Why I Wear a Camera

People have often asked me which camera is the best, to which I usually reply, “The best camera is the one that’s with you!”

I wish I was clever enough to come up with that response on my own. It came from another photographer, Chase Jarvis, who in 2009 created a book with that exact title. His book is a photographic journal from two years of his life that consisted of pictures taken with his iPhone.

In his book Chris writes, “Inherently, we all know that an image isn’t measured by its resolution, dynamic range, or anything technical. It’s measured by the simple — sometimes profound, other times absurd or humorous or whimsical — effect that it can have upon us. If you can see it, it can move you.”

At first the big take-away from his book for me was that it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have. Pictures effect people, not the camera they were taken with. What matters is the pictures you take with it. But gradually it started to make me realize more than that.

In January of 2017 I decided to publish a photo blog – “365 Days with a 50mm Lens” My goal was to spend the entire year taking pictures with only a 50mm lens, and publishing the pictures to my blog daily. I wanted to believe it would help motivate me to find inspiration to take more pictures, and it did.  Of course as the year went by I found myself getting busy with life and not posting every day, but I stuck with the project for the entire year.

Me photographing two of my biggest sources of inspiration.
(Photo by Wanda Kenton-Smith)

After completing “365 Days with a 50mm Lens” I realized that being motivated to take a picture every day wasn’t always inspiring by itself. Setting out to find a picture can result in getting some good ones, but not always. In fact, my best pictures were a result of seeing something happening. So having a camera available to photograph it when it happens is what is most important.

The truth is more and more people always have a camera with them, because most of us own smart phones with very good built in cameras.  The cameras in my iPhone X are incredible, and I am always in awe over the images that they can produce.

But for me, real inspiration to take pictures comes when I’m holding my Leica rangefinder. For me, it is a camera that feels good to hold.  Amazingly good. Like a high quality musical instrument or beautifully crafted fountain pen.

My Leica is smaller than some other cameras, but it doesn’t exactly slip into my front pocket like my iPhone does. When inspiration strikes I need to have it with me.  Which is why I wear a camera.

That’s me (left) getting ready to leave for Summer Camp with our Boy Scout troop back in 1979. I’m wearing my first real camera — a Canon FT 35mm SLR.
(Photo by Dr. Richard Miller)

 

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