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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Old 02-04-2008   #81
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landsknechte
...the romantic myth of the starving artist.
I have a friend living out near Bodega who is a photo artist. Mostly he shoots color stuff through very long lenses on a Pentax 67, scans, and makes large format gicleee prints on interesting media - silk lately. He crafts his own frames for his works from exotic hardwood, and sells enough to stay housed and fed.

His next project involved a BMW 650 (one lung 2-wheeler), a Leica R9 with the digital back, some fast lenses, hummingbird feeders, and maps of back roads through Central American rain forests. Some of his early works in this line have been stunning.

I have not heard from him in a while. I hope he hasn't starved, or worse. But... what a romantic end .
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Old 02-04-2008   #82
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmogi10
This is how I see it,

It's like trying to tell a session guitar player that his worn out 60's strat, vintage 335 and impeccable custom shop Les Paul are all just tools. I mean, that's his job right? to make music with those tools?

Those aren't just tools
Right on !

It's really not a big stretch to believe that we are able to produce items that yes, technically they are "tools", but because of the care, design, engineering put into producing it, elevates it to something more.

And if we're talking about hammers, I know a few pro's that will only hammer in a nail with their own hammer, no one else's.
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Old 02-04-2008   #83
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Actually, I don't Leica was ever kept afloat by the purchases of professional photographers. Anybody who's seen their ads dating back to the 1920s & '30s can see that the main market back then was the same as it is today: well-heeled, "advanced" amateurs. The same was even more true of their main prewar rival, Zeiss Ikon & the Contax RF. Pro photogs & the advanced amateurs who emulate them serve the same purpose for camera manufacturers that racing does for auto makers: prestige, marketing, &, lastly, a testbed for new technologies. Pros & advanced amateurs don't make up to a significant market by themselves, though together there are enough of them to sustain a small company like Leica (in contrast, Zeiss Ikon sold to the broader market, too, w/a much wider variety of cameras in different formats). This is basically true today of almost every camera maker I can think of. Nikon makes most of their money selling point & shoots, not D3s & D300s. Heck, isn't Canon mostly a copier & printer company that happens to sell some cameras on the side?

The way I see it, after the market to shifted decisively to SLRs in 1959, Leica was forced to make a virtue out of a bad situation & specialize in RFs. And, yes, I would agree that collectors & RF diehards kept the company going for the past few decades. So I'm glad to see Leica offering a digital body @ all & bought 1 of the 1st M8s. However, barring an alliance w/a much bigger optical/electronic company, I can't see them competing in a serious way for the pro camera market any more than I expect to see Morgan sponsoring a Formula 1 team.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock
Again - I'm not for 'em nor agin 'em. Wish them well. Hope to see them survive. But I do not for a moment believe they are kept afloat by the purchases of professional photographers.

HCB and Winogrand have left the building.
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Five a Second. Chicago's Bell & Howell Co. (cameras) announced that it would put on sale this fall the world's most expensive still camera. Its "Foton" will take five 35-mm. pictures a second, sell for $700. Bell & Howell, which has found that "families of both low and high incomes now spend over $550" for movie equipment, hopes to sell 20,000 Fotons a year.

--Facts And Figures, Time magazine, Monday, October 4, 1948
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Old 02-04-2008   #84
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Yes, that states the obvious. It also doesn't change the fact that people can regard objects beyond the simplistic intention of it.
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Old 02-04-2008   #85
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"We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us"

-- Marshal McLuhan
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Old 02-04-2008   #86
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I would guess that the pros throw their gear around because someone else's money paid for it. It's different when you have to dig into your own pocket to buy or repair things. For sure cameras are tools, but they are also wonderfully engineered possessions (Spotmatics excepted) that are fun to use. For a lot of us, the whole thing is Escheresque .....cameras used to take pictures of other cameras. Or wierder still, people w/ cameras taking pictures of people w/ cameras who are sometimes taking pictures of people. Now I'm dizzy. Perhaps I should go take a picture.

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Old 02-04-2008   #87
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I can't wait to scoop the guys at grandprix.com w/ the new Morgan Formula One car rumor! If a soft drink maker of stimulant drinks can sponsor a race car, I wouldn't be that surprised to see a Morgan sponsorship. How about a Morgan Nascar deal?
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Old 02-04-2008   #88
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Things changed when people earning money from photography changed to image taking (digital). With digital both, the image taking device and image processing software are of same importance, the "digital"- camera became just one part in the chain of tools for image-producing.

