“You are not supposed to be a slave of mechanical tools, they are supposed to help you and be as small and unimportant as possible not to disturb the communication.” – Anders Petersen
There is a disease and a sickness out there. It afflicts thousands (if not millions) of photographers globally, and it costs people hundreds and thousands of dollars. This disease breeds insecurity amongst photographers, and causes photographers to make tons of excuses about their photography.
The disease? It is called “G.A.S.” (gear acquisition syndrome). The concept is that you become addicted to getting new cameras, new gear, new lenses, and new gadgets in photography (rather than focusing on just becoming a better photographer). You make excuses about your gear, and that your camera and equipment is holding you back. You tell yourself, “Oh if I just had camera ‘X’ I would be more inspired in my photography, and take better photos.
I personally still suffer from G.A.S. Whenever I am dissatisfied with my photography, I always think that buying a new camera or lens will help inspire me to become a better photographer. It never does.
The only real way that I have improved my photography is by traveling, attending photography workshops, buying books (not gear), and by just shooting.
I have discovered that when you are actually out shooting, you become very unaware of your camera. You get caught in the “flow” of shooting— and all the excuses about your camera or lens disappear. You become one with your camera, and it is almost as if the photos take themselves.
I always lust for gear when I spend too much time online and on gear forums or review sites. Beware: 99.9% of the photography sites online are just dedicated to gear (as advertising and affiliate sales of cameras drive the photography industry).
How can you cure yourself of “G.A.S”? Unsubscribe (or block) all gear review websites, and whenever you have the urge to buy a new gear just buy a photography book. Realize that your camera is just a tool to create images.
As photographer Anders Petersen tells us, just try to get a small camera that is unobtrusive and focus on making images. He shoots with a simple Contax T3 (a point-and-shoot 35mm camera), and focuses on the emotion in his photos. Focus less on the camera, focus more on shooting, telling stories, and use your cash to travel.
This article is written by Josh White, originally posted here. The views posted here are his and his alone and may or may not be shared by the website as a whole ;)
Disclaimer: Sarcasm doesn’t always transfer into written word.
Well, “tomorrow” turned into a week. Thank you for those who worried that I may have relapsed. Not the case! Once an addict, always an addict is what I guess they say. Well, I have honestly been “sober” for quite a while and just now have decided to write down my thoughts. I feel like this, at least in my brain, makes what I’m doing and going through more legitimate.
The real reason for my taking so long to post step 2 was that I recently took a trip to the small town in Korea where I had lived for the first four years of being here. An interesting experience. While of course I’m not Korean, that small town feels more like a hometown than anything else to me anymore.
During the trip, I had a lot of time to think about what I would write here. Step 2 (of overcoming GAS) is probably the hardest for me. I’ve entitled it, “The Pact”, because this step is a self contract to limit the equipment I’ll use for the immediate future.
Basically, the pact I made with myself is as follows:
I, for the foreseeable future will use just two cameras. One film, and one digital. One lens on each. I didn’t limit this to a year, not because I don’t think I can last a year, but, because I want it to last longer than that. I don’t “need” anything else and therefore have no reason to buy anything else.
Okay, so, the two cameras. First, the main camera I have used and will continue to use is a Leica M5 in black. I should start by saying I received this camera from a friend after having to sell a bunch of cameras to pay some bills while back in Canada. I’m sure some people reading this will go out and buy one. I recently wrote about the camera on instagram and the immediate response from some people was something like “it is the one camera I really want.” I thought this to be funny, considering it is the same thought I had about every camera I ever bought. I have this camera because a friend happened to give it to me. IT has been my friend ever since and will continue to be. Any camera is good enough and any camera is one we can use and love. In fact, the longer you own one the more you will love it as is the case with this one. And don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t mocking the person for saying they wanted to buy one, just commenting on the fact I would have one time felt the same way.
I say unabashedly that I love film. It is stupid, I know. Sometimes I say film has a “look” and everyone laughs. I get it, it is like a hipster saying tight jeans and big glasses give them a “look.” Honestly though, I’m sure that in 30 years when I look back at my photos it will be the film ones I remember and still have. I don’t have any explanation for this. Maybe the negatives will be the only thing I would have kept.
