My Equipment History Told through Love and Affection

I started messing around with film on a 110mm camera when I was 9. It wasn't serious, mostly animals and stuff in my backyard. I remember the 'pop' of those disposable flashbulbs. Then my mom bought me a Minolta X-700 when I was 13. It baffled me. F-stops? Shutter speeds? Iso? Manual what?

Everything came out either black or white and I was shooting colour film, if you know what I mean. It was either under or over exposed and I retained nothing of the subject I longed to capture. I left that camera on the shelf until my freshman year of University.  

I fell in love in Miami and followed her to Sarasota on weekends. I tried to take portraits of her. Backlighting problems, exposure problems. I thought it was time to take a course in photography. Sometime around then my love life took a turn and I met a half french half american girl who wound up being my partner for three years.

We visited France for a month of surfing and I shot almost every day. I had never been to Europe, never seen buildings older than 300 years. I'd never stood on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence and ate Béchard chocolates.  Life seemed as if experience was just beginning and there was plenty to photograph. My mind exploded with inspiration.

I returned to university with over 30 rolls of film, having enrolled in my first ever photography course. It was my sophomore year. I was actually a motion pictures student and we regularly shot 8 and 16mm motion picture film, but I wanted to explore beyond what the school offered for cinematography.

As soon as I stepped into that dark room, and I mean the blacked out room where you load film on to spools to be developed, I was hooked. No eyesight needed. Everything was touch and feel. The next revelation was that red darkroom you see in films. But what you can't know unless you have been in one is the smell; chemical pungency, somehow intoxicating.

That was it. I was addicted. I loved the mesh of the complementary experiences. Out in the world, noise, sound, colour, motion. In the dark room, silence, stillness, touch and feel. Motion pictures required a huge team to create and at 18 I wasn't ready to or equipped to take that on.  So photography stuck even though commercially I spent ten years as a motion pictures editor and consultant. Avid, Final Cut, Premiere and the like.

Fast forward to now. It's been four years since I began using digital and many of my favourite cameras sit on the shelf. A Hasselblad, Leica, Voigtlanders, Nikons, and Mamiya's.  A friend (who is nothing short of a genius) got me into the Panasonic GF1 when it came out. I was skeptical but this was a way of working without the lab bill. I used it mostly to snap and not yet for commercial jobs. Don't get me wrong. I consider some of my best work to be my snaps.

After about a year or so Olympus launched the OM-D EM-5 and I bought one at that year's Focusing on Imaging show (now called The Photography Show). My GF1 got the shelf and was replaced by the EM-5 and the newer EM-1. I also have a Nikon D700 which I used for a while and still love the optical clarity of, but the weight and image quality is totally beaten and matched respectively by the OM-Ds. Sometimes I take the Nikon on jobs 'just in case'. I almost never use it. Old prejudices die hard.

I shoot a lot more live music now than I use to and I use the OM-Ds for this. I prefer the EM-1 for it's superior image quality in high ISOs but the EM-5 does a good job too. I usually shoot with two bodies and two lenses which have been primes up till now. Imminently I will get Olympus's 12-40mm 2.8 and the 40-150mm 2.8 which are said to be zooms as good as primes.

For 'Women of Iceland' I took three OM-D bodies with me and three lenses. I was able to work quickly and silently as I photographed and talked to the women I interviewed. Not being formally trained in the art of interview has its advantages and eventually I started recording my shoots. We are working on a book which will be ready for publication later this year. The exhibition of that work which is on until mid-June 2015 displays many of those images which are blown up to A1 without a problem. The image resolution holds beautifully.

Cameras are tools and though the conversation around them is important, it is elementary. What you do with them once you have them - that is the story I am most interested in.