It might make my photographic life simpler. But which one? If I had to choose one, and only one, it’d be the Rolleiflex 3.5F. It does one thing well. It has a sharp lens and a large negative.
Ilford HP5+ or Portra 400 for film.
It’s not 4×5 large. But it’s a good size, 6x6cm, bigger than 35mm.
Right now, with multiple options, my partner MaryLee says I pick out my camera of choice for the day the way she picks out her boots to wear–“Which ones do I feel like today?” It’s true. Walking out the door is always a decision.
If I could make do with two, it’d be a Leica M6 in addition to the Rolleiflex. Those two cameras would give me so much ability and would simplify my choices when I go out on a given day.
There’s something to be said for simplicity. It would mean not shooting the Canon 7 or the Nikon S4. No time for the Pentax 6×7 or Nikon FM2. No Hasselblad or Graflex RB 4×5. But I’d have my decisions made for me–simply medium format or 35mm? Wide angle or telephoto, or standard lens? (The Rollei doesn’t have interchangeable lenses, just the standard 80mm.)
But maybe I don’t want to. There’s that, too. There’s something fun about picking up a camera I haven’t used in a while. A Mamiya C330S with a 55mm lens, what I see as my low-budget Rolleiflex Wide.
At the end of the day, we choose what inspires us that day. For me it’s often a Leica M2 or M6. A Rolleiflex 3.5F or T. Even a simple Nikon F2. Whatever it is that we’re making pictures, not just collecting camera. We have to use them.
I met a woman recently who is looking to clear out her late husband’s darkroom and camera collection. From the looks of it, he loved to build the greatest darkroom and collect a wide variety of cameras. But there are no photographs of his hanging in her house. No hand-printed black and whites from that enlarger. No pictures to speak of.
It’s like he really just liked the apparatus. The cameras. The devices. The possibility of making photographs. But he apparently never did actually make any work.
I keep the cameras that I use and there are more than one or two, for sure. It’s not always a simple decision when I walk out the door. But as William Eggleston has said, while sitting over a box of Leica and Canon rangefinder bodies, “I use the one that I feel like on that day.”
As long as we’re making work. That’s key. Make the work. It’s art no one else can make like us, because no one else sees like us.
The world needs us. It needs to see what we see. How we see. Our world view. Our photographs show our world to other people, and ourselves to us.
If you can do it with one camera, all the better. I think that’s Sally Mann’s way, using her 8×10 Deardorff–pack it up and get to work.
What’s yours? One or several? Whatever your choice, make it, pack it, and get to work.
Make the photographs.