The lens? Well, I use the 35mm Voigtlander 1.4 SC. Yep, nothing fancy and most people say this lens sucks. I don’t particularly care a whole lot as they are generally the type of people that comment on the photos I took with the Sony 9 year old digital point and shoot and ask me what type of film I used ;)
For me, the lens was cheap, and just about wide enough. Works for me.
I know, I know… Why TWO cameras. People are going to say this is an excuse for me to not commit to one. Well, I believe it is a necessity. Let me explain.
I don’t always have film. I don’t always want to buy film. I don’t always want to pay to process film if I can’t do it.
Yes, not very “artist-y” of me. Well, it is what it is. I sometimes want to shoot but don’t have the time, money, or willpower to do so on film.
Thus, enter the digital camera. Honestly, I chose the Fujifilm Xpro1 for a couple of pretty boring reasons.
First, I had it already so it wasn’t a matter of acquiring one which would be counter productive as I have rid myself of everything else. Second, in practice, it is the most affordable way to get a digital camera to work similarly to the M5 for those times when I’m not shooting film. Part of the reason I came to the conclusion that this process was necessary was that I was disappointed looking at my photos as I felt like they lacked cohesion. While the photos from both will never be exactly the same, because I can use the same lens (albeit as a 50mm lens) on the Fuji, it maintains similar characteristics and sort of a similar look. A big deal for me.
Third and finally, my girlfriend loves the Xpro1. This is kind of a big deal, ha. Probably could have just skipped to this part.
Too much choice is never a good thing. Paralysis by analysis as they say. I remember being on a trip to Japan and having four cameras with me (M9P, M8, GR1V, Leica X1) and a bunch of lenses and honestly having a hard time deciding what to take out in the morning. I would always end up taking two or three cameras “just in case” all the while telling myself I might need one of them for a certain kind of photograph. Stupid as fuck. The trip became about photography, not about being on a trip. I am not a professional photographer, I should enjoy myself on a trip for the sake of enjoying myself. Enjoy the company I’m with and the places I see. Even in everyday life this should be the case.
Not to mention, I can’t tell you how many photos I missed trying to figure out which camera to use and how many times I pissed off the people I was with trying to decide which camera was best. It isn’t worth it. Not to mention the amount of travel I could do with the proceeds of selling off all of those cameras and lenses. Money is always better spent on experience. In 50 years, I can guarantee the fact that I won’t look back at the cameras I owned, but, the experiences I had.
And hopefully I’ve taken some okay photos of those experiences.
Why else take photos in the first place.
So, thus ends step 2. A pact with myself to keep a couple of cameras and be happy with them. Something that is necessary and needs to be done. If I don’t stick to it, you’ll all know and hopefully call me out. You know how addicts like to justify “needs” ha.
Also, I want to thank everyone for the amazing comments both here and at Eric’s blog (if you didn’t know, I have written for my friend Eric Kim‘s blog for years and often post in both places). I appreciate them so much, and always like hearing from people about this stuff. Talking about photography is one of the best ways to get over GAS, haha. Step 3, should come soon and will cover the giving away of cameras instead of selling them as a way to “purge” yourself and atone for having lived a GAS filled life. Stay tuned ;)
This article is written by Josh White, originally posted here. The views posted here are his and his alone and may or may not be shared by the website as a whole ;)
My name is Josh and I’m an addict.
No, I never did drugs. I don’t smoke. I hardly even drink.
I’m addicted to something more pricey than any of those. I’m addicted to cameras.
Any kind of camera. I don’t discriminate. I don’t care anymore if it is expensive. I don’t care if it is new. I don’t care if I’ve tried it before. If it is out there to be bought, I probably want to buy it.
I get angry at other addicts. This stems from a strong denial of my affliction. Stems from the inability to admit my own flaws.
Some say there isn’t anything wrong. This ISN’T an addiction. I’m here to say, they are wrong. Addiction by definition is the inability to stop a habit.
There are many symptoms. First, the morning coffee. The coffee, a different addiction, is just a means to sit in front of a computer and feed. The first thing you may check is ESPN or the news. That makes the addiction feel less real. Next though, the reality of it.
The next part depends on the “drug” of choice. Maybe you go directly to the newest gear news. If you prefer the old stuff, you check used shops for their newest posts. I used to be the prior but have migrated towards the later. “Wow, that is interesting” or “I took one of my favorite pictures with one of those.” The starting thoughts to a chain of events leading to getting a fix.
