Process & Practice
If you are American of my generation, being asked your astrological sign was part of the ritual of introduction, a potential way of understanding someone's deepest emotions and key personality characteristics with a single word, letting you classify everyone into one of twelve neat categories and predict pretty much everything. None of us knew what we were talking about, but we nodded sagely, put it in a pocket, and moved on. The New York Times may not have had horoscopes, but the alternative weeklies did, and pretty funny ones at that. I started replying "Slippery When Wet" to "What's your sign?", but no one was amused so I stopped.
Among artists, process and practice are like that: a simple way to understand complexity. I've been afraid of being taken as ignorant, so I've never asked anyone for definitions, just used the words myself, ‘process’ more often than ‘practice’, and moved on. Up to the board, please, and write 100 times, "I have a process that I use in my practice." Or a product is the product of a particular process. A practice might include several processes. Or something else. ArtSpeak is DoubleSpeak.
Process is an older term. It started, I assume, with summing up the technical steps taken in a particular process: Daguerrotype, silver gelatin, digital, oil, letterpress, lithograph. All involve preparing an image carrier, specialized receiving materials, and a step by step procedure for combining the two. Say the word that names the process and others, cognoscenti, understand. Process carries nothing of intent, content, or quality; it's only about the physical supplies and steps from start to finished object. And it's no more useful to understanding or appreciating than knowing if it's glossy or matte, wood or canvas.
For me, and I think for a lot of people, artists included, practice refers to one's work flow in its most generous form, not limited to the technologies of how things get made. What are my eyes like? How do I think, and what about? What do I expect and accept from each step or stage? Or from myself at my stage? What does it look like to watch me work or think? What work am I looking at? What books or conversations or Tantric energies are at work on my various minds? Was I in my regular brain or my Crow-brain when that happened? Does the 70 year old me include the 20 year old me? How do ideas arise, how are they explored, how are they discarded? How large is my wastebasket?
So, what's my practice? And do I process what I practice; process what I process; practice what I process?
The physical description is easiest. I use a camera, and my creative decisions come before the shutter is pressed. Some are made long before, some only a moment before. There are implications here. First, that the remainder of the physical process after the exposure - the editing and processing - is straight forward and simple to predict: the print, and there will be a print, should look, pretty much, how the scene looked, should hold on to photography's historically crucial relationship to the physical world. Content and structure are set before exposure by looking and thinking and moving and looking. I rarely make more than two exposures (unless there are people in the frame), two the same if I think my mind might have wandered or my camera slipped off level, or slightly/greatly different if I think that might make a difference. Editing begins with comparing among the pairs and the day's work, and then among all the others in the series and picking the intuitively strongest images, based on structure and degree of satisfying my intent, and the other images. Finishing syntax is similar throughout my work: cotton papers with silver gelatin-like surfaces, larger than average, mostly color but occasionally monochrome, crafted to Modernist standards for photographs (full tonal range, in focus, clean and sparkly, bright and present). The image is beautiful even, especially, if the subject isn't.
The non-physical part of my process, the intent, the exploration, the questions, come out of my baggage, i.e. my lives, photographic and real.
My favorite years were spent in the post-modern environment of mid-70s Cranbrook Academy of Art with Carl Toth and nine other grad students - 5 first year, 5 second. In the group were a drummer (full set in his darkroom); a sax playing PhD art historian; a woman who though she was Walker Evans; a psych major who meditated and thought he could levitate; an East Coast wunderkind who dressed up as a Tampon one Halloween; a clever photographer whose thesis was stuffed with Cracker Jack toys; Beauty, whose photos were forgettable and who didn't come back the second year; a quiet Midwesterner who rarely spoke; a single undergraduate who certainly deserved to be there; a third woman who kept us on our toes or cut us off at the knee in crits; and myself, older than everyone but the sax player, a loose canon who had just finished his BFA after twelve delightful years of undergraduate. I had an official art degree, but my undergrad was a hodgepodge of half completed majors, lots of technical photographic stuff, the counter-culture of 1964 -1976, and an arm's length relationship with a large university art department where I confirmed my instinctual belief that I could not draw and would not be taught to draw any more than I would be taught long columns of German words in high school.
Cranbrook's students, we, made the atmosphere intense, driven, competitive, privileged, highly white, isolated, and thrown together to figure out how to live as artists in the world. Photographers slept in their darkroom sinks and felt very superior. We read Art Forum and Aperture and French New Wave novels, but not in French. We didn't have classes or grades. You worked a year, had a long scary critique before the entire faculty, and either got invited back for a second year or not. Graduate with rare exceptions, about ten students in each department with one faculty member (design always had a couple), campus by Saarinen. We did not think Yale was better.
