A Response to Of Cameras and Art
Essay by David White
Introduction by Alain Briot

Other essays in this series

Badwater Sunrise, Death Valley
This image was photographed by David White with a Gitzo 1327 Carbon Fiber tripod
and a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead

I received this response to my Briot's View essay titled Of Cameras and Art and thought of publishing it in this series immediately upon reading it. In my view it shows that the issues I discuss in my essay are shared by many photographers, and David does a great job of proving it.

Alain Briot

A response to Of Cameras and Art


After reading your latest essay, Of Cameras and Art, I started to think about the corollaries I have encountered around this subject.

I suspect that we have all been victims of what you describe.  One day, while photographing the interior of a covered bridge near where I live, a woman came up to me and told me that it was very difficult to get a picture of the interior while shooting from the outside, but with the camera I had there would probably be no difficulties.  I turned and asked her if she was a good cook.  Like most, she said that she was a very good cook.  I then told her that she must have the most expensive top of the line cookware available.  After a few seconds the light went on and she understood that the equipment used does not necessarily dictate the quality of the end result.

Another situation that is sometimes encountered is that others assume that because I have better than average equipment I am a good photographer.  I suspect that we are all guilty of this to some extent.  When seeing a driver in a Mercedes, one may surmise that the owner is successful and wealthy.  I think that most of us ascribe attributes, mistakenly in a lot of cases, to people based upon their possessions, whether it is automobiles or cameras.

Sometimes we bestow knowledge upon others based upon objects.  A few years ago I was at a party and looking around I found a particularly stunning example of a Native American wedding vase on a shelf.  Hoping to engage the host in a discussion of Native American art I complimented the host on his wedding vase.  After a pause of a couple seconds he told me that they didn’t get the vase for their wedding, it was just a vase he saw in a store, liked, and purchased.  He knew nothing about the vase or art.

I suspect that we have all run into people who have the very best - Hasselblads with digital backs, a large collection of expensive glass, etc. – who produce, at their best, only mediocre to average images.  However, here are many published photographers whose equipment is nothing more than a digital point and shoot which gathers no attention because people assume they are amateurs or tourists because they do not have “fancy” equipment.

Many photographers get frustrated because they invest a lot of money and time in top of the line equipment and travel to exotic locations.  They can not understand why their equipment and locations do not give them better pictures.  They carry the thought that with their great equipment they should be able to supplant Ansel as the next great American icon of landscape photography.  They beat the images to death in Photoshop and end up with something that is far removed from what they thought they deserved from their equipment.  Usually they drift on to other pursuits or live with the fiction that they are creating great images.

A lot of people just don’t get it.  Great images are created in the mind of the photographer and not through the use of expensive equipment.  Equipment does not make the photographer as many would believe.  I find it amusing that so many magazines provide extraordinary detail about the camera used, F-stop, shutter speed, lens, filter and tripod when none of this has any bearing upon what the photographer is trying to convey.  In some photographic forums, many of the members list great quantities of bodies and lenses as if this gives their opinions and writings some validity.  Perhaps this is the point that I have been rambling about.  The equipment does not convey validity to the photographer or the images produced.  The only validity conferred to an image is the quality of the photographer’s artistic vision and skill.  This is something that, like respect, must be earned and not conveyed.

David White


Essay and photograph Copyright © David White 2006
Introduction © Alain Briot 2006
All rights reserved worldwide