At this point, “you” still don’t feel there is a problem.
“I’m just looking..”
At work during free moments you check forums or reviews. Listen to other addicts talk about why they needed that fix. If you’re like me, you look at the old photos you took with the current “mark.”
“I remember when I took this. I really loved that camera…”
Other people need to latest and greatest. They aren’t the nostalgic type addicts like myself. They can forget the past easily because it will never be as good as the future. I was like this before. I remember the feeling of not wanting to use my current because I knew I would get the newer. The “lame duck” mentality.
“What if I take the picture of my life with this? How can I get something else then?”
This leads to another problem. Hoarding. The inability to let go because at some point something may be needed. Some day, you may want to fondle or hold. I’ve never really been a hoarder, but addiction is unpredictable.
Justification. The crux of the matter.
“If I only had that camera I could take the shots I want.”
Weirdly, that thought is very rarely followed by:
“I wonder how I can take interesting shots with the camera I have?”
At least not in the mind of an addict.
In our hypothetical day, the addict will then spend the rest of it daydreaming about what they could do with the new camera. They will dream of the inspiration. Somehow, when looking at forums and reviews they don’t seem to see the negatives. Either that or ignore them.
Finally before the day is over the website is checked one last time. Some small part of your brain wants it to be sold.
Not because you want the addiction to stop but because you want it to continue.
“It wasn’t really that good anyway. Tomorrow, there will be something better.”
When I look at my favorite photographers, there is something interesting about them. For the most part, they have a very specific style. Their photos have a “look.” They have a clearly defined “feeling” to their photos. Something that isn’t easily explained aside from with another hypothetical situation.
I open flickr and I see a photo without the name because, I am of course at work and the browser window is minimized. Even so, I know right away that photo was taken by Junku Nishimura ( a friend from Japan and probably one of the best contemporary street photographers in existence). I don’t need his name to know the photo is his.
People will argue this point. Most of the people that argue will be addicts. I know because I did so myself. They will say that if you have a style you can take photos of that style with anything. This is true, on some levels, but not all. Not because of specifications or technical details but because of the vision of the artist. Their camera is just their tool. It is a method to expose a frame. A medium on which to capture.
Anyway, I digress. I am slowly recovering. It is hard, I still fall back into the routine of addiction. Maybe I will always be an addict. In fact, I think I will be. I just want to learn how to deal with it better. I NEED to. I want to be proud of the work I’ve made and want it to be consistent. This addiction doesn’t allow for that.
So, I’ve decided to start with the 12 steps. 12 steps of my own invention. Consider this, step one.
Admitting I have a problem.
Step 2 is maybe the first on the actual road to recovery. A pact. A pact to use one camera and one lens for a year. 365 days. More on this tomorrow.
This article by Josh White, a street photographer based out of Korea. This article originally appeared on Josh’s blog here.
Gear Acquisition Syndrome (abbreviated to GAS) is a term used to describe an urge to acquire and accumulate lots of gear.
GAS hasn’t received any major medical attention. GAS is not a clinical condition. It can be the result of a psychological lack of personality.
A lot of people have asked me a lot lately about cameras and getting over the feeling of wanting every f*cking camera you see. As much as I hate gear talk now, I really feel like this post is necessary.
Photos in this article are outtakes/shots I am considering from my on-going “Suits” project.
One of the things I love most about street photography is how open and democratic it is. Anybody with any camera can shoot street photography. You don’t need anything fancy. Not only that, but street photography is accessible to everybody. You don’t need to be in Paris– you can simply shoot in your backyard.
However one problem that plagues street photography and life in general is this need for status.
In this article I will touch upon two aspects of status when it comes to street photography: 1) Status via cameras/equipment, and 2) Status via social media:
We are always tempted by what’s new. We want the newest cameras, the newest cars, the newest computers, the newest smartphones, the newest tablets, and more.
When does all this madness end? In this article I share some of my experiences succumbing to “G.A.S.” (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and some techniques I have learned from the philosophy of Stoicism to overcome it.
We are all gear-heads at heart. We love hearing about the newest and greatest camera out there, and we love seeing comparisons with different lenses, at different apertures, and the sharpness and “characteristics” of each lens. I think it is fine to think and discuss about gear in photography, but when discussed about in excess– it starts getting unhealthy and like a disease.
