The tools we use

There is a question often asked about photographers which is why do they spend so much time looking at, comparing and then buying the latest camera or lens when virtually no other artist indulges in such pursuits but instead focuses on the art itself. After all, painters do not spend hours scouring brochures looking at the latest paintbrush or easel? They might regularly buy new brushes but they are a mere tool, to be discarded once the artwork is created and the brush is worn out. Don McCullin, the social documentary and war photographer, famously said in his book The Destruction Business:

“I only use a camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job.”

Henri Cartier Bresson’s Leica. Photo by Markus Biedermann

which nicely places the camera where it should be, as a tool to get the job done. The sad fact is, if you like buying shiny new gadgets that is, whether they be cameras, laptops or even the latest silver Mont Blanc pen (or “writing instrument” as they prefer it to be known), there is no correlation between creativity and equipment cost or quantity. As Hugh MacLeod says in his book Ignore Everybody,

“A fancy tool just gives the second-rater one more pillar to hide behind.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson used a battered old Leica (see right) to create most of his iconic images whilst Ernest Hemingway used an old Corona No. 3 portable typewriter to write his novels.

As we say in our Versatilist Manifesto, versatilists “deliver”. They do this using tools but are not slaves to them. Success as a versatilist means recognising the pillars that Hugh MacLeod mentions and getting rid of them in favour of delivering what they need to. To quote MacLeod again:

“Good pillar management is one of the most valuable talents you have on the planet. All we can do is keep asking the question, “Is this a pillar?” about every aspect of our business, our craft our reason for being alive, and go on from there.”

If we were too extend our manifesto in any way it would be by saying that a versatilist delivers using tools but is not in beholden or in awe to them.

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One Comment on “The tools we use”

  1. […] it, stop fretting over getting the latest and greatest camera, just get on with showing your work. The tools we use are just that, tools. All the truly great photographers know this and often barely seem to realise […]


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