Buying gear gives me a headache. Whenever I need to buy something or replace something it does my head in and I almost never buy anything. It’s easy for me to visualise my camera as a necessary part of my day to day life. I can’t do that with any other item I own – maybe my glasses or fitbit or this watch my parents bought me before I moved to Japan. Buying a new camera is annoying, but fortunately something I rarely have to do. It’s also easier. I know what I want. I know what I need. My current source of frustration is my bag. I’ve had it for five years. It used to be waterproof. The coffee stained pages in the bottom of it tell me I need a new one. I’ve since picked up probably 15 bags in different stores since I realised that. They all went back on the shelf. I’m not interested in bags.
I love how pure photography is when you don’t think about the gear. I know a lot of people don’t even consider a bag or a strap to be gear. I can see that argument. My thinking is that if the camera is something you always have with you. If photography is something that you do anywhere and everywhere. If that’s the case. Everything is weighted in some way against making the photography more accomplishable. Some people only shoot on their phones and make incredible photographs. I can’t do it. I like the feel of the camera too much.
Maybe the problem is that I do care about the gear. I need the bag to be good enough. It’s not just a camera bag. Shit, it’s basically not a camera bag. The bag I have at the moment is an Eastpack backpack I bought for a four week French course I took back in 2011 – all long forgotten now. Je suis désolé. It’s just a bag. It’s where all my crap goes. When I went to Lyon that August, I bought a point and shoot I’ve long since lost in various moves and packings. It’s probably in my parents’ loft. I took a few photos I’m sure. I didn’t consider myself a photographer by any means. Today, six years later, when I think about what to buy I’m torn between a ‘camera bag’ and ‘just a bag bag’. What do I need? Why will I use it? I don’t like having too much stuff with me. I occasionally need a little more. What if I’m on my way to the next Star Wars movie and my 7/11 snacks don’t fit?
When I need to think about photography when I’m shopping it irks me. My new bag will have nothing to do with photography other than that I’ll have it with me when I shoot and put my camera in it sometimes. But those sometimes might be important. What I want from everything is for it to be utterly unobtrusive. My sister got me some neat bluetooth headphones for my birthday last month. For a long time I hadn’t liked the idea. Firstly, battery life becomes an issue. Secondly, and this has already happened to me once, I was worried I’d accidentally hit play without the headphones connected and play something to everyone in my train carriage (It was Touché Amoré’s ~). After the fact though, I love these headphones. When I’m shooting, the lack of a wire makes it much easier for me to check my phone with my camera in my hand if I need to. When I’m running (I run with my phone in hand for podcasts / stopwatch), there’s nothing in the way. Nothing flapping around. The headphones are perfect. They’re completely out of the way of everything.
My camera is another example of something almost perfect. I’ll complain from time to time that it’s a little big. But, short of not fitting in my pocket, it’s perfect for my needs. It’s small, it’s quiet, it’s not too heavy. I like the dials on top for ease of access. The battery is excellent. It has a tilt screen. It’s a wonderful tool. I almost never think about it anymore. The only time I do is when I’m shooting and need to use the bathroom – that’s the real issue of it not being pocketable.
But bags, straps, clips, tripods, triggers; this kind of stuff just isn’t fun for me. I gave up on most of it. The bag that spawned this ramble is something I have to have. It’s the last layover from the time I didn’t live with my camera. It was a great bag. But now maybe I could do better. Find something that better suits my needs. Maybe instead of shooting and wearing out my perfect shoes, perfect (except for the bathroom issue) camera, and listening to something on my magic headphones I should be in shops putting different things in different pockets of different bags, thinking about how many T-Shirts I’ll need to go to Guam in a couple of weeks and whether or not my chargers will fit.
This is less about photography and more about modern life I guess. I don’t want to be a person who has too much extra shit in his life. I just want to make photos that make me happy. To write blog posts that make me think about how utterly irrelevant thinking about bags is to making a good photo. I want to have enough space in my backpack for a change of clothes, my camera, a couple of books, and Yuka’s jumper because she never wants to carry it. I’ve written myself out of frustration here. I think when I get home tonight I’ll already have bought a bag. Just a biggish backpack with enough space for all of the above. I’m pretty sure I’ll have been to this exhibition I’ve been meaning to go to. I know I’ll have made some pictures. Yuka will come home, we’ll hang out and watch TV and talk about our Mondays and go to bed on the folding Nitori bed we bought with nowhere near as much consideration as the new bag I’ll never really think about again. The bag will have been the least important part of my day, but the only one I dedicated over 1000 words to. Modern life is strange. But, I love it.
Tokyo, June 2017.