“Letters from a Recovering Camera Addict” Step 2: The Pact

Iksan, South Korea. M5.
Iksan, South Korea. M5.

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.

Iksan, South Korea.
Iksan, South Korea. M5.

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.

Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea. Xpro1.
Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea. Xpro1.

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.

Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea. Xpro1.
Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea. Xpro1.

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.

Suwon, South Korea. M5.
Suwon, South Korea. M5.

Anyway..

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.

Suwon, South Korea. M5.
Suwon, South Korea. M5.

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.

Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea. Xpro1.
Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea. Xpro1.

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.

Suwon Station, South Korea. Xpro1.
Suwon Station, South Korea. Xpro1.

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.

Suwon Station, South Korea. M5.
Suwon Station, South Korea. M5.

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.

Suwon, South Korea. M5.
Suwon, South Korea. M5.

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 ;)

Josh’s blog.

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“Letters from a Recovering Camera Addict” Step 1: Admission

Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul, South Korea. Last week.

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 ;)

Hi.

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.”

Seoul, South Korea. 2014.
Seoul, South Korea. 2014.

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.

Tokyo, Japan.
Tokyo, Japan. 2011.

Josh’s blog.

Josh’s flickr.

Josh’s twitter.

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