It's About the Art
Essay and Photographs byScott Buttrick

Other essays in this series

It’s About The Art
All to often photographers get caught up in the equipment we own instead of the images we make. I include myself in this statement as it has happened to me. Back in the day, the 70’s and 80’s, I used a 4x5 view camera with three lenses, two
light meters, a big tripod and a pile of film holders. That was it, no frills or advanced technology there. I was making photographs pretty much the same way they did back in the 1800’s .……. ahhh the good old days.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Today we have so much hi-tech equipment to choose from that it is easy to get lost in the equipment jungle. Now I’m not saying that all this technology is bad, but it is easy to get caught up in the “next best thing” syndrome. At the Nikonians website they even have a name for it, NAS - Nikon Acquisition Syndrome. I’m sure that Canon users have a similar malady. Is all of this stuff a good thing? It is as long as we keep it in perspective and within the boundaries of our chosen photographic venue. As an example, I shoot landscapes, architecture and some street photography. I don’t need a 600mm f/2.8 super duper telephoto lens, nor do I need the latest and greatest flash system. These two things don’t fit my needs to make the art that I make.

Tree With Attitude
Kowa Super 66, 80mm Lens
Kodak Verichrome at ISO 64

In the not so distant past I got caught up in NAS too. This happened when I switched to digital and it was all new and cool. I have bought, sold, horse traded, re-bought and re-sold more equipment than I care to say. At one time I had three lenses that covered the 180mm focal length and the same thing at 35mm. Now is this crazy or what? Then, one day I woke up and realized that I make fine art photographs and I sure didn’t need all these lenses. It’s about my art, not about how much cool equipment I can own. I put equipment into two categories, the “I need to own” and the “I want to own”. The “I want to own” equipment has been sold.

Camera’s and lenses are the tools we use to create the kind of photographs we want to make. What you own depends on what you do. We are no different than a painter or sculptor, we all have tools of the trade. It is what we do with these tools that really matters. To date no camera maker has made a camera with the Ansel Adams mode, but give them time. What we have to remember is that it is about the final image, whether it is a fine art print or a commercial photograph for a client. I have never had a customer buy a print and ask how many lenses I own. The customer doesn’t care if you shot the image with a 85mm f/1.4 prime, or a 18-200mm consumer lens or a 70-200mm pro lens. The customer is buying the art, they don’t care about technical details. Save your money and buy only what you need, and use what you saved to attend a workshop or buy a book about your favorite photographer.

It’s all about the art.

Pond and Log
Graflex 4x5 Speed Graphic
135mm Graphex Optar Lens
Tri-X at ISO 320

Note: As you can see from the captions below the two images, they were not made with hi-tech expensive equipment. I bought the well used Speed Graphic with lens for $75.00 and the used Kowa Super 66 set me back all of $100.00. I only used that old Kowa for about a year before switching to 4x5. I still miss that old 6x6 camera, wicked mirror slap and all.

Publisher's note: you can see more examples of Scott's work on his website at


Introduction Copyright © Alain Briot 2007
Essay and photographs Copyright © Scott Buttrick 2007
All rights reserved worldwide