Being the telly addict that I am, I occasionally experience large screen envy. Don’t get me wrong – I’m more than satisfied with the 32” flat screen that occupies the dimmest corner of our family room… BUT (there’s always a but) I do feel a slight green-eyed pang when someone I know buys one bigger. Maybe I was brought up on the ‘bigger is better’ principle, because, on the whole, it just makes me laugh when people buy what the market suggests is the best and then spend their evenings with crossed eyes and a crick in their neck, about three feet away from something ridiculously inappropriate for the size of their room. I suspect that what the market thinks is the best, is only the best for spiralling debts.
Does size ever matter, do we reckon? Take the other day, in my humble existence. I attended the wedding of a (new) friend, wearing the (seemingly invisible) badge of Official Photographer. It’s a daunting prospect, even when you’re being paid. Particularly for someone like me, who despises being the centre of attention amongst strangers. People fall into a few categories at weddings:
a) I’m nervous and a bit drunk
b) I don’t know anyone else
c) I haven’t seen you for twenty years and will NOT be interrupted
d) I shy away from cameras of any kind
Pop these all in a massive gathering and you have the foundations for photography hell. It’s why only a few hardened pros will do it and why said pros charge a small fortune. I must say, I’m making it all sound rather negative, which it isn’t. It’s a bit scary, yes. But it’s also beautiful, heart-warming and puts you in a jolly good mood. Until, that is, you cast your gaze upon Mr Faux-Pro.
Mr Faux-Pro will waft around at almost any human event that’s worth documenting. He’s the one you would normally wave your little finger at in a disparaging fashion. He’s the one who drives something flash and spotlessly clean with the roof down in winter. He’s the one without much hair. And so, he makes up for what HE considers shortcomings by extending his manhood with an overly expensive camera and accompanying kit. Do I sound bitter? Well, that’s because I am.
I lack confidence on a grand scale. It doesn’t take very much to wrong-foot me. It’s why I question every single day if I’m cut out to operate any kind of small business. The wrong sort of look, the wrong sort of comment, the wrong sort of action and I’m completely disheartened and ready to chuck in the proverbial towel. No more so than when some old bloke with an overpriced camera waits for me to stand in my optimum position for a shot… and proceeds to stand a few feet in front of me, blocking my shot and acting like he’s God with a big lens. It irks me. It upsets me. It causes my faith in humanity to drop another few notches down the scale. Largely because I loathe the ‘man’s world’ attitude of the professional masses, insinuating that maybe, I’m just not quite cut out for this line of work. I am not ‘dog-eat-dog’ enough to compete and therefore, I should step aside and make some room for yet another ego on the end of a telephoto lens. But I don’t WANT to be that way!
I left the wedding feeling utterly deflated, like I had let everyone down, like I just wasn’t worthy. I felt like hanging up my Billingham bag and retiring my Canons. And then I remembered that what I do best is what makes people return to me and recommend me to their friends and family. I’m kind, I’m patient, I offer a relaxing environment and a place where little tiny people can feel safe and at home. A place where, if something gets busted, spilt on, torn or chocolatified, it simply doesn’t matter. I am affordable and accommodating and I will never be an asshole. The day I become an asshole is the day the stuff goes into retirement. Because the day I develop an attitude bigger than my kit is the day I will stop enjoying every second of what I do.
Someone made me chuckle to myself at the wedding – a man at that! I gestured to the cocky Nikon-toting chap and made a passing comment that I didn’t really need to be there at all. I was looked in the eye and squarely advised, ‘It’s not the size of your equipment, it’s what you do with it that counts’. It was hilarious and without doubt, allowed me to find enough self-worth to continue with my work. Otherwise, I had been totally, overwhelmingly intimidated by an annoying amateur with truckloads of arrogance. I don’t have a limitless budget for equipment. To date, I haven’t needed one either. Ultimately, art is in the eye of the beholder, right? Which tells me I’m doing OK.
Call me shallow, but I’m looking forward expectantly to my senior years, when I can invest in a car that, on the surface, looks really ordinary. But at that set of traffic lights, it’ll knock the flash gits into a cocked hat. It might be petty, it might be unhealthy, but it will SO be worth it.