In former times, using cameras without any kind of automation, the photographer needed more skills to take a photo, thus the camera was more the basic and important tool to "get the shot". Today's auto-everything-featured cameras with a high fps makes it easier to get at least one usable shot, which than can be polished up using photoshop or other software. With the old-style full-manual camera, the latitude in wet-darkroom post-processing was much smaller, thus the raw-material (correct exposed film) had to be of better quality. So cameras are still tools but their role in the complete imaga-taking-chain has changed, IMHO.
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Old 02-05-2008   #89
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevin m
At the risk of repeating myself:

1. A digital Leica "CL."

2. A Leica competitor to the Ricoh GR-D. Full analog manual controls. Small format digicams are, in spirit, the 'Barnack Leica' of today.

3. Make the M8 a true "pro-quality," no-excuses digital camera, and not a toy that a photographer keeps for "personal use." Dual card slots and weather sealing would be a good start. A dedicated ISO dial would be even better. If you could pack it in your bag and not bring a C-A-N-O-N to back you up, then it'd be worth $5,000.

The Leica M was the best RF of the film age, but the film age is over.
And you're willing to fund this?

If not, where is Leica going to get the money?

As for 'the film age is over', well, yes, of course: no-one rides horses any more, either, and television has made radio completely obsolete.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 02-05-2008   #90
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It strikes me that if your purpose in owning cameras is simply to take photographs, then whether you're a pro or a hobbyist, your cameras are a tool. Having said that, collecting is a perfectly legitimate reason to own cameras and photographic equipment, in which case they become slightly more than a tool. A lot of hobbyists - as well as some pros - sit somewhere in the middle: they both take pictures and collect cameras for their own sake.

Most of my cameras fall into the 'tool' category but I do own a few - my OM1 and my father's Zeiss Ikon folder, for example - which have sentimental value for one reason or another and so, to me, are more than tools.
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Old 02-05-2008   #91
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Please show us the standards body that has proclaimed the minimum number of photos that must be taken per year to call yourself a photographer.

Cameras can be more than tools. In the right person's hands.
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Old 02-05-2008   #92
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nextreme
Cameras can be more than tools. In the right person's hands.
I don't really buy that. Michelangelo's hammer and chisel and Monet's paintbrush remained tools despite what they produced.
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Old 02-05-2008   #93
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I agree. And I think the steadily improving capability of video cameras + the change in media venues is blurring the line between photography & videography, @ least in fields like journalism, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by maddoc
Things changed when people earning money from photography changed to image taking (digital). With digital both, the image taking device and image processing software are of same importance, the "digital"- camera became just one part in the chain of tools for image-producing.
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Five a Second. Chicago's Bell & Howell Co. (cameras) announced that it would put on sale this fall the world's most expensive still camera. Its "Foton" will take five 35-mm. pictures a second, sell for $700. Bell & Howell, which has found that "families of both low and high incomes now spend over $550" for movie equipment, hopes to sell 20,000 Fotons a year.

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Old 02-05-2008   #94
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A wood-framed F1 or NASCAR car would be something to see.

Quote:
Originally Posted by myoptic3
I can't wait to scoop the guys at grandprix.com w/ the new Morgan Formula One car rumor! If a soft drink maker of stimulant drinks can sponsor a race car, I wouldn't be that surprised to see a Morgan sponsorship. How about a Morgan Nascar deal?
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Five a Second. Chicago's Bell & Howell Co. (cameras) announced that it would put on sale this fall the world's most expensive still camera. Its "Foton" will take five 35-mm. pictures a second, sell for $700. Bell & Howell, which has found that "families of both low and high incomes now spend over $550" for movie equipment, hopes to sell 20,000 Fotons a year.

--Facts And Figures, Time magazine, Monday, October 4, 1948
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Old 02-05-2008   #95
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Quote:
Cameras can be more than tools. In the right person's hands.

