Field cameras

:: photography, guest

A comment by my friend, whose nom de guerre is Zyni Moë, reproduced with her permission. Note that Zyni’s first language is not English.

Most people are confused about field cameras. They think are best at driving to some scenery pretending to be Ansel Adams except not as good (not actually sure how good he was now, certainly can’t look at his pictures any more). Perhaps in 1990 this was true: today if you actually wanted to copy Adams you would use some digital camera, perhaps Sigma Quattro with Foveon in fancy-high-res mode, still a lot faster than a field camera, image quality better and even with that camera you can take 30 or 100 pictures in the time you can take one with the wooden box.

Completely wrong use for such a camera in 2020. What is the right use? That is easy: street camera. If you want to take street portraits in 21st century no camera is better than a field camera.

You walk around with some official anointed ‘street camera’ (small, expensive, recognisable) then people notice you because it is not any more 1950 and people are aware of cameras now. And they know you are trying to steal their photograph and, mostly, they don’t like that. If it is the most anointed kind of ‘street camera’ they will notice it even more (anyone who thinks these cameras are discreet in any way has not carried one much) and they know that you are not only trying to steal their photographs, you are almost certainly richer than them. People like even less than the stealing of photographs the stealing of photographs by rich men (always it is men).

Instead you can walk around with a wooden box on a tripod and a bag of rattling bits. No-one, ever, refuses to have their picture taken because it is so interesting and strange. Better, offer them a print in return for their picture: now they give you something and you give them something in return. Yes you do not get the same pictures you would with your pretend-discrete camera: you will not get pictures any one of ten thousand thousand people would take, mostly better than you. You will instead get more interesting pictures, pictures only a few hundred people could take better than you and not many even will try.

Of course you have to walk carrying this huge thing over your shoulder and if you are not so rich and can’t afford a fancy carbon tripod it will be heavy. But humans are good at walking if they will only try.

Well I have not done this but my friend has: is how I met him in fact. I have the print which I value above most things, and not just because he made it.

This was originally a comment to this.