I am weak, and I get tempted by gear all the time, but I try to constantly remind myself not to fall victim to gear acquisition syndrome (also commonly known as “gas”). Based on sociology, psychology, cognitive science, philosophy, and my personal experiences I will suggest some tips how you can cure yourself of gas (no not your farting, you might need to lay off the beans or get some stomach medicine for that).
1. Realize that you are weak
If you ever watch an introduction to alcoholics anonymous, each person in the group goes around in the group and says, “Hi, my name is “X” and I am an alcoholic”. Similarly, it is important to realize that we are human, and we are weak– and we fall quite easily to temptation. We love to think that we have strong willpower, but studies show that we actually have extremely weak willpower. Admit to yourself that you get tempted to gear as much as the next person, which will help you better resist the “poisoning” of gear around you. I shoot with a Leica camera, and I meet a lot of Leica users and shooters– and many gearheads and collectors. There is nothing inherently wrong with being a gearheads or collector, but it is a vicious cycle that I feel never brings one true satisfaction and happiness (as we always want more).
Take for example yesterday in Kuala Lumpur. I just finished my street photography workshop and had a cocktail and VIP party at the Leica store, and stumbled upon a Leica MP with a .58 magnification viewfinder. It was so goddamn gorgeous, and I felt my own gear whoring come out of myself. I then started feeling that my Leica M6 was inadequate, and that the .72 magnification viewfinder was useless with a 35mm lens. Also I marveled at the Leica script that was embossed on the top plate of the MP, and told myself I needed one. I had a drink and played with the MP some more, and it felt so right in my hands, with the heavy brass and the “mechanical perfection” of the film advance lever. The guys around me were laughing and “poisoning” me in all good fun, and I knew I had to resist myself. I reminded myself how weak I was to peer pressure and gear — and took a step back and gave back the MP.
2. Create physical constraints
As humans, we have very weak self-control and constraint. Take smoking for example. Many people try to quit “cold turkey” using just their will– but few people actually succeed. Statistics prove that majority of smokers quit when having some physical aid (using a e-cigarette or nicotine patches) to overcome their addiction to smoking. I feel that the same goes with gas. You need to create some physical constraints on yourself. For example, I am awful with money. If kept to my own will, I would spend all of my money on Leica lenses, crocodile leather shoes, and ice cream cones (I love ice cream almost as much as Allamby). I know this, and therefore consult my girlfriend Cindy before making any serious monetary investments.
About a month ago, I asked Cindy what she felt about myself buying a Leica MP (yeah I have been thinking about it for a while). She essentially smacked me upside the head and told me I would be a complete moron if I did, and talked some sense into me. She gave me a ton of clarity, and by having her as a “gatekeeper” to my wallet–she helps me a ton from making stupid decisions. If you don’t have a beautiful and bossy girlfriend to help you keep your money in check, perhaps hire a financial consultant and tell them to prevent you from making stupid financial decisions (including gas). Even by putting all of your savings into a fund (that you can’t touch) and keeping a certain limit on your credit card, you will prevent yourself from buying crap you don’t need.
3. Don’t hang out with gear-heads
One thing I learned in sociology is that “you are the average of the three closest person to yourself”. Therefore if you hang out with a lot of gear-heads, you will be a gearheads yourself and succumb to gas. Rather than hanging out with gearheads and stroking your Leica and lenses with baby oil, hang out with photographers who talk less about gear, and more about photography. Finding a community more focused about shooting (and less about gear) will in-turn make you more focused on photography and less on gear. Inevitability we all love talking about gear at one point or another (the latest Leica rumors, the new Fuji camera, or the new Olympus micro 4/3rds) but try to find a group that keeps it to a minimal.
4. Stick to one camera and one lens
Currently the only cameras I own are my Leica M9 and my Leica M6, along with my 35mm summicron f/2 asph (yeah the latest version baby!) I gave my old Canon 5D to a close family friend’s younger brother (who is an aspiring photo journalist) along with my 35mm f/2 and my 24mm f/2.8. I told him it was all he needed to take incredible photographs. He asked me if he should buy a 70-200 lens and I threatened him that if he bought it, I would take my Canon back. I also recently had a 21mm Voightlander for my Leica, and returned that. I also gave my 21mm to my good friend Todd at the Hatakayana Gallery to use on his sweet new 21mm Leica lens (yeah the same guy who gave me his M6! Even trade.) The last three months or so (since I inherited my M6 from Todd in Tokyo) I have been working on all of my personal projects on film (tri-x and portra 400).
