My recent shift towards enjoying photography in print form rather than on a screen got me thinking about how my photography and related spending has changed over the last seven years or so.
Pre-2011 I simply shot with camera phones so I didn’t need a photography budget, it was all wrapped up in my phone plan.
Late 2011 I invested around £300 in a Nikon Coolpix, and have shot I would estimate at least 20000 photographs with it since. So at 1.5 pence a shot, it’s worked out excellent value.
My discovery of film debuted in the summer of 2012, first with a Holga 120N, then a few weeks later 35mm cameras. Pretty quickly I decided I needed a monthly budget, and decided on £25, enough for three or four rolls of film a month plus developing.
And so began my film age.
Maybe six months later I’d had another handful of 35mm cameras, and bought my first SLR, a Praktica BMS Electronic. Then a Konica AutoReflex TC, then, I think, a Canon AE-1.
Enter my metal age, where most of my money was funding vintage cameras, as well as film.
With each of the Praktica, Konica and Canon SLRs, I’d had just a standard 50mm lens. Then I started to explore other lenses for each.
Maybe you’re familiar with the allure of vintage glass, especially large gorgeous hunks like the Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f/1.4.
So, as lenses became more enticing than cameras, I evolved into what I’d call my glass age.
Now, more money was going on lenses than anything else, but I was still buying a few cameras and the film to feed them with. My £25 a month budget was taking a hammering.
I’d also discovered a Sony NEX and the vast array of available adapters to shoot vintage glass with.
Alongside playing with the NEX and old lenses, my collecting shifted more towards later more plastic film cameras, like Canon SureShot, Pentax Espio and Olympus Mju compacts, as well as exploring SLRs from the 80s and 90s like the Minolta Dynax 7000, Konica FS-1 and Canon EOS 500.
My plastic age had dawned.
Because I track my budget for everything, I know that at its nadir I was over £500 in the red for photography purchases. This was including the £25 a month I was budgeting. Which to me, is a pretty big chunk of money, and even without spending another penny, would take 20 months of £25 a month to break even again.
I remember being in the crazy situation having something like 55 film cameras and only having put a roll of film through less than 20 of them.
Maybe to you this doesn’t seem so mad, but being a minimalist at heart, having more cameras and lenses than items of clothing and books combined, seemed pretty out of control.
A gradual purge began, selling off the cameras I really didn’t need (I have three film cameras left from those 50+), simplifying my choices again, and of course redressing my budget deficit.
Choosing one lens, one camera and one film from even six of each gives you over 200 options. Try making that decision with 10, 20, 50+ cameras and lenses. Most of the time, I couldn’t.
In conjunction with selling off film cameras, I realised from the NEX I could potentially still get plenty of pleasure from using vintage lenses. Which led me to explore other digital options, because although the NEX 3N I had was a fantastic picture taking device, it never felt like a “proper” camera.
So after much research I plumped for a Pentax classic, the K10D DSLR. So with my film photography all but dried up, the pixel age of my photography history gathered pace.
Most of the journey from this point has been document previously here on 35hunter.
My steady progress towards invisible cameras, zero processing and irreversible photography means that for the last seven or eight months I’ve only used three different digital compacts and a couple of camera phones.
Wanting to get away from so much time online checking and chasing photography that didn’t do much for me anyway, I’ve plunged into some classic photography books for the last few months, via my local library and a few purchases.
Combined with this, I’ve started having prints made of my own photographs.
Before about six weeks ago I’d probably only ever had two or three prints made, aside from family shots for albums and frames at home. This feels something of a brave – and exciting – new world.
So whilst I’m still in the pixels age in terms of shooting, processing, storing and sharing my photography, I also feel I’ve entered a paper age.
The books I’m enjoying and the prints of my work are giving me a deeper appreciation than is possible on a screen – especially the tiny screen of a mobile device or tablet.
On the budget front, I’m about £100 in the red currently, but with a dozen vintage lenses I barely use gathering dust.
I probably don’t even need three, but anticipate keeping maybe six for now, and selling the others in the next couple of months, so my budget should be well back in the black for some future investment in paper.
There we have it, the evolution of my photography (and spending!) through eras of film, metal, glass, plastic, pixels and paper.
I’m not sure where I’m heading next, except further into the pixel era for making photographs and the paper era for enjoying them. We’ll see what unravels in the coming weeks and months.
How has your photography evolved in recent years? Have you gone through different phases or ages like I have? Do you have a monthly budget for photography?
Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography life looks like right now.