Cranbrook is always listed in the top three art schools, with Yale and some rotating third. What was I doing there? One of the most meaningful, lasting choices of my life was made because my first choice - The Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology - the American Bauhaus where Albers (later at Yale), Siskind and Callahan taught (both had left for RISD long before) - was late offering me scholarship money - not until the day before Cranbrook started. The Universe has such an exquisite sense of humor. At my ID/IIT visit, after bashing the print quality of my portfolio (Atget meets Detroit, noir and contrasty) the head of photography accepted me on the spot, I asked why. He said that they would remake me. The Marines in gritty south side Chicago or French novelists in leafy, suburban Detroit? Who would I have become? Someone else, that's for sure. The last time I went to Chicago was when the Society for Photographic Education picked Carl as its teacher of the year. In between I had had my first sushi there, mackerel that I almost threw up on the counter. Carl had a bike accident a few years ago, a helmeted head injury, and never really recovered. Look him up, see his images. That's where I come from, he's part of my process.
I left Cranbrook using Dr. Beer's contrast-controlling paper developers and thinking about our peculiar relationship with photographs. What did we take pictures of, and why; what content was prescribed, what was proscribed; what was the last breath of Modernism going to look like? For most of my life since then, those questions have shaped my ideas, while the subjects of course varied. How many ways you can push the envelope also depends on how well you disguise the envelope.
For a few years I shot for newspapers, weeklies, in and north of Pontiac, MI, an automotive town north of Detroit, then already in the death grip of Toyota and Honda. I worked for and with Karen Hamilton, who's husband, Boo, was a musician, probably still is. Thank you Karen, you, too, were a wonderful teacher, and more practical than Carl. Always get both profiles, you don't know which side of the paper it will end up on. Tri-X at ISO 10,000 in Diafine will cover a high school football game without flash or decent field lights. Archival means it doesn't fade before you get paid. This is also where I came from, another part of my process.
More not-art. I left the newspapers to teach a semester at U of M, replacing someone on a sabbatical. When I came back the held job promise wasn't true anymore, sorry. I met Dora while working at the papers. We left Michigan for Rochester, NY, where I did Master's number two in Imaging and Photographic Science at RIT. Dora went down to Ithaca, 90 minutes away if you speed. She did her own second master's at Cornell in horticulture. Out of Special Ed for good. An inventively bad kid named Louis in Rochester has to be given some credit for that.
Just outside NYC I went to work for a small-ish company that made the best film recorders for computer graphics and medical use. They wouldn't call me an engineer because I wasn't one, so I got to be chief scientist. A classy title, a fascinating job right up until the world of imaging changed and we went in circles getting smaller and smaller and then poof, no more company. I did another master's, this time in technology management at Polytechnic University of New York, mostly because I like going to school. In 1997 we migrated to Maine because Vermont was cloudy. This is also where I come from, another part of my process.
An important change happened with "Shooters", a years-long project of making pictures of people taking pictures that started not long after we moved to Maine. It's when my visual and intellectual curiosity switched from the Art problems in photography and culture, to just being-present-making-notes, curiosity for the foibles and silliness of humans. It's when the pictures acknowledged humor as a cover for the magnifying glass. Maybe it's when I stopped taking myself too seriously and left it all to the pictures.
It was pure happenstance, as the Universe aligned for a moment before moving on. We were at the New York Book Festival, Dora was signing copies of her book on Fifth Ave. near Rockefeller Center, as a fund raiser for the Horticultural Society, and I was wandering around with a small camera. I started shooting among the tourists shooting each other above the ice rink, and quickly realized that they were so entranced with what they were doing, subject and photographer both, that shy I could practically get in the shooter's ear or stand next to the subject without being noticed. Just another middle aged guy with a camera in a tourist Mecca. I had fun, Dora had fun, and a long, long series of hundreds of pictures in the US and Europe began.
The end of the series came when Costa Manos looked at the work in Crete and told me it was good but done: get it out, move on, have another ouzo.
So is that my process? To depend on the Universe to bring me a picture that starts me off on a long trail? Sort of. Well, yes, actually, but a bit more controlled now than it was when I started, because now I know my pictures when I see them. At least I think I do. But that assumes I see them, which is always that frightening prospect of organizing randomness.
