Keep it simple.
Nowadays we are constantly bombarded with advertising by brands selling all kinds of photographic products, from backpacks to tripods to lighting and of course, cameras. This trend is so widespread and present that it has even been attributed with the humorous term: G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome). G.A.S. is something that is often joked about in forums or in blogs however, in reality it does us little favours when it comes to being more creative in how we tell stories and becoming better photographers.
Think about it for a second. Try and remember the 2 or 3 photographs that have stuck in your mind. Now think about the photographers who took those photographs.
Statistics show that you’ll most likely be thinking about a classic, like the afghan girl by Steve McCurry, or a decisive moment by Cartier-Bresson or even one of those incredible compositions by Alex Webb (or similar). If you carefully study the works of any one of these masters, you’ll quickly realise that almost all of their works have been done with one camera and one lens.
“DON’T SHOOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. SHOOT WHAT IT FEELS LIKE”.
– David Alan Harvey
When it comes to photography, and street and documentary photography in particular, the important thing is to express something, be it a particular story or a feeling, something that makes you ask questions. In these exciting and enriching genres, the story is King, the gear, a mere tool.
Going back to the masters. Something that a great majority of them agree upon when asked about how to improve as a photographer and the advice they give to those who are starting out is: to use one camera and one lens, if possible a fixed lens and find a story.
In street photography it is certainly “better” if you have a gear that is discreet and that works well, but the important thing is to concentrate on composition, which is that language that will allow you to guide your viewer across your photograph. The important thing is the colour or the black and white that will allow you to express the emotions and sensations that words cannot express. The important thing is the experience, the journey, the people you meet.
“A CAMERA IS A TOOL FOR LEARNING HOW TO SEE WITHOUT A CAMERA”.
– Dorothea Lange
I have wanted to share all this with you so that you know that the advice i’m about to give you is founded. Photography can be one thing for one person and another thing for someone else, however, I think that for all of us it is something special and it can often be frustrating when we try to improve and enjoy what James Nachtwey calls the tradition that is to be a photographer, because we are focusing on the wrong things.
I’m guessing that you already know what my advice is going to be. Right?
Keep it simple. Use one camera and a fixed lens, a 35mm, a 50mm or equivalent. Use this configuration for an extended amount of time in order to learn what it does and what you can do with it. Go out, take lots of photos, compose, study the light, observe how it changes throughout the day and find a story or several of them. And when you think that you have something good, go out again and take even more photographs.
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