Recently I have read quite a few articles by professional photographers who have been using lightweight cameras in their work. Cameras that were once dismissed as “toys” are now being accepted, even embraced by top professionals. I read one article where the photographer (I wish I could remember his name) had finished a shoot using their top of the range Hassleblad with digital back and instead of packing up, pulled out a GF1 with 20mm lens. He then proceeded to shoot a series of un-choreographed portraits of the models. The results he says were some of the best images of the shoot. This seems to be a pattern that is repeating itself across photography.
So what can we learn from the above example? Well, the photographer said they felt a sense of creative freedom from using this camera. Odd? Perhaps not.
Lightweight cameras and equipment give you freedom to move around and engage with your subject much more intimately. If your subject is a person, the lightweight camera creates a much smaller physical barrier between the subject and the photographer. Look back to the 70’s and you will find that many press photographers also carried small high quality compacts with fast lenses, loaded with fast film such as ISO800 (fast at the time). This gave them the freedom to shoot in unusual circumstances where an SLR couldn’t be used.
Somehow, somewhere, many of us have forgotten the benefits of small, lightweight, quality cameras. Perhaps it’s because the equipment just hasn’t been up to the task until recently with the move to digital. Perhaps we have been “brainwashed” by the big equipment manufacturers who had nothing to offer us except ever larger, more complex SLR’s.
There is one further lesson I would like to draw from this story and that is the value of having a personal project. The photographer clearly knew he wanted to shoot these images. We don’t know if he had a personal project but I suspect he did; most professionals do. When you have a personal project (or two) on the go you will find the world opens up opportunities to you. If you don’t, your photography will flounder.
Why this image? It’s from one of my projects exploring surveillance cameras in the city.