Frightening because when a body of work is finished usually the abyss lies gaping before me. Will I ever again make a photo that I like? That I like better than the last one in the last body? When will I make it and what the hell will it be? How long after I make it will I take to recognize it? How long is the cramp in my intent going to stay tangled and painful?
So - organizing randomness. Neither an oxymoron nor an impossibility; bear with me. The next picture, the trigger for the next body of work, might already be in your catalog, if you keep a particular collection or folder or however you organize your image files (or contact sheets). It's critical to keep handy a loose collection of those few images taken at random that interest you but you don't know why. Yet.
When stuck, pick up your camera. Turn to your Crow-brain and photograph the things that you see that attract your attention. Photograph carefully but not meaningfully. Try to identify it, but without trying to really understand it. One thought, one exposure. First thought, best thought. I refuse to take a second exposure, letting my Crow-brain control me, not my photo-brain, certainly not my Educated-brain. Trust yourself. In the pictures, not in the moment, try to see what is really at the heart of your attraction.
Out in the world you aren't looking for Something. Just be Present and in Place, and See. Don't just look.
Should a sworn film photographer use a digital camera for this exploration? Painters use pencil and sketchbook. And digital is free. You can try so many more random shots. Counter intuitively, I think not. Partly because of what I just wrote about letting go of surface control and counting on, depending on, your inner Crow, which is not random; can be quite picky, in fact.
But mostly because film is not simply a medium, it’s a series of small rituals that, like a softly repeated mantra or well-thumbed worry beads, helps clear your mind and serve as a significant physical part of your process. Starting, shooting, stopping (rewinding, unloading, loading, winding). The touch of your camera. How it touches back. The touch in the dark of metal tanks and reels, the action of scissoring and winding. Mixing chemicals; temperature and time. Agitation, like a priest waving an incense censor, is a precise and calming ritual. The contact sheet coming up in the tray. The wait for dry enough and at last the loupe and the grease pencil. All reflective, hopeful time. If you suddenly replace all that with the tempo of digital, for a long time it will be unnatural, possibly unproductive, probably distasteful. Either stay with what you brought to the dance, or consciously, carefully, wait for digital's own small rituals to click in.
Find those images that hold you but you don't know why. Unlike the clearly good and the clearly bad, the imperfect have something to teach; don't rush through them. Most important, those photos need to be where you can see them everyday. Every. Single. Day. Until they finally open up.
Real pictures, on paper, not on screen doing that Ken Burns thing. On a bulletin board, fridge, kitchen table. Find that first image, pin it up, then watch and wait and find a suitable companion, then the third, which is longer and harder to find, but be patient, be mindopen.
A single picture often remains mute, never responds to threats. Two will talk to one another, but secretly. Three will have the confidence in you to speak, if you are Present, about why they like being together, what they might be about, what the fourth one might look like, be of, whisper about. Go find the fourth one. If the Three welcome it, you are off and running. If not, then you haven't found the fourth. Or haven't heard the Three. Or have made some other Mistake.
There might be more than one orphan single or pairs of two that hang around. Wait for them, don't give up hope of finding more. Might fail, of course, we often do, but were you busy with something else more important? Do I sound random and mindless? I intend to sound, and be, random but
Each of us has to find our own way; no good teacher will take you to your photograph, and no bad teacher could.
So, what's your practice and how did it get there?
Regardless of the route your practice took, it went through the intersection of you and your camera.
A Loss of Intimate Knowledge
The time it takes to learn a camera hasn't changed much since 1839. It continues to be a long process, not just learn to use a camera but to learn where things are without fumbling, when you can trust it and when you can't, what it can do and what it won't. Mechanically, if not emotionally, that process has been a progression of getting easier and better as camera makers took on the important but grunt functions - shutters instead of lens caps, electronic step-less shutters instead of less reliable mechanical ones, improved lens design, machine made film, film on spools, light meters, built-in light meters, the list goes on. However, in my opinion, the 25 years since the commercial introduction of digital cameras has reversed that long standing trend. If anything, cameras are now harder to learn yet easier to use. They have stuff - mysterious controls and options - hidden away in overly deep menu trees. Customizable settings are possible to use to make it all easier, but they are unintuitive to set up, hard for the average user to remember, and therefore impossible to use without looking. I've never met anyone who uses customized settings for anything.
Booklets are thicker, translations are unimproved, and the latest insult is to give you a PDF or web site for instructions: first pay for the camera, then pay to print a manual too big to tote around. Try finding out about your exposure compensation options on your phone before the guy falling out of the window hits the pavement.
