Mirrorless / CSC or Smartphone? A journey into downsizing - Part 3

Some photogaphers, generally male, like to strut around with the biggest camera and lens they can carry. If it wasn't in such bad taste, they would happily wear a t-shirt with a big arrow pointing to it with the price clearly written showing just exactly what they have paid for their pride and joy. Others, including myself, like to work with a degree of anonymity. There is also the fact that we seem to be in the middle of a photographic revolution, with what seems to be the entire population of the world documenting their lives and what they see and we have what amounts to a explosion of picture taking. 

You may have noticed that articles describing how people taking pictures being persecuted by 'jobsworths' and 'rent-a-cops' have declined significantly. Because what can they do? The public at large seems inclined to photograph what they want, when they want and would be somewhat incredulous and probably offended if someone told them 'You can't take photographs here!'

This is clearly due to the rise of the smartphone and certainly here in the UK, people snapping away at whatever they please has become so commonplace that it's almost become invisible. Smartphones also have the 'benefit' that it's difficult to tell what their owner is doing with them. They could be checking their emails, texting somebody or taking a picture. All actions looking remarkably similar. In other words, a photojournalists dream scenario. 

The 'instagrammed' depiction of everyday life in shared images has also become just as prolific as the people taking the images and the media happily publishes examples of this on a daily basis. Hardly a TV news bulletin goes by without some pretty awful footage of something happening somewhere in the world. It seems to be used on the basis of 'It looks terrible, but it's 'real' (Man!)

And I have to say that all of this social acceptance of constant picture taking is something I find gratifying and useful. I've been trying to photograph everyday life in some form or another for years and sometimes it's been very difficult. In recent years using a camera in certain places was liable to get the 'perpetrator' branded as a terrorist or a paedophile. The notion somehow grew up that anyone using a 'decent camera' was to be treated with suspicion, since they probably had sinister motives. 

But now, since everybody seems to own a smartphone and is only too willing to use it at every possible opportunity, those suspicions seem to be evaporating. Because how can we be suspicious of somebody engaging in the very same activity that we are? And since we seem to be inclined to share every moment of our lives and every detail of what we are up to with anyone who might be interested, notions of privacy are not what they were.  

And you can see all of this reflected in what people photograph and the way in which they present those images to the world. Old-school, analogue, hipster retro may seem cheesy to those of who who have been trying to avoid our images looking like they were taken on a camera in serious need of repair, but everybody else seems to like them. And as a friend said to me when I told him about what I was planning to buy 'So it's if you can't beat them join them then.' And I guess there is an element of that in my using a smartphone as a serious photographic tool to earn a living with. Plus my ability not to write the word Instagram without spitting any more!!

I'd finished taking pictures yesterday and was walking back to my car, when I realised I had no bag on my shoulder and nothing in my hands. In one pocket I had my Blackberry and in the other my newly acquired Nokia 1020, both of which I had used to take pictures with. I suddenly felt very odd and somewhat 'naked.' I've become so used to carrying cameras that it was strange to not have one visible to passers by. I have to say that once I got used to it, I actually quite liked it. It was surprisingly refreshing to realise that though I am a photographer and that's how I earn my living, I didn't look like one. It felt different and more than that it was an enjoyable experience. 

It wasn't just the fact that I was carrying virtually no extra weight than I usually do, an extra phone being the only difference, but that I was going about my job without appearing to do so. I don't know why but there was something really satisfying about that. Something to do with the fact that I think I've finally accepted that I have nothing to prove. I have no need any more to justify calling myself a photographer. It's what I do, I do it reasonably successfully but I really don't need to carry a piece of gear that demonstrates that to anyone I pass. 

And I thought to myself it's not just the size and weight of what I've been using for the past few days that's liberating, it's the way I can be who I am and do what I do with confidence and without the need to demonstrate my abilities. Now that may not mean much to the DSLR toting camera buffs I pass from time to time, but it's a nice fringe benefit as far as I'm concerned. And the last thing I expected to get from using a smartphone was a sense of relaxed satisfaction about what I do, but it seems that is exactly what has happened.

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