Me and My Camera

Meera Sethi

Apart from my warm, humming 12-inch Powerbook G4, whose smooth burnished silver surface I like to run my fingers over, whose rounded corners fit comfortably into the cupped palms of my hands, and the small compact bulk of which I occasionally caress absent-mindedly, I don’t have a particularly visceral or emotional relationship with any of my physical possessions. It’s not that I seek to divorce myself from clutching consumerism, or that my mind is filled with rarefied thoughts far above the merely material; in fact I rather love things and enjoy filling my life with them. Just last night I spent a pleasurable half hour placing an order for 6 pairs of knee-high socks, and I look forward greatly to their arrival.

But there’s nothing really sentimental about my attachment to my stuff. If something breaks and can’t be fixed, or if I misplace something I’ve had for a long time, the momentary pang is quickly followed by a practical assessment of how to replace it – if it needs replacing. I just don’t tend to cram a lot of nostalgia into objects. Maybe it’s because I can’t afford to; I’m awfully apt to lose things.

So when you ask me what my relationship with my camera is, well – I have to tell you that it’s a functional one, really. My current workhorse is a slightly beat-up second-hand Canon 10d with a lovely little 50mm 1.4f lens sitting on it, and I don’t have much to complain about. It does its job (generally fairly consistently) and I do mine (slightly less consistently) and as long as its battery doesn’t fail me too quickly and I don’t have to press, slide, or click a combination of more than 3 buttons and wheels in order to make it do what I want it to, it keeps me happy.

But my camera is not my friend, my lover, or my confidante. I do not carry it with me wherever I go, and I do not see everything through its big glass eye. When I do have it with me it sits in the bottom of whatever bag I happen to have or else bumps painfully against my hip, and it is lucky if I do not drop it from too great a height. My camera is not an extension of myself. My camera does not hold my memories. It does not give me a new perspective on the world or show me things I never would have seen otherwise. My camera is not a substitute for therapy. It’s not even something I need to do my job. And although I will admit to having taken a certain amount of sweet satisfaction in the clicks and whirrs and cool metal seams of the fully manual film Minolta I learned to shoot on years ago, actually handling my 10D's staid black body doesn’t bring me any particular joy.

What my camera is is the best piece of equipment I can afford right now to help me get from point a to point b. I happen to like point b a lot better because there are pretty pictures there.

And it really does deserve a kiss for that now and again.

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