A Sad Moment: while photographing a crumpled wishing well on an abandoned farm I found, mashed in the slush near the chain we both had had to maneuver over, a dog-eared instruction book lost, abandoned, or thrown down in disgust by someone with a major brand camera who had already been there.
What I see too often are students, friends, and strangers who haven't done a thing except attach the too-obvious-brand-name-steal-me neck strap and maybe set the date and time. They shoot screen quality JPGs on Program mode with the lens hood reversed because that's they way the camera came. They don't know much of anything except where the on/off switch is. Basically, their camera is an expensive stranger to be handled with the deference that used to be shown by the lower classes to their betters.
Our control, our interest, and our intimacy have been robbed and beaten out of us by what Vilhem Flusser calls the Photographic Apparatus in Toward a Philosophy of Photography, written just before sunrise in the digital age. The dis-attachment, the un-enchantment, the meaningless roboticism of the new photography intentionally locks us out of investigating further, or even noticing that there is a further. If we're not noticing that, if we are constantly looking to the camera for permission, we're not seeing much at all, even when we are looking. We have to look at our photos to see the objects we photographed.
Wendell Berry (2015)
Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.
P as in phooey
I have lots of peeves about digital processes, but of them all, Program mode is the Devil. Not the Devil we are warned about, hiding among the details, this Devil is in the enchanted realm of simplicity, this century's take on Kodak's "You push the button, we do the rest". 'P': the Pleasing, Promising, Protecting mode. The Goldilocks mode: Not too much depth of field, not too little; shutter speed not too fast, not too slow. Combined with face-focused (on Auto, shipped that way) with decent exposure metering (on Auto, shipped that way), it is banality disguised as that decent, average photo your mother will approve of when you bring it home to dinner. Not a hair out of place, everything just right.
It devilish because it is unconscious; because we have so few controls over the camera anyway - focal length, focus, shutter speed, f/stop, frame, where we stand and when we press the button - and 'P' snatches 2 of the 6, a third, away using an algorithm designed to be pleasing to a consensus of marketers. The one criterion with a broad audience: as much of the subject in focus as possible. (And please, the smiling face dead center.) Wrestling back these controls over what the photo looks like isn't easy, at least not as easy as 'P'.
But I'm not a prig about automation, not a purist, selling students on Manual mode. If engineering and technology can make life better without compromise, I'm all for it. I use Aperture mode ('A'). Leaving the shutter speed to the software gives me stepless changes, the ability to respond to the quantity of light exactly, important since digital sensors aren't as forgiving as film. I use autofocus, but choose the focus point with care. All I care about for the shutter speed is relative to the motion in the subject and the motion in my coffee-trembling hands and wobbly arthritic knee. And I wouldn't go back into a wet darkroom except as a momentary visitor.
But if you don't trade up cameras as often as you do phones, and you work at thinking about it, you'll eventually figure out the parts you need, and abandon the parts you don't. Predictably, there is a healthy backlash: photographers using film, view cameras, cereal box pinholes, plastic cameras, dad's old Argus C3 or anything from an antique store or pawnshop. All to the good. From the 14 year old handed a Holga in a workshop to the 60 year old lugging a field 5 x 7 out on the Nebraska plains in the low afternoon light, to the women and men stretching the possibilities of digital, the future of real photography is in good shape. You need a camera to make a photograph, true, but that isn't enough. Never has been.
The Kit Lens
The kit lens is photography's Tragedy. Nobody, practically speaking, buys a camera correctly; never the first time, often not the second time. A camera is not a lens. A camera is a box that holds the computer chips and software, a few buttons, dials, or switches, a sensor & card (or film) and a lens. Anything else is extra; maybe useful, maybe distracting, maybe both.
The kit lens, the Swiss Army generalist zoom that companies discount with the bodies and salespeople autopilotly reach for unless you frown at them, has all the qualities photographers should stay away from; they seem to be bargains because at first glance they are perfect: cheap, lightweight, and versatile, the only lens you need to carry inside, outside, at home or abroad. But they are slow, poor at gathering light - maximum opening f/3.5 to 5.6 or worse, varying with the focal length. They often distort edges and vignette - produce dark corners - when shot "wide open". They have poor build quality - creeping focus when pointed up or down, loosening elements (glass and plastic), soft metal flanges and plastic where metal used to be. Sure, it's a Nikon (Canon, Olympus, Sony, etc) lens, but it's the one they make by the millions, to the most forgiving specifications, with the cheapest materials. Like 'P', it will take a pretty good picture, but it sure isn't the best their designers and engineers can make. Browse their catalog, look at the prices, think of old adages like 'you get why you pay for'. Great lenses cost more money, period. Single focal length lenses, called 'primes', will always perform better wide open and at every f/stop than a zoom will. The best quality fast zooms are expensive, $1,500 - $25,000 just now, 2016). Zooms are really, really hard to design well, and impossible to build inexpensively. These days you are better off shooting RAW carefully and cropping. Or, hey, get out of the car and walk.
