In my late teens and early 20s, being a young man trying to find his way in the world, I was hugely interested in music, and books.
More than that, I was, unconsciously at first, building a collection of books and CDs that I felt defined the person I was, what interested me, moved me, and shaped me.
Also important was that this collection was unique to me.
I remember having a very close friend, who was a few years younger, and him seeming to pick anything I liked and get it himself, like he was gradually cloning my own tastes and explorations.
Which I was really uncomfortable with at the time, as it felt like as quickly as I was finding what mattered to me, someone else was taking it away.
Some years later I became increasingly interested in minimalism, and shedding possessions, rather than collecting them.
Starting with a major purge, (a “shed project”, an idea I borrowed from some of the minimalist bloggers I followed at the time), the shedding then continued more gradually.
In time, most of my books and CDs went (the latter backed up as digital files first), and I felt much less of a need to define myself by these things.
These days, I don’t really have collections of anything.
I do have maybe 20 books.
Some are ones I’ve read and were good enough that I’m keeping them for a year or two in case I want to read them again.
Others are ones on my reading wish list, and I haven’t yet got around to making time for them.
I go through phases of reading books – though I read online multiple times daily.
Currently I’m on a good run of reading perhaps 20-40 minutes every night, which has steadily got me through three and a half novels in the last, well, three and a half months.
So some of those other books that have been gathering dust on my shelves might get a look in soon too.
For music I now almost entirely use Spotify through my phone.
If I’m walking on a lunch break at work or heading back from the school run in the morning, I plug in earphones.
If I’m working from home I use one of my Wonderboom speakers. I also often grab one of my (two) Wonderbooms if I’m driving somewhere with the kids, then they hang it (or both) on the hand rail or clip it/them on a head restraint in the back.
The versatile Wonderbooms also serve as my speakers for my morning yoga and exercise sessions.
If I’m in the main living room I send the sound from my phone through the Spotify app on the TV, wired up to my trusty old Denon stereo and Mission speakers.
I can’t remember the last time I put a CD in a player.
My current music “collection” features some old favourites (Stars Of The Lid, Eluvium, Hammock, Mogwai, Boards Of Canada), but evolves daily as Spotify connects me to new music that’s a bit like the music I’ve already listened to, but sends me off at slightly different tangents.
This year, artists like 36, Alaskan Tapes, Abul Mogard, Goldmund, Benjamin Gustafsson and, um, Enya, have been on heavy rotation amongst those aforementioned longer term musical pillars.
The only thing I have these days that could perhaps be seen as a collection, are my cameras.
If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know a few years back I had over 50 cameras, mostly film cameras, but I’d used only a small fraction of them.
These days I consider my core arsenal to be around 10 cameras, all digital (bar three film cameras I keep for any potential future returns to film) and all get regular enough use to warrant keeping.
I could pick up any one of them, and within a couple of minutes be familiar enough again to be happily shooting pictures.
But to the point of this post – what does a collection say about the collector?
With my CDs I wanted it to say that I didn’t follow the mainstream. That I liked the offbeat and obscure, finding unsung gems in dark corners and sharing them with my closest friends.
That I enjoyed seeking out and finding music that moved me and wasn’t just aural wallpaper.
And perhaps more fundamentally, that music soundtracked my life (and still does) and I can’t imagine a day where I don’t listen to music.
With the cameras I have now, I think there are two main messages.
First, that I don’t buy new cameras, love photography on a shoestring, and purposely avoid the traps of the upgrade parade.
My favourite cameras are between nine and 15 years old, and hark back to simpler, less digital, automated times, the glorious golden age of the digital camera.
Second, I like serial monogamy.
What I mean by this is that I like to give my full attention to one camera at a time, often sticking with just one camera for a month at a time as part of my ongoing One Month One Camera experiment.
But on the flipside I do enjoy some variety, so I have a few compacts and a few DSLRs, and the Pentax Q sitting somewhere in between – DSLR control and interchangeable lenses, in a tiny digital compact body.
Whichever camera I use gets my full attention.
But I use more than one over a period of weeks and months.
How about you? What does your camera collection say about you (even if it’s only one camera!)?
As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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