To All The Ships At Sea –
After being a working photographer for more than half a century, while giving a lecture at B&H, I said something like in the next few years I think I will convert from being a professional photographer to an amateur. During the coffee break my studio manager said “Were you kidding?, I can’t believe you said that”. Let’s be honest, I didn’t start my career in photography as a pro, we all start as amateurs except for Lew Long of course. I guess, in reality, I’m, coming full circle. Will I stop shooting assignments – no I will continue to shoot them. I find myself making photographs of the stars, my God, I did that when I was 14! The simple way to explain it is, I’m having a lot of fun in the digital world.
About a week ago I had two brand new digital cameras on my work table in the studio. One was the new Canon and the other the new Fuji. They sat there for about a week when I asked my studio manager to ship them back virtually unopened. Are they great cameras – absolutely, and are they new and improved models absolutely! Which brings us to the real question. Do I need them and will they allow me to make better photographs when the simple answer is absolutely not! Somewhere around 1973(?) my mentor, teacher, and photo God, (as applicable to black and white documentary photography) flew to Cleveland, Ohio to an NPPA event. The room the event is held in is an extremely long, and narrow. A lot like a train. I followed Gene like a little puppy dog behind him. On the left side of the room all the vendors were lined up, Nikon Canon, Leica, Minolta, Hasselblad, and Rolleiflex. On the right side of the room were the photographs that were submitted for the competition. Gene walked up the aisle looking at all the new cameras and walked back down and looked at every photograph carefully. When he got to the last photograph he exclaimed out loud, “All new cameras and no new photos!”
W. Gene Smith’s birthday was the other day and I guess he sent me a message. The reality is I need to make better photographs with the equipment I have. So to all the Ships at Sea, grab a camera, an extra battery and card and go out and shoot. You can do it and the motivation should be fun.
W. Gene Smith’s birthday is also the same day as Sam Garcia’s birthday.