In my grandparents’ era, it was fairly typical to make choices in your late teens and early 20s that were for the long haul.
A career, a partner, a home, a car (and the garage you bought it from and had it serviced at), a bank account and more, were all were chosen with the view that they would be what you committed to for decades – and some, your whole life – with little question.
One’s camera choice was similar.
Those with a keen interest in photography would likely invest in something for a lengthy career (however amateur), a machine they could bond with through multiple adventures over years, if not decades.
And even when they did change, they would more likely get something of the same brand and range so they could get further mileage out of the gear they’d already invested in and grown to know and love so well.
These days, we’re hooked in a high speed switch generation.
I follow certain websites on money and budgeting over here, and in all kinds of areas of life the underlying advice is the same – “if you’re paying too much, switch to something cheaper”.
Broadband, banking, insurance, utilities, phones, digital TV services and a whole host of other services are fiercely competitive and consumers are urged to stay vigilant and not pay more than you should or could be paying.
Indeed there are whole other services, apps and websites built around comparing different services and products en masse, and choosing the best value for you with as little effort on your part as possible.
There’s little loyalty from the consumer, and with good reason, as the majority of companies offer better deals to new customers than those who’ve paid them loyally for years.
So how does this culture of serial switching impact us as photographers?
Well, we could of course just ignore it all, and stick with the camera we’ve been using the last 5, 15 or 50 plus years in blissful ignorance.
(I have one specific reader in mind when I added “50” to the numbers in the last sentence.)
But the difficulty is how to ignore it, when this switch mentality has become so embedded in our psyches now, that it seems normal.
I like to think I avoid it better than many, but still in the last decade we’ve had perhaps three different broadband providers, three or four different mobile phone networks (and phones), four or five banks, and at least half a dozen car insurance companies.
Now I don’t regret switching to save money and/or get a better service, it’s something I take great satisfaction in.
But again it’s the kind of state of mind it puts one in that concerns me.
That everything’s fleeting, transient, and can be ditched in a heartbeat for something new. Our bank, our insurance provide, our phone, our relationships.
It feels dangerous, unsettling, and like it’s eroding our capacity to commit, and enjoy what we have, without forever having one eye on what might be a “better” or cheaper option.
It makes us feel permanently dissatisfied, seeking something else, perhaps even ungrateful of what we have, or at least taking it for granted.
With cameras, I’ve reached a point where a handful of cameras I own have made thousands, some tens of thousands, of images in my hands.
Enough to help me feel committed to them, and that I’m not too caught up in the switch mentality, regularly chopping and changing.
Plus all of my cameras bar one I bought used, I’ve never been caught in the upgrade parade, buying a new camera every time the next model came out – or even more often.
To an extent, this switching extends to the way we process, store and share the fruits of our photography passion these days too.
Someone shooting 35mm film and developing and printing themselves in say the 1930s, probably wouldn’t be going through a radically different process 50 or 60 years later.
But my main tools today – Snapseed for processing, SD cards then Google Drive for storage – didn’t exist just a handful of years ago. Who knows if I’ll still be using them in a year’s time, let alone three or five or 10 years from now?
The processing tools are almost as likely to be “upgraded” as the hardware.
Does this factor make us any less secure or content in how we photograph in the current age?
What are your thoughts? How influenced (or not) is your photography by the high speed switch culture we’re immersed in, and is this a good thing or not?
As always, please share your thoughts 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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