I Could Make Do With One Camera

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.

MaryLee at work, made with the Rolleiflex.

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.”

Eggleston’s cameras.

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.

6 thoughts on “I Could Make Do With One Camera

Add yours

  1. I have always loved gear, ever since I was four and picked up Mom’s camera and made photos of the wall, the doorknob, the window. Boy, did I get in trouble for that. And then at age 8 I got my first camera for 25c at a yard sale. Today I have about 30 cameras (down from 300 five years ago).

    I love shooting a different camera every time, just cycling through my collection. The experience of using the camera is my favorite part of the photographic process today. I went on a photo walk with my Pentax ME SE yesterday just because I enjoy using that camera so much.

    But I know I’d be a better photographer if I narrowed the collection down, say to one SLR, one rangefinder, and one TLR, and used those cameras exclusively.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Though maybe you wouldn’t be a better photographer with less. You sound like you know you like cameras. You post good work with whichever one you pick on a given day. That’s all that matters. Thanks for the comment, Jim.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting theme to talk about. First of all – i love to see the prints of my work on the wall.of my apartments. Also on the walls in the apartments of my friends and my family related. I print small bw 10×15 and give to people who spontaneously got exposed in these frames. This is the goal of what we’re doing – not the Facebook and Instagram (well sometimes) but the real print on the real paper. The feeling is absolutely different. No matter what camera it was – digital Ricoh GRii or analog Ricoh GR1s.
    My favorite camera os the loaded with film one, that which i took with me this specofic day. Hasselblad or Fugi GA645, Canon P or Nikonos V.


    1. I know that feeling well of printed photos in homes, Victor. I’m house sitting right now for friends and my photos of their family are all around this house. It’s the best. I have to try my Nikonos, I have one but haven’t really used it. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the post. I have given up trying to figure out which of my cameras I would keep, if I could only have one. Push come to shove, it would probably my Leica MA or my F3, or my …. I don’t think cameras are just tools. Tools, yes, but not ‘just’ tools. The photographer makes the picture, but a camera can be comfortable, ready-to-hand, a delight to use, motivational, a comfort.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: