by Graham Smith
Graham Smith is a highly acclaimed and award winning music photographer heralding from Northern Ireland but frequently found in all corners of the known world, and their coffee shops. Waitresses beware.
My Photography Equipment (A Rant)
Almost everyday for the past decade I have received an email or been asked in person about the photography equipment I use. That is (approximately) 3600 times I have been asked this same question. Phew!
Currently I use two cameras. No extra lenses, no flashguns, no lights, just two small cameras.
I shoot the majority of my photos with a Ricoh GRD III. This is a compact, pocketable and deceptively powerful camera. It has a fixed focal length wide angle 28 mm f1.9 lens. I have always favoured fixed focal length lenses, I like to move with the camera, zooms have never interested me.
The other camera I use is my iPhone 4. Yes, I shoot on a camera phone and I fucking love it. I use a very simple program called Hipstamatic which comes with many different options for “lenses” and “films” which give different results but I tend to stick to the most basic lens and film which produces a high contrast Lomo/cross-processed style look. Also, as of today since they just updated the program, a very nice black and white film option is now available.
I am fully aware this post will piss off some people, particularly when talking about the iPhone. A camera phone is not a REAL camera, right? Why not? Who says so? I see this as much as a REAL camera as your latest Canon 5D II or whatever the current model is.
The photography world is full of snobbery. I have witnessed this since I started. At first, for me, it was snobbery about not having studied photography and not knowing every technical term or every single past “master” of the art. Nowadays I feel the main snobbery is about equipment. I cannot count the amount of times I hear people say things such as “I will be a REAL photographer when I get such-and-such camera / lens / camera bag / lighting rig,…blah blah blah…”.
Since when did photography come to be so orientated towards equipment and the “perfect” (AKA soulless (in my humble option)) light? The race for more mega-pixels, spending hours editing each photo to remove any “imperfection”, forcing bands into daft poses and concepts etc, etc…
If that is what photography is about these days then I am very glad to not be called a REAL photographer!
I am very happy with my Ricoh. It has really good build quality, a nice sharp lens, produces good images, it feels right and most importantly to me is nice and compact meaning I can take it everywhere I go and I most certainly do. It also does not scream “LOOK AT ME, I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER, LOOOOOOK AT MEEEEE!” which for me is vital in getting people to relax for the type of photography I prefer.
I am also happy using my iPhone with the Hipstamatic app and love the results I am getting. Does the fact that everything is automatic make it not REAL photography? To some people maybe it does and that is fine, but I strongly disagree. Actually, whilst writing this, I have just realised that I treat the Hipstamatic app the same way I used to treat Polaroid photography. Is Polaroid photography more important than Hipstamatic? Why? Because it uses film?
This post is not meant to be a rant to annoy anyone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying the latest equipment and having loads of gear to carry around IF that is what you actually want to do. The problem I have is the new thought process that seems to suggest that you must do this in order to be a REAL photographer. Utter bullshit.
My entire camera gear, two small compact cameras, can go everywhere I go, take up very little space and do not cost a fortune. This is not meant to sound egotistical but I have won several awards (ED: most prominently, the Lex Van Rossen, European Young Music Photographer of the Year Award in 2009) and had my work exhibited around the world, using such equipment. I will continue to work this way and if this excludes me from certain parts of the photography world then so be it!
Photography does not have to complicate your life. It can very easily be a fantastic, fun and rewarding compliment to your life, if you let it.