Don't buy a new camera unless you can explain why it is better for your type of photography at your current (and next likely) level. Better - always better - upgrade your lenses first. Spend on glass, not on the box. The glass makes the picture, the box just stores it. Before buying a better zoom, check the metadata in your picture files and look at the focal lengths you typically use. Did you shoot that many pictures on 400mm? Try cropping a shot or two from 100mm focal length, see if it satisfies your needs. Maybe spend that money on a workshop instead. Too many long teles and fisheyes spend their lives on closet shelves.
Generally speaking, anyone who thinks of upgrading to a new camera to get "better pictures", not specific new features they need, is much better off upgrading lenses and keeping the old body if it's working. Gentle dings and worn brass are beauty marks and shared memories, not a reason for divorce.
A Rant on Cameras & Lenses, including more detail and some repetition that you might not want, and a convincing plea on the extreme value of Being Just Like Me.
You may want to skip this altogether and just pick up the thread after the indented italics.
Every new camera, including from the same company as your last camera, comes with a learning curve and a confusing manual, now often just on the internet. Any time spent looking at the menu distances, breaks, you from the subject, and if the subject is alive, the loss of contact is reciprocated. Dials, buttons, menus and submenus are zombifying, the details, the distractions from your intent. I used to say a camera should just be an extension of your hand/eye coordination, like a keyboard. Now I think the camera should just disappear altogether, like a pencil; not be involved, not be between your eye and its subject. A tool disappears when its functions are so clear and its design is so direct that the interface between tool and body are natural, subtle, synchronized and unmistakable. Like the autonomic nervous system, you should be able to control its actions without having to think about it. That would be the so-far impossible standard, the Platonic camera. The next best thing to it (my opinion) is a rangefinder, specifically one designed along the Bauhaus form-follows-function philosophy. Like the Leica M series (film or digital) or the Fujifilm XPro-1 (digital).
Smaller than an SLR, a slightly smoothed off brick without a a flapping mirror (or mirror housing), a rangefinder lets you align along the axis of a subject without the light-sucking lens. Since lenses made for rangefinders still usually have the depth of field per f/stop indicator lines engraved on the lens, you can also save time by using hyper-focal distance techniques to preset focus (Look it up, it's useful). No mirror motion also means you can hand hold at longer shutter speeds without paying for and lugging around anti-vibration parts and software, significantly less shutter noise, and the ability to see outside the frame for approaching or encroaching objects. And most interesting, you don’t lose sight of your subject while taking the picture. The viewfinder never goes black: what a concept. It is the ideal camera style for working in crowds or on the street when speed of operation and not being obvious are helpful.
Cameras image best with prime lenses. Primes aren’t zooms, they are single focal length lenses that have been designed and optimized for that focal length and field of view rather than a large number of compromised focal lengths. Since focal length affects visual perspective, not just angle of inclusion, zooming in or out instead of walking to and fro alters the picture in some subtle and not-so subtle ways. Zooms also ensure that you will never be completely at home with a specific focal length, and that your pictures will have minor but irritating differences in look and feel. But a zoom can’t be beat for travel, especially if you spend about $2,500 to get a good, fast one.
So a rangefinder with one or two prime lenses, designed to be the best at what they are, is a camera that you can, if you pay attention, understand and command rather than being subject to some System's idea of optics and optical effects, photos and perceptions
Why are zooms not up to it? Because they are really, really hard to design, making tradeoffs and compromises between cost, quality, and speed. It's enough to ask a lens of a single focal length to perform nearly perfectly. Eight or more, often several more, interfaces, where a curved or flat glass surface meet air, air meets a curved or flat glass surface, or two glass surfaces of opposite curvatures meet each other; thin layers of special glues are yet more surfaces that acts on the light rays. At every change of medium, including the two surfaces of that cheap UV filter you bought to protect your costly lens and that you wipe at with your jacket sleeve, light rays are bent according to the angle and color of the ray passing through the interface and the differing qualities of the two sides.