If it takes "the right person's hands" to make a camera more than a tool, it stands to reason that the person is more important than the camera.
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Old 02-05-2008   #96
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Sitemistic: "But if you are going to call yourself a photographer, the definition requires that your primary goal in owning a camera is in actually taking photos."
Bah! Humbug! I call your bluff--!!!
Attend a wedding where there are 2 disposables on every table.
Watch the folks snapping away and then leaving the cameras for the bride/groom to develop the pix==and see some great photography afterwards! Several people at each wedding will have "the eye"--photographers? Yep! Own a camera? Maybe...maybe not--but the photos make the "photographer"..camera owner or not.
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Old 02-05-2008   #97
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Making a decent living as a photographer doesn't require the skill to always get great pictures. It does require the skill to always come up with decent useable pictures.
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Old 02-05-2008   #98
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In the Pop Photo forums, I always put a short line of dashes, then end with "It's not the camera, stupid, it's the EYE".

We couldn't take pictures without cameras, but there is always the fact that what we see and take pictures of is (most of the time, I hope) something that we are either attracted to or want to preserve some form of memory of.

I too treasure my cameras, try to take good care of them, and I've never in many decades parted with one I owned. Which means that some of them I don't use much any more. But I still believe that we are sort of frustrated artists, too. So maybe this discussion is a bit like the chicken and the egg - which side do you want to put your faith in.

A Stradivarius is a priceless violin. But it can't make music sitting in a case on a table. It takes the talent of someone trained to play it. Ditto a Steinway piano. They are a means to an end, but the end can't be reached without the intervention of someone willing learn to use it. Same with a camera.
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Old 02-05-2008   #99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ade-oh
I don't really buy that. Michelangelo's hammer and chisel and Monet's paintbrush remained tools despite what they produced.
We would have to ask them if they regard their tools as just that, or if they are not revered for the qualities that they possess.
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Old 02-05-2008   #100
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Guys, my point was simply that at certain times, certain objects are regarded with a higher esteem than the their most simplistic definition. The question was not "do you buy your cameras to collect or to shoot with". If you regard your camera as a tool, then does that not make a disposable point and shoot it's equivalent ?
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Old 02-05-2008   #101
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Hmm. I think we need another thread:

Are leica collectors tools ?

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Old 02-05-2008   #102
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Not in the least! Different cameras are tools for different things. A 4X5 monorail view camera can do things an SLR can't do, and vice versa. Don't give me the modern cop out "I can fix it in P-shop!" Some lenses give fantastic bokeh, others don't. Some render colors better than others, or are better for infra red photography. You pick the tool for the job. Yes, you can hammer nails with a jack plane or tighten screws with wood chisel. Hell, they even make different hammers for different things: tack hammer, carpenter's hammer, framimg hammer, one handed sledge, two handed sledge, and if an old timer catches you using a hammer on a chisel? Watch out! That's why they make mallets.
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Old 02-05-2008   #103
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If you regard your camera as a tool, then does that not make a disposable point and shoot it's equivalent ?
Sure. If it gets the job done.

Mitch Alland gets better results with a Ricoh GR-D than most people, myself included, get out of their M camera.

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Old 02-05-2008   #104
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Sure. If it gets the job done.

Mitch Alland gets better results with a Ricoh GR-D than most people, myself included, get out of their M camera.
Then why own a Leica ?
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Old 02-05-2008   #105
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A pro or serious amateur doesn't obsess. He knows which tool is required for the task at hand, picks it up, and uses it. You don't need to own every tool ever made.
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Old 02-05-2008   #106
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I don't look at my cameras as tools. Being a hobbyist I tend to look at my cameras as companions. I don't talk to them, at least not yet. Companions, because I tend to carry one with me every time I leave the house. I guess you could say there big boys toys! Some of you guys that call your cameras tools really treat them like children. You wipe them like a child and some of you even go so far as to dress them like a child. As in $160.00 or more expensive leather. Not saying that's a bad thing. But tools?
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Old 02-05-2008   #107
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Quote:
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I don't look at my cameras as tools. Being a hobbyist I tend to look at my cameras as companions. I don't talk to them, at least not yet.
You don`t talk to them ??
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Old 02-06-2008   #108
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Quote:
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You don`t talk to them ??
I sing to mine. We make beautiful Music together.
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Old 02-06-2008   #109
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'Cause, for some of us @ least, it's more fun to use (as well as being more versatile).

Quote:
Originally Posted by nextreme
Then why own a Leica ?
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Five a Second. Chicago's Bell & Howell Co. (cameras) announced that it would put on sale this fall the world's most expensive still camera. Its "Foton" will take five 35-mm. pictures a second, sell for $700. Bell & Howell, which has found that "families of both low and high incomes now spend over $550" for movie equipment, hopes to sell 20,000 Fotons a year.

