Saturday, June 18, 2016

Psychological and Attitudinal Implications of Photographic Gear Choice

During a conversation I had with a new adopter to m43s from a FF system, he mentioned that he felt that his photos were different from the photos he had been taking, and when he made a conscious decision to shoot his "old style", he felt the composition and overall quality of the photos were not as good as they had been.  Overall, he felt a bit dissatisfied with his change to the new m43s system.

I wasn't sure how to respond to his complaint immediately, so I let the comment slide past me.  However, it kept nagging at me, and this post, however inadequate, is an attempt to respond to his complaints.

In looking back at my photos taken over the years with other cameras and other formats, I see a significant difference in the type of photos I take with 4/3s and m43s cameras than I did with 35 mm cameras and other cameras with other aspect ratios.

The photos taken with 4/3s and m43s cameras all seem to be more, "intimate" in nature than do the photos taken with other cameras.  Those photos, the ones not taken with 4/3s of some sort, all tend to be more 'sweeping' in nature.  I acknowledge that the terms "intimate" and "sweeping" are rather indistinct and not defined by me, but those are the feelings the various photos evoke in me.

However, I first adopted 4/3s roughly at a time when I was

  1. Acknowledging that I was not, and never would be, the next Ansel Adams.  
  2. Concerned that maybe I was using photography to separate myself from my life.  That maybe that viewfinder was a convenient tool to prevent me from experiencing my life, so I could just watch it like a CinemaScope movie.
With the 4/3s formats, I tend to create a lot of square format photos and do a lot of close ups, both of which, in my mind at least, are features of a photographer trying to connect with his subject.  And my landscape photos seem to be less sweeping and more focused on the details of the natural world.  Even my 'sweeping' landscapes tend to have little details in them than really only get noticed on close examination, and they are frequently stitched panoramas since I don't associate 4/3s with 'big sky'. 

In Memoriam

I think I have grown as a photographer since I switched to the 4/3s formats. I can't say, if that growth would have occurred anyway, or if my adoption of 4/3s accelerated that growth, but I do know they are connected in time. 

My point is, I think I unconsciously selected 4/3s because I associated it with the qualities I wanted to develop as a photographer.  Whether 4/3s actually has those qualities or not is almost irrelevant.  In my mind they did, and still do have those qualities.  M43s helps me SEE the photos I want, and it helps me create the photos I want.

I think our choice in hardware is far more complex than we want to acknowledge. And I bet that photographer I mentioned in the first paragraph isn't having problems with the format, as such, so much as he is in reconciling his attitudes about the gear and what he expects from himself.

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