Keep Me Away From It…

I used to think that I needed protection from the big nasty things of this world. Now I am not so sure…I think that some of them need protection from me.

I don’t mean grizzly bears and drug cartels and singer-songwriters – they have diminished in threat stature as I have gotten older. I do still cherish a secret hope that they will all feed on each other and spare me any further fear, but even if they do not, I live at such a remove as to protect me from them. What I am talking about is the insidious influence of the moneyed world.

I do not decry money as such – I have some of it myself and it is useful in a liquor store. Nor do I begrudge other people as much of it as they wish to possess – as long as they don’t try to make my life unpleasant with it. But it is just this that has come to pass in photography lately…and I hate it.

I suppose at this stage I must point a finger at the culprits – as I live in Australia, I suppose it is a case of pointing the bone…well, finger bone. Leica. Hasselblad. And any lesser makers who decide to sell the sizzle instead of the bacon, and raise the price of it accordingly. In short – the prestige sellers.

They are no worse, I daresay, than the Bugatti automobile company, or Louis Vuitton, or any other seller of luxury goods. They sell goods – they sell luxury – they sell prestige. They sell the attempt by one person to assert a superiority over other people – and at least they sell it with toys rather than political thuggery. In that they are less harmful than many organisations. But they still do harm to the art and craft of photography.

They suggest that their goods make one a better photographer…a more important photographer…a more valid photographer. You become one of the elite as soon as the credit card transaction goes through successfully. Of course this is not actually the case, but if they are good at what they do…and they are good at what they do…you have this niggling doubt about your place in the art if you do not own one of their $15,000 cameras.

Sour grapes? Not all that sweet, perhaps, but my tastes are coloured by the fact that I did own Leica and Hasselblad gear when I needed it and when it did what it promised for working shooters. Those were film days, and the tectonic plates of the photo world have shifted so far since that era that we can never go back to it. I am sorry that this has happened because the gear they made then would still do the job now, if the rest of the system had not rotted away.

Will we ever be able to buy L or H gear again free of the Euro/Asian/Arabic luxury cachet that attaches to it? I doubt it. If we want it we must stump up, and we must put ourselves into the company of some of the most pleasant salespeople and excruciating enthusiasts. And we must forever feel that every sale made to us is a cause for laughter in the company offices.


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