Please forgive me but, since it’s race season, for a little while I’m going to be talking in car and racing metaphors.
A quick bit of background. I am a car guy. I collect them and I race them and I photograph them. My first six years as a photographer were spent photographing motorsports. I love owning, photographing and racing cars.
There are many great metaphors that one can exchange between photography and the car hobby. This lesson is based on a simple question. Is your camera a garage queen?
In the car hobby, we identify a car that never leaves the garage, that never has a spec of dirt on it, that’s always in show condition – as a garage queen. While the term has disparaging overtones, in my mind, there’s nothing wrong with owning a garage queen – if collecting cars that you invest in is your hobby, then by all means, owning garage queens might be appropriate.
But me? I like to race. I like to go fast. I like to take my race-capable cars out to the track. Yep – I occasionally use shoe polish to paint a number on my windshield so the track steward and the fire and safety people can keep track of me from the timing tower. And yep, there’s bound to be some serious brake dust on those fancy wheels. At the track you ride the brakes harder than on the street and you get some dust. The average garage queen would shudder. I understand. But if I am going to own a fast car, I want to race it. Just as the hammer is a tool to the carpenter, so is the car to a racer.
Now how does this apply to photography? Simple. There are photographers who own camera gear that they treat like garage queens. Everything is stored in its original box. The camera is never exposed to the elements. There are far more days the camera sits in its box than days it gets used. Again – if you are merely a camera collector, this may be a good strategy, especially if you aim to treat the camera as an investment. But if you want to make photographs then treat it like a tool and use it. If you want to operate it the way it was intended – you have to get it out of the box, sling it into a bag or around your neck and go make photographs with it.
I can tell you that owning a fast car is no fun if you can’t drive it fast. That’s why I go to race tracks. Well guess what – owning a fancy camera that you can’t use to actually make photographs falls into the same category for me.
So decide – are you a photographer or a collector. If you’re a photographer, get off the couch, get the camera out of the box and go shoot. You might get some brake dust on the wheels – but you can always wipe them off.