Photographers Without a Camera
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Photographers Without a Camera

Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Recently I met with my photographer friend Anita. More recently I met with my other photographer friend Jim. On both occasions, we had lunch and no one had brought their respective cameras. Being with my photographer friends without cameras was… “interesting”. Or at least different.

Maybe they thought they would feel more relaxed and shielded from my keen observations on their photography if we just met and socialised like normal people. Or maybe they were interested in discussing photography with an intense amateur without having to concentrate on taking photos at the same time. Or maybe they thought this would be an occasion not to discuss photography at all. Or maybe they simply hoped that I would pay for lunch. I am afraid they both got somewhat disappointed.

Being a happy amateur, I take the occasion to discuss photography with whoever has something to teach me. This can be very tiring to any knowledgeable photographer, and Jim referred to me as a “photographic nemesis”. I replied that I shall abbreviate this to “phoneme”, which is the smallest posited structural unit that distinguishes meaning. Before I could go on, Jim put his face into the menu and started to focus on what to order, pretending not to hear me anymore.

Some would say that having lunch with a photographer is no different from having lunch with anyone else. After all, photographers are human beings too. How often does anyone hear someone hurling “I am not a photographer! I am a human being!” while wearing a bag covering their head? Not often. Thus, they are like the rest of us.

But if photographers want to be considered as human beings, then what is it that distinguishes them from the rest of us mortals? Nothing? And if this is the case, why call oneself a photographer? Such an undistinguished approach may work for non-perfectionist people with a complete lack of ego. But how many of those are around within the field of photography? Anita, for example, will stop talking to people when she cannot get the light right. This is how much she gets into photography when getting her hands around a camera. Happiness is a warm camera, yes it is…

As for Jim, he does not say very much anyway. Give him a menu, and he will dig into that whenever he wants to be left undisturbed.

Anyhow, with me around, the discussions quickly turned towards photography. Basically I try to discuss any and everything that is already discussed on numerous internet discussion forums, but I try to do all this in one hour. In order to manage this, I really have to behave like a “phoneme” on steroids.

– So Anita, what lens should I have when picturing moving animals – not you that is – and what bag should I have and what aperture and when should I do this? Please answer quickly because I have a few more questions before we finish our lunch. And do take the time to finish chewing that bacon-wrapped asparagus before you answer.

– So Jim, in a few words – very few words – what filter effect do you use when doing portrait photos and what light and what camera and what lens and what aperture and what speed and how do you make the person pictured seem relaxed? By the way, you do not seem very relaxed right now. And why are you looking into that menu again?

– Anita, I am surprised you didn’t take the lens-soup for a starter! Huh! Did you get it? LENS-soup! Hilarious, right!? By the way, I have another question for you about lenses… and please do not frown like that. It looks revolting when that asparagus somehow comes out of your nose.

But hey, photography is not only about being out there with a camera. It is also about reflecting on how to improve while learning from others. There are occasions – or so I’d like to believe – when my photographer friends can think about photography with some distance and while not holding a warm camera.

But then again, what would I know? There is still so much that seems mystifying to the uninitiated. Nonetheless, those lunches were good and I am eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to learn why a fast lens does not make me learn faster and why saturated colours do not make a camera explode. I am sure Anita and Jim cannot wait either for our next lunches.

This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: better photography, april 2010, Gabriel Fuchs, different strokes, amateur perceptions of photography, photographers without a camera, what is photography about?, some reflections on photography, socializing with photographers

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