pond. Worry not, all is well at DS rant HQ.
But … But nothing. There is no but. That way of thinking stinks. Period 😉
What I’d like to see instead is diversity in the field. Not an amalgamation of the offering around the fake promise that is higher XXXX sensors, and the slow dying of anything that dares to think different (R.I.P. Pentax, Ricoh, Foveon, CCD, Samsung, Oly …)
The irony is that the huge advances in technology have made this easier than ever. But the industry hasn’t caught on to that, yet.
The great digitisation/digitalisation between “real” cameras and phones still persists, making the former more corny by the day, and the latter more desirable to me (in spite of huge ergonomic hurdles). But technology hasn’t yet been deployed to cater for the needs of the different tog psychologies.
You’re probably thinking “it’s hard, you muckfluck, otherwise someone would’v dunnit”. My guess is that it’s not that hard, but possibly not perceived as profitable either. And the latter is the only metric that matters in this world, these days.
But what if it was? Profitable, that is. I mean, there are all those people making insane (painful, and pricey) efforts to run Iron Man races, climb mountains, learn difficult languages and difficult instruments, paint, sing, write …
Books like The Zen of Weightlifting convey the transformational satisfaction that comes with going beyond your preconceived limits. Testimonials from rangefinder converts reveal their astonishment at the sheer joy or crafting something rather than letting the camera take control of everything, even when fails outnumber successes.
If I was to start a camera company today, I’d follow the effort/reward trail. What are the efforts togs are willing to make and what are those they aren’t? I find myself less and less inclined to back up and dive into the menial 1980’s nonesense that phones have altogether eliminated and find enormous joy in a clean, natural, file that lets me edit to my heart’s content. Others will refuse to focus a lens manually and will be elated by composition aids, possibly.
All I’m saying is the effort/reward trail might be one worth exploring for a welcome change in market dynamics and greater individual fulfillment. No one will convince me there isn’t HUGE money in personal transformation.
The low technical barrier to entry that made photography succesful in the first place has just obscured this fact for too long.
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