The Camera is Simply a Tool (Mostly)

I make an effort never to romanticize the digital camera. While photographing in a business setting, I have to treat the camera solely as a mechanical object – a tool that responds to my direction and functions as an extension of myself and my search for the meaningful moments, whether it's a portrait shoot or a wedding reception. I trust my cameras to be reliable, fast, and consistent, like any other trade that relies on tools. But an odd scenario today has brought out a little bit of sentimentality towards a piece in my toolbox. This afternoon, I parted ways with my very first professional camera and sold it to another local photographer.

It was 2010. After saving for months, I bought this shiny new (and bank account-draining) Nikon D700 camera in college and began the journey that led to today. This camera was with me as I practiced the basics of photography. I had moments of pure bliss with it and periods of disappointment when I couldn't get the shots I wanted. After getting into the motions of shooting with it, making technical and setting adjustments on the fly became thoughtless exercises towards creating the photographs I was seeing through the camera. It's truly uncanny what happens when you move at the same frequency as the tool you're using.

This camera has been with me in 17 countries, on countless airplanes/trains/cars/motorcycles, on camping trips across the United States, in hurricane-like downpours and blizzards and searing heat. It has heard the stories and shot portraits of hundreds of people from all different backgrounds around the world. It has seen the uninhibited love of couples getting engaged and married. It has also seen people so deeply depressed that they no longer want to live. It was with me in rural Poland at three in the morning when the Polish Police shook me awake and tried to kick me off the night train for not having the right travel documents. It's been my loyal companion on solo trips when the loneliness of travel started to get heavy. It was my counterpart as I learned to push down the butterflies and approach strangers for portraits, first in the winding streets of Venice in 2011. I've loved this camera and I've blamed it (unfairly) for when things have gone wrong. In much of my travels, it's been the only constant – the only thing that's witnessed my journeys and some of my most formative memories.

The camera is a tool is a statement I've considered for years. But after today, I think I need to slightly change it and add mostly to the end. After spending years relying on a piece of machinery for creative expression and business plans during some dramatic ups and downs, it's hard not to develop a sense of fondness and sentimentality for it. For that, I feel a bit empty seeing it go. But at the end of the day, I still have the photos and the memories. Along with newer, better tools.

Out with the old. But not without feeling.

So to end this uncharacteristically long bit of words, here's a shot taken a few years back with this trusty camera. I was nearing the end of a backpacking trip and found myself alone walking the streets of Krakow late one evening, tired, homesick and fighting an eye infection picked up in Slovenia. But I still found it impossible to not be in awe of the approaching stormy clouds and the fantastic architecture and sounds that surrounded me. Then and now, I'm thankful for the solid camera that accompanied me without flaw in these stories.