Not for the overly sensitive

One of the joys of travelling around visiting photographic societies is meeting so many great people who have a genuine enthusiasm for photography. I hear many comments and questions about my work, but one must remember that “All of life is here”, and occasionally I have to field a question or a comment straight out of left field which sets in motion a train of thought which then leads in all kinds of strange directions.

Take for example a comment made about three weeks ago during the half time interval. A club member approached me and said “So you’re an Apple user then?” Now, given that I was holding an iPad and that there was a laptop on the table next to me with an illuminated Apple logo shining brightly, I thought I did rather well to resist the pithy/sarcastic/ironic reply and instead opted for a rather noncommittal “It would appear so”, and continued to tap away at the iPad screen. He then offered the pearl of wisdom that was “I don’t know why because they’re not a very nice company.” This genuinely surprised me, not because of the anti-Apple feeling expressed (that happens quite a lot), but the fact that the issue had been raised, unprompted, in the context of a photographic society club night to which it had no relevance. I couldn’t understand why somebody would choose to be confrontational about something so inconsequential. I replied with “you’ll have to excuse me. I have to set up the next part of the presentation.”, and moved away pretending to be busy with the iPad.

Driving home from the gig, I found myself thinking about the comments and, more pertinently, the way in which they’d been made. I wasn’t worried about them per se, I mean they weren’t going to keep me awake at night, but I was interested in why somebody would go out of their way to diss someone else’s equipment so forcefully without any prompt or provocation.

Wind forward 2 weeks, another photographic society meeting, only this time I’m in the audience listening to the guest speaker going through his introduction. Within the first two minutes he made a disparaging remark about people who use Nikon cameras (he was a Canon user). He got a few chuckles but he made three more such remarks over the next ten minutes or so, by which time the joke had worn a bit thin. So when, about a half hour later, the auto focus on his Canon Eos gazillion mark 73 refused to cooperate the comment “well that’s Canon for you ” emanated from the audience in a voice just loud enough for everybody to hear. Muffled guffaws followed. (To be honest I didn’t realise I’d said it out loud until I heard the laughter).

Reminded of my encounter of a few weeks earlier, I again wondered why some people thought it was entertaining to criticise equipment used by others. The occasional piece of banter is fine and is all part of the photographic scene, and I’m quite capable of holding my own when it comes to the cut and thrust of wit and repartè. Neither am I sensitive or feel the need to defend my reasons for using the brands of equipment I do. In addition, many years of hosting photographic workshops and giving presentations have taught me that some people can be quite defensive and sensitive when it comes to their equipment, and so I’m careful not to mention the brands of equipment that I use, unless expressly asked to do so. I’m even more careful not to criticise other manufacturers, again unless expressly asked to give an opinion.

We invest a lot of time, effort, and hard earned cash in choosing our equipment. Using the camera is a very tactile experience, and people can, literally, become very attached to it. I have never subscribed to the idea of “the camera doesn’t matter as much as the person looking through it”. The camera matters a great deal, after all it is the instrument which realises our creativity and it must be comfortable enough in use to become second nature so that it never gets in the way of that creativity.

Maybe Mr anti-Apple was feeling the need to justify using the equipment that he did, and to improve its standing in his eyes, by rubbishing the opposition. Maybe Mr non-autofocus Canon misjudged the mood of the audience (something which I have done on occasion). But then what do I know. I’m just an Apple and a Nikon user.