Nowadays my M9 is my backup camera (and really expensive point and shoot camera). Therefore all I am really using for my street photography is my Leica M6 and 35mm summicron f/2. It is one camera and one lens. Nothing more and nothing less. What I love most about having one camera and one lens is that it is just less stressful, and plain bliss. I never concern myself with having a different focal length for a situation (having a 28mm if someone is really close or a 50mm if someone is further away) but rather I learn to adapt to my situation, and become more creative. I have used a 35mm focal length more or less exclusively for around 4 years now, starting with my Canon.
I now know the focal length inside and out, and know how my frame looks in any situation. I don’t really even have the desire to have any other lens, as the 35mm framelines on my Leica are difficult enough to see with my glasses. Less is more. Having more choices simply gives us more stress. Remember the last time you wanted to order something at a restaurant, and there were like five million options on the menu? You then order something, wishing for the best, and it comes out and you feel disappointed? (damn, this chicken Alfredo sucks– I should have gone with the beef stew). Less options is less stress on us, and doesn’t cause “paralysis by analysis”. But damn, if I got a Leica MP with a .58 viewfinder and 28mm lens, it would be pretty sweet. Ahhhh nooo! Eric, stop this self-poisoning of yourself.
5. Calculate the lost opportunity cost
New cameras and lenses are expensive, and often that money can be used towards better things related to photography (buying photo books, going on trips, buying film, or paying off your maxed out credit card). I currently have the M6 which is worth around $1300 usd. The Leica MP is around $3300 usd. The cost of upgrading will be $2000.
Let’s do some math:
What else can I better do with $2000?
I can have enough money to buy two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world. ($1000 a ticket times two)
I can have enough money to buy and process 200 rolls of film ($5 a roll and $5 to process a roll).
I can have enough money to buy 40 photography books ($50 usd for a decent photo book).
All of these things will do me so much more for my photography and happiness than a new shiny Leica. Do your own calculations for what gear or lenses you may be pondering, and see how ridiculous your ideas may be.
6. Buy a film camera
The best thing I have heard digital cameras likened to were computers. Think about how long you can use a computer before it gets outdated. 4 years, at best? Digital cameras as essentially computers. They get outdated fast as hell. There are always new digital cameras coming out with moar and moar megapixels, iso, dynamic range, faster autofocus, and crappy features like hdr and panorama, etc). I doubt you can use a digital camera longer than 4 years, without it being considered a dinosaur.
Ever since I got my film Leica, I no longer am very impressed or concerned with these new cameras coming out (besides the MP). A film Leica will last you a lifetime, and you never need to upgrade. It is simple and straightforward, and remember- all film cameras are “full frame”. Regardless of my MP envy, I would say that having my Leica M6 and 35mm summicron — I feel truly “content” with my gear. If you want to make a purchase, remember to get a good lens, as they will last a lifetime (more or less). They will outlast your camera, as there is only so sharp you can make a piece of glass. I doubt they will ever quit selling film- and don’t worry about Kodak going bankrupt. Their film business is stilly profitable.
Remember, when photography first came out people said nobody would ever paint anymore. People still paint. People said cd’s would kill vinyl records. Vinyl records are now thriving more than ever (thanks to all the hipsters who shop at Urban Outfitters). Classic things never truly “die”.
7. Don’t spend time on gear forums
If you spend an unhealthy amount of time on gear forums, stop. It is quite possibly the worst thing you can do in your spare time. I actually suggest downloading an add-on for chrome or Firefox that prevent you from visiting these sites altogether.
In street photography, sharpness and the “bokeh quality” of a lens is the most overrated thing ever. Sure if you give me a Noctilux and have me shoot that bad boy at .95 I will squeal like a little schoolgirl about how creamy and “bokehlicious” the photo turn out, but it is quite useless in street photography. When is the last time you saw a great street photograph from any of the masters and said, “Wow, that photograph is really sharp” or “Wow, that photograph has really nice bokeh”.
