Cameras do not make pictures, people do!

As I was flying cross-country recently to the warmth of sunny California, I was catching up on all the newspapers that had accumulated on my kitchen table. As a photographer, one item really caught my attention.

I try to read the New York Times every day. If I had more time, I would read other sources, which I occasionally do, but the Times, for better or worse, is my main channel of information (alongside public radio.) The reason I read the Times is that it is the quickest and easiest way for me to get exposed to the day’s wide world of ideas and information.

One of the ironies is that I will no longer work as a photographer for the New York Times. Their contract is reprehensible (in favor of the Times and against the photographer.) I used to do a bit of work for the daily newspaper and even more for the Sunday magazine, but that was in a previous century. (I have longed to be able to use that expression with a straight face.) Still, this is not a bash-the-Times blog entry (that will come sometime down the road.)

An example of why I read the Times can be found in a thoughtful and funny piece by Mark Bittman (who writes the Minimalist column for the Times as well as other cookbooks.) It was published December 14, 2008 and is titled: “So Your Kitchen Is Tiny. So What?”

It should be read in full at:

Simply put, his point is that a big fancy kitchen is NOT needed for great cooking. In fact many great chefs work in remarkably simple spaces with a few key tools. The best part of the piece, for me was when he wrote:

“No calls (of dismay about the small kitchen) came from chefs, either, or from fellow food writers. They, too, know that when it comes to kitchens, size and equipment don’t count nearly as much as devotion, passion, common sense and, of course, experience. To pretend otherwise — to spend tens of thousands of dollars or more on a kitchen before learning how to cook, as is sadly common — is to fall into the same kind of silly consumerism that leads people to believe that an expensive gym membership will get them into shape or the right bed will improve their sex life. As runners run and writers write, cooks cook, under pretty much any circumstance.”

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may already know where I am going. Think of camera gear instead of kitchen utensils and make the chef into a photographer and indeed “…size and equipment don’t count nearly as much as devotion, passion, common sense and, of course, experience.”

I really do wish I had either made the connection myself, or wrote about it so eloquently. But I did not. However, I can share it with you and that is something to be happy about.

It is a very simple but important idea that I try to impart in my classes. Though it is a cliché, it still is true, that cameras do not make pictures, people do.

4 responses to “Cameras do not make pictures, people do!”

  1. It is funny how I so often get myself into situations where a group a “photographers” go on talking about the latest photo equipment with all those funny “number names” the industry loves to label their products… the XM500DBrandII, and so on…
    Most of the real insights I got came from literature and music… not from the B&H catalogue…

  2. I always bristle at the comment, “Great shot. So, what kind of camera do you have?”

    Nobody ever asked Ernest Hemingway what kind of typewriter he had …


    Good column, David …

  3. Good post and I like BOBRAY’s comment about asking Hemingway what kind of typewriter he had. Same thing.

  4. David,
    OK I guess I should retract my question about what camera to upgrade to…..

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