This morning a camera woke up before sunrise and wiped sleepy camera soot from its tired little lens. Wow, another exciting day of making pictures. It rolled over and looked at the other cameras who were all equally motivated to capture photons.
This camera had a plastic lens so it was an unusual camera. That’s if you can say being “one of gazumpteen million almost identical cameras” is unusual.
Cameras don’t need breakfast so it quietly unpacked itself from the drawer where the householders store their plastic cameras. It lowered itself to the floor using the simple plastic camera neck strap and loaded a 120 roll of Ilford Delta 400 (because it wasn’t going to be a sunny day). And it nearly forgot… but then quickly grabbed the scissors with invisible nimble fingers & snipped off gaffer tape to seal the camera seams so there were no light leaks.
The plastic camera didn’t want to wake the householders because they were irrelevant. What do “unexceptional people” know about capturing photons through a plastic lens? So it crept out of the house and waited at the bus stop with all the other disaffected cheap plastic cameras that had autonomous independent lives. Of course, everybody avoided Chucky because he wasn’t a camera… he was a psychopath doll possessed by the spirit of a criminal. But that’s another story.
After twenty minutes the plastic camera’s bus arrived and the adventure began. It took its lens cap off and stared eagerly out into the streets of the city through its plastic rangefinder (being aware of the parallax effect). It wanted to capture photons bouncing off people and buildings in unpredictable ways by taking advantage of its unique lens aberrations. This was a secret location only known to plastic cameras.
It saw a young woman drinking a coffee; it chose what to include in the frame and what to exclude from the frame. It chose the story the picture would tell. It chose the context. Because plastic cameras are good at making photographs. And it clicked the plastic thing that released the pseudo-unpredictable shutter at approximately f11 at 1/100(ish).
After rolling onto the next frame the plastic camera found a bank kiosk with a distinctive high contrast shadow effect that it thought would be very cool to share on Facebook. Framed. Clicked. Rolled to the next frame. It saw a beggar picking up a pamphlet. Framed. Clicked. Rolled to the next frame. And then another and another until the roll was finished.
That was the simple part of this camera’s day because it had to sneak home, unload the roll of film and spool it inside a darkroom bag then mix chemicals and measure temperatures that determined how light the lights and how dark the darks should become on the resulting film negatives. After all, only famous “exceptional humans” would have any idea what a plastic camera would produce on 120 film through a plastic lens. The plastic camera thought the best the average human could do is point it at things and produce pictures from dumb (artistic) luck or inauthentic surprise.
At that point the camera woke up to discover that it was really a little boy in flannelette sheets having a dream about being a plastic camera that captured photon diaramas in a secret universe. Which, in daylight, revealed something really obvious. Pencils and paint don’t make “good art”; and cameras, even plastic cameras with lens aberrations, don’t make “good photographs”.
Photographers make good photographs. With experience, skills and a unique perspective. Within constraints and the resulting compromise. Whether it’s on a 35mm, 8 x 10, a $40,000 Hasselblad or an iPhone. Cameras are just pencils… or brushes… or facets of the technology interface. Nothing more, nothing less.
That dogma in your hands is your own.