Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

On Having a Camera

Greg Morris:

In April this year I chose to sell my A7iii camera due to lack of use, and wanting to slim down my possessions to a level that I was happy with. I am a minimalist, but sometimes I forget and tend to have to go through a purge every now and again to calm things down. I felt a huge pang when delivering it to its new owner, but due to seeing no end in sight of the pandemic knew I couldn’t leave it gathering dust much longer. Since then I didn’t think much of it, until two weeks ago.

Funny how similar experiences can diverge so radically: I have used my cameras more often in the past eighteen months than in the years prior, and a major reason was this pandemic.

We never had a true lockdown order where I live — arguably to our detriment — but, as in most places, we were encouraged to reduce unnecessary indoor trips and spend time outdoors. So, many times a week for the past year, I have slung my camera over my shoulder and gone for a walk. No destination, no schedule — just a need to walk and take pictures. In the words of Craig Mod in 2014:

While short walks can invigorate or move a stagnant mind, long walks nourish and regenerate.

Mod writes of walking for many hours — maybe days — but I have found two-to-four hours to be a sweet spot for my purposes. I am privileged to be a generic white guy and, so, unlikely to be questioned, harassed, or threatened. I wander through industrial areas after-hours and take pictures of businesses with signs that have not been updated in decades. My camera’s shutter has closed thousands of times in the past year, making images only for myself. It has been my nightly meditation; my comparatively luxurious coping mechanism.

Maybe I could have done this with my phone’s camera, but it would not have been as nice. One of the best things about these walks is that I rarely touch my phone. I will occasionally text my partner to let her know that I am doing okay, and perhaps take a handful of pictures that I will forget to share later. But most of the time, my phone stays in my pocket and my headphones stay silent. Just me, my camera, and one foot pushing the other forward.