Another thing that I used to do a lot (which I am trying my best not to do anymore) is look at someone’s photographs (who are very good) and ask what camera or lens they use. It is like asking your chef what pots and pans he or she uses to cook your meals (if the food is really good). If you don’t want to get slapped in the face (or your food spit in) realize that it is the artist that creates the art, not the tools.
Frankly speaking, all prime lenses out there are pretty damn sharp (and you will always sharpen the photos a bit in post-processing anyways) and I feel that street photography is best captured using a large depth of field using zone focusing. Therefore don’t worry about having a large maximum wide aperture– unless you want to take nice bokeh shots of your water bottles at home, that is.
9. Realize that you will never be satisfied
Material things never bring true happiness. Yeah, yeah we have all heard it before but it is true. We all tell ourselves, oh–if I only had full-frame I’d truly be happy. If I had that Leica I’d be truly happy. If I had that one 1.4 lens I would be truly happy. Realize that with gear, it is a slippery slope. As humans, we are biologically greedy. We want stuff, and like having lots of it. It was our genetic way of making sure that we wouldn’t die. After all when we were cavemen, if we hoarded tons of food for ourselves, we would have a higher likelihood of making it through tough winters and droughts.
Nowdays modern day life is much different. Most people in the modern world don’t suffer from famine and most of our basic needs are met (food, shelter, clothing). However the instincts we have make us never satisfied with what we have. And of course, advertising and consumerism has a large part to blame as well. There is no “end goal” of gas.
Let’s say you start off with a dslr, you will want a full-frame. You get a full-frame, you want that nice canon L lens. You realize the canon L-lens zoom isn’t enough, so you get some nice prime lenses. You then realize the whole damn thing is too bulky, and go for a Leica. You then get a Leica M9, and need more lenses. You end up collecting all the lenses, and then realize you want the M9 titanium. M9 soon becomes passé, and you get a S2. The madness never ends. Be content with what you have and of course feel free to purchase gear, but realize once you find a system you are reasonably happy with (80% satisfied) stick with it.
10. Realize a lot of gas is just bragging rights
Many of us try to rationalize what we do in terms of our purchasing decisions. We tell ourselves that the cameras and lenses we buy are “investments” and thus make rational decisions. Let’s cut away a lot of the bs. A lot of us (including myself) want to just show off with our gear and have bragging rights.
One of the reasons that I kept my old 35mm 1.4 summilux for so long was so I could state that I had a summilux for the sake of having one. The summilux wasn’t the optimal lens for street photography (far too big and heavy) and I never used the 1.4 (only when taking snapshots of my friends at bars to show them the creaminess of the bokeh!)
The reason a lot of us buy expensive cameras or gear is to try to fit in (if our friends all have a certain camera or lens, we will want to get one). Another reason is that we might want to differentiate ourselves from other people (like Leica users vs Dslr users). We want to feel superior with superior gear to be seen by others as having a higher status. With more status comes more prestige, comes more opportunities for us to connect with other people with high status, and have a feeling of “smugness”.
We all love our toys and cameras and lenses. I don’t see any problem “geeking out” with gear with the friends or playing with our friends new camera or lens. It is perfectly healthy and all fun. However what becomes an issue is when we concern ourselves with gear excessively. Photography is a damn expensive hobby, and not being able to have the best and greatest sucks. We don’t want to be the loser with the “crop sensor” or only having the f/2 lens instead of the f/1.4 lens. We just want to fit in and feel “important” with other people with nice cameras and things.
If you currently suffer from gas, admit to yourself that you are a gear whore and decide for yourself if you want to cure yourself or not. If you have the cash and enjoy continually acquiring lenses and cameras, no problem. If you don’t have the cash and you are taking out credit card debt to feed your addiction, you should probably reconsider things. Life isn’t about getting nice things and being happy.
Spending time with others and being social is what makes us truly happy. Therefore quit spending so much damn time on gear forums and thinking about that stuff, and get out of the house and call some buddies and go shooting. The more time I find myself going out and actually taking photographs and spending time with my fellow streettogs, I am truly happy. I geek out and at times have wet dreams about the next Leica purchase myself, but I realize that I am weak and easily susceptible to peer pressure or advertising. Take a moment to consider how addicted you may be to gas, and I hope this has helped you.