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Old 02-06-2008   #110
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It is the cool thing to say. I don't see too many musicians calling their instruments tools - even if their day job is to record a McDonalds jingle. But among photographers, it just somehow developed into the "I could care less" statement of true photographic cool.

Someone said that a camera (or was it a Leica of some sort.. isn`t it always) is just a tool, not something to be dressed up. Well, I was made to eat, ****, reproduce and die. But I sure am glad there is more to life...
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Old 02-06-2008   #111
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Cameras and guitars are good comparisons. True, most musicians do not call their guitars tools but they are. Eric Clapton can pick up any guitar and make it sing. The magic is in him, not the guitar.
If you or I play a $5 ebay beater or a $5000 Martin, our talent does not change. The tone and playability will be different but the talent remains the same.
Buying a $5 ebay beat camera or a $5000 camera do not change my talent / eye / approach to photography. One may be easier to use or look better but what I bring... That's what counts.
They are all tools when it comes down to it. Some photographers or musicians would like to think that they will be better if they buy a certain camera or guitar. The tool does now improve the talent just by showing up. A good tool can help you improve your skills - with work. But a bad tool can also help you improve skills - with work. And just because you are not a professional doesn't mean it is not a tool.

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Old 02-06-2008   #112
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I don't know that it matters that much - how we perceive our cameras is part of what makes us individuals, so if someone does or doesn't consider it a tool doesn't have to be absolutely right or wrong.

For me, the camera is a tool I use to make negatives, just like the developing tanks, enlarger and/or scanner is a tool to get to the print. One thing is true - without SOME sort of tool, whether it is a camera obscurra or a rangefinder, there is no photo.
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Old 02-06-2008   #113
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Yes, there's some truth to that. I used to hear people say that the lousier your negatives are the better the printer you'll become
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Old 02-06-2008   #114
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To my mind, Al, a good photographer is one who takes decent pictures and does his (or her) own printing. When I got into the game, camera work and enlarger work were both parts of the same whole. I believe that is true of you as well.
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Old 02-07-2008   #115
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Payasam,

After about 6 months in photography (that would be the end of 1962) I bought a Durst R-305 enlarger and my Dad bought me a 50mm f/2.8 El Nikor after using a friend's darkroom for awhile. Three years later I upgraded to an Omega B-22 XL enlarger. I still have and use the El Nikkor and Omega along with the safelight, Nikor tank and reels, and 8 X 10 trays I bought back then. I've added to it over the years, mostly with used stuff.

Sometimes I honestly get the feeling that I don't have to know how to print anymore. It's like I'm being guided through the process by friendly spirits residing my darkroom. It's become as automatic as that big Fuji machine at the Walgreens one hour lab. It has a sensor that chooses color balance and exposure. I have one that chooses contrast and exposure. My hands shape themselves to throw some pretty complex shadow patterns for burning and dodging but they know how to get in the correct position to make the proper shadow patterns, and for how long. The timer stays put at 10 seconds. If I need less exposure I "dodge" the entire image for a few seconds. If it needs more I use the on-off switch for a few seconds. I've been meaning to add a foot switch for forty years. That extra might be through a higher or lower contrast filter, and I often burn in through different filters for high lights and shadows. But ask me what I'm doing? I'm mostly unaware of doing it.