All that trigonometry in order to aim the zillions of photons bouncing crazily off the surface of the subject and into the front of the lens or filter, clean, dirty, or scratched, toward a single point on the film or sensor, upside down and backward but otherwise perfectly reproducing the object's surface in miniature. So fucking hard you would not believe it. And people did the equations (for simple lenses, of course) long before computers, long before calculators, long before pencils came with erasers (thanks to Hyman Lipman's 1858 patent).
The position, curvature, and composition of the pieces of glass and spaces of air combine to form a focal length. Hard enough, but to change the focal length simply by moving the various glass to air or air to glass surfaces closer or further away from each other without the opportunity to alter the curvatures or their order or composition is not just hard, it is impossible to do anywhere near perfectly. Most lenses, especially zooms, are a series of artful compromises in image quality somewhere in the image to make an error elsewhere better, and a better image to the eye overall. There are also compromises in build factors - quality of the lens barrel and mount materials, smoothness of the focus and zoom controls, air and water vapor tightness where the glass meets the lens body. Are the components really top quality optical glass, or plastics? What are the mechanical tolerances of the parts and the curvatures? A lot to think about that the kid behind the counter or the five-star reviewer on Amazon never even heard of.
The more open to gathering light a lens is — as maximum diameter goes below say f/4 — the harder all this is to accomplish from image edge to edge. Also, the wider the focal length range, say 50 - 100 vs. 50 - 300, or the inclusion of wide and tele, say 28 - 70 vs. 70 - 112, the harder it is. The edges of the glass are harder to get right than the central portion, so the first thing to go is speed, and therefore differentiation of depth by blur. That cost also includes contrast and color sharpness throughout the image.
One of the defining, and I mean DEFINING, moments in the history of photography was in the early to mid 20th century as photographers like Stieglitz and Strand, and critics like Clement Greenburg, began to understand that every medium has its own truest defining characteristic, and that photography's was there at the moment of creation by Daguerre: sharpness and completeness of reproduction. But the new wonder was also a threat, and was denigrated by artists in other media. If you didn't look familiar, like drawing, painting, and printmaking, and if you were optical and mechanical rather than purely hand made, then you were relegated to shopkeeper-professionals and women of leisure as a craft.
But accuracy is photography's great gift. With less effort than sharpening a pencil, every brick in a wall can be rendered, every nook and cranny. Are you kidding? Who would give that up? Who would not wish to be as close to perfection as possible, even if the goal is to knowingly give some of that up in the name of some other good intent? Buy a new lens, one step better than what you can afford, reward your camera body.
After the 80+ years of inventions and trials, the ubiquitous design turned out to be the SLR, Single Lens Reflex (viewing and taking through the same lens). It was sized to hold 35 mm roll film(easily available given the booming motion picture industry), and outfitted with interchangeable lenses, flash-shutter synchronization; mechanically adjustable shutter speeds, motor driven film advance. It is easily hand held and shoulder bag sized, optimal for photojournalism, but actually overkill for most people. That has been the default design, what camera companies' assembly lines were made for, and the picture that pops into the mind at the word "camera". It is the genesis of most camera vocabulary. We pre-millennials just know that 50mm is normal, anything shorter is wide angle, anything longer is telephoto.
What you actually want to buy today took some time to find, and it involves moving users past the tipping point in the ongoing demise of the 35mm SLR/film-thought generation. The baby boomers and even Gen-Xers, raised in 35mm SLR/film, are making the transfer with more or less grace. We are the customers behind "35mm equivalent" written on lenses and in ads, behind the SLR style and functions. We and our enablers, the traditional camera industry, are the reason for all the mid-steps in the conversion. Now that we are going away, are no longer part of the Holy Grail 18 - 39 marketing bracket, the a-historically unbound but heavily picture-interested and picture-invested ("Pix or it didn't happen") public are seeing new designs: the advantages of mirror-less systems with electronic viewfinders; smaller bodies; bright colors; self-capping, disappearing lenses; and all the disadvantages of this first stage in digital development - too many ill-defined choices, menu trees three or five layers deep. Design changes - form follows desire, function follows cultural memes.
Shooting posture has gone from tightly inside the center of gravity to arms straight out, or straight up and blocking my view. Shake is now processed out by and ultra high ISO and noise reduction software. And of course phone makers (see essay 3-2) threaten the camera makers in an existential way, focusing their minds on juvenile rather than adult customers, and mass customization rather than "any color you like as long as it's black (or chrome)", and complete simplicity at the cost of the quality that most people don't need.
Change happens, now as never before.