I’m this close to buying the new, expensive camera. I’ve never had much trouble spending money on myself. Not that I buy a lot of stuff, in fact, I buy less and less as my income grows. Or, as I grow older. Simply because there are not that many things – as in objects -, that I really want. But I do want this camera.
That said: I don’t take it lightly, exchanging one perfectly good camera for another. As with all things pricy and precious, it leads me to this question: am I worth it? Will I make better pictures with this new camera? No, of course not. Will I be able to make better large sized prints out of them? Probably, but I most likely won’t anyway. No, I want it for the sheer pleasure of looking at cleaner files, sharper images with more visible details, better colours, less noise in low light conditions. It’s not what I hope to get out of the new camera, I know I will, because I have been working with this model for half a year now at the office. And I love it. And as long as all I do with my pictures is uploading them in small sizes to the internet, I’ll be the only one noticing the difference. But that’s okay.
But is it enough? Every time this question raises its head, I think of this novel by W.F. Hermans: Nooit meer slapen (Beyond Sleep). It’s about a Dutch geology student in the 1960s travelling to Finnmark, trying to find immortality as a scientist, and failing miserably. He is pairing up with a couple of Norwegian students. Two of them are highly efficient hikers with top-of-the-range gear. And one is an ascetic whose threadbare equipment is no match for gales, rainstorms and an unimaginable profusion of bloodsucking flies and mosquitoes. He also owns an old Leica with a lens that doesn’t quite fit.
“Het komt omdat ik mijzelf niets gun. Ik voel me ongelukkig met alles wat nieuw is, alles dat geld gekost heeft. Ik geloof, dat wil zeggen, het is alsof ik geloof, want ik geloof het niet, dat als ik mij meer ontzeg dan anderen zichzelf ontzeggen, dat mij dan eenmaal iets geweldigs te beurt zal vallen. Dat ik iets van groot gewicht ontdekken zal [..] Ik zou het verschrikkelijk vinden erop uit te trekken met de nieuwste tent, de duurste instrumenten, de kostbaarste camera en dan met geen enkel resultaat van betekenis te komen opdagen.“
[“It’s because I don’t permit myself anything. I feel unhappy with anything new, anything that costs money. It is as if I believe that if I deny myself more than others deny themselves, that one day something great would happen to me. That I would discover something of great importance. I would hate to start this expedition with the newest tent, the most expensive instruments, a precious camera, and show up with no results of any significance at all.”]
I have read this book many times. For me, it’s mostly about shame and fear of failure, for not delivering, not fulfilling expectations. Fear of being insignificant, and being aware of it. And deep down, I do feel I owe it to the new camera to do better than I have done so far. No, that’s not exactly true. The fear is about this: for having the new camera, and not making one decent photograph ever again in my entire life.
These pictures were taken during my own little expedition in Norway in 2015. Camera: Fuji (one that isn’t going anywhere)