Musings on Photography

Sapir/Whorf

Posted in Leica M9, process by Paul Butzi on April 2, 2010

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in the comments on this post Nathan writes:

it seems to me (but i may be way off base here) that you’re saying your new photographic tool has a profound influence over the kind of images you are inspired to make.

i have only 5-6 years of photographic image making experience, and i’ve used several different kinds of (digital) cameras and so i kind of get how different tools affect how and what i photograph.

i guess i’m just surprised by the degree to which the use of new equipment alters the way you see and make images. i know it is not the case, but it almost sounds as if the camera is the determinative factor in the creative process.

I don’t think it’s any great secret that I think the equipment we use affects how we see photographically.

It happens in small ways. Put a fixed focal length lens on your camera, and commit to using just that lens for a while. At first, you’ll see all sorts of photographs, including quite a few that can’t be made with the lens you’re using. After a while, almost all the photographs you see will match the lens you’re using. It’s not that you see fewer photographs; it’s not that your brain is editing out all the photos you can’t make. It’s that your seeing adjusts.

Switch to a different lens, and over time the adjustment happens again.

In this case, switching cameras doesn’t so much affect how I see photographically as it changes *when* I see. The M9 is a carry everywhere camera; the 5dmkII is a use for specific situations camera. So the set of opportunities is different. I have the M9 with me almost all the time, and unsurprisingly I’ve made a number of photos like this:

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It turns out I have made relatively few photographs of the scene after I eat my breakfast. Although it’s a camera issue, it’s different from the lens affecting seeing. It’s about having the camera present during a different set of opportunities. The stream of potential photographs flows past us all the time. What’s changed is that now, once again, I usually have a camera at hand, and so I’m likely to open the shutter on the scene.

So while the camera is determining what gets photographed, it’s doing it in a way that is not quite what people might expect.

2 Responses

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  1. Chris Klug said, on April 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Just love the contrast in shapes of the top image.

  2. alofsm said, on April 4, 2010 at 6:16 am

    I think what you’re saying is that the 5D doesn’t go well with your morning tea.


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