Yes, Mukul, in the darkroom the equipment, myself, and the spirits are all part of a unified whole. There's a harmony at work.
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Old 02-07-2008   #116
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I really don't think that seeing your cameras as more than just tools equates to being a gear-obsessed status junkie. I don't think any of my cameras could be seen as "status" gear - most of you guys wouldn't use my kit for a door-stop if you hads the choice - but they are all instruments to me, for one reason or another they all make me feel a certain way and I am _sure_ they influence the photos I take with their personality. Its not a matter of wether or not they are higher quality - I could care less, I am well aware of the limitations and strong suites of all my gear - its a case of getting a vibe, a feel, from each speicific camera or lens. Also, because they are mostly really old, and all of them second hand, I think they are fellow travellers with stories to tell and I enjoy their company, each in their own way.
And no, I don't think Eric Clapton would ever refer to any of his guitars as a "tool", and most musicians I know (and I know a few) would be offended at the suggestion. To most, its not a case of better guitar=better music mentality, but they have a great deal of intangibles that makes them very, very partial to certain instruments over others. I don't pretend to know Clapton, but I would suggest that he would be much the same. Actually, he describes the time when he was at his lowest, selling guitars to feed his habits, as one of the darkest times of his life - and from the interviews I have read, it certainly didn't seem like he was selling hammers.
I think this kind of discussion is really fuelled by the unique nature of photography. You can take a camera to a store and photograph a toilet plunger for the purposes of showing it to your better half for approval. Meanwhile, what the greats do with a camera is the furthest thing from this kind of mundane application. No one brings a guitar to hardware store, comes home and when asked about which plunger he bought answers with "I can't quite describe it, but if it was a song, it would look like....ths: *strummmmmm*"
Personally, I would venture that in my case, in a combo comprised of myself and a camera/lnes, the tool is most often behind the viewfinder And I stand by my initial assessment.
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Old 02-07-2008   #117
Spider67
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I once asked "Toy or tool" meaning not the camera in itself but the choice some of you would make when you need a camera to have the job done and which you would take when you just wanted to enjoy a certain way of taking photographs.
Tools: Nikon FM, Bessa R, Retina IIc, 35 RC, Kiev 5
Toys: Most of my FSU's, Kodak Brownie, Pentax auto 110

Strange: Musicians can talk for hours about the wondrous properties (their) Stardivaris or Amatis but photogs talking about their equipment are weird gearheads.
Will ever anybody ask a musician or tennis pro why he has several rackets or guitars whereas it's what do you dowith all those things (Ancient egyptians will understand me I've just chosen a lovely spot for my cursed grave and chosen the Cameras that will follow me to the afterlife....)

Yes bmattock I understand the group of people who are firmly tugging your's and each collectors nerve: Those who have a firm concept how things should be and who only can answer the question why it has to be like that by answering " that's the way things have to be"
Of course there are limits collecting like Collecting so many classic cars that your company goes broke and workers from your company seize your collection in order to pay the company's debts (happened in France) or trophies of serial killers.
But otherwise....live and let live...and don't ask collectors rethoric questions that are meant to boost your appeal. How would it be if intsead of a rethoric question modest noncollectors would state "Look at me I don't collect anything, this amkes me sane, normal and likeable" Well I would like to see the reaction of anyone listening.....
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Old 02-07-2008   #118
Gabriel M.A.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by back alley
can you imagine a website that might have a thread called 'turntable porn'?
No need: It's already on the cover of lots of LPs, specially if it's a compilation by a sports car dealership
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Old 02-07-2008   #119
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There seems to be an underlying attitude that collectors do not take photos or use the cameras and if they do, for some reason, the skill is low. It's funny, but the more I think about it this issue my collecting nature has always been intertewined w/ my hobbyist or artistic leanings. As a kid, I collected comic books and books in general ( still collect books also). Early in school and throught college I wrote for school magazines, creative courses and campus newspapers. I wrote well and even won a few little awards. As teen and well into my 30's I collected LP's, 45's and 78's. At that time I learned how to play a little guitar and joined garage bands. I played relatively well and others seemed to enjoy listening. I have a few "collectable" cameras. An M2 (a very nice user), a Yashica Lynx 14 (definitely collectable), a new MP purchased 1 1/2 years ago ( I don't if that's considered collectable), and couple of TLR's (very collectable) which I don't really enjoy using and more than likely sell for something I do enjoy using. I have set up a traditional wet darkroom which I am currently refining. I don't really shoot enough to save money in comparison to using a pro lab. I do it because I enjoy it. I also enjoy going on photo workshops in places other than where I live. I do consider myself a collector of prints and of photo books. I think it really doesn't matter if a person does "collect". The truth is I am a middle aged man w/ more discretionary income than I really need. So I indulge in my "hobby". That includes a little collecting here and there. That includes a little camera fondling. And that also includes a nice shot once in a while too.
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Old 02-07-2008   #120
bottley1
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The way some people on this forum elegise about their cameras, they are most definitely NOT tools, more like ethereal metaphysical fluffy things made from manna from heaven that would get blown away with a gentle summer breeze—especially when they are using them to capture the essence of fleeting moments of their (decisive) vision…..
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