Attending a young friend’s funeral, I offered to snap some overall scenes for the mother to keep with her memories. I chose my shirt-pocket-sized Canon s110 rather than an APS-C dSLR camera, both for the silent shutter release and for the palm-size form factor. Others have written of the (intended or unintended) consequences of carrying a professional-looking kit: others label you, impose expectations, fears, assumptions, and so on. But a small camera (high-end or simple Point-and-Shoot) raises few eyebrows. And in the age of selfies (and over sharing) to rely on a phone’s camera of your own, or one you borrow, even fewer people may notice or feel intrusion, obstruction, imposition of the lens onto the event.
So while lens surely shapes the compositions that one forms in mind and perhaps executes digitally, the camera’s form factor (space it occupies, weight, name brand -if not blackened out, and recording technology -wet plate vs. dry vs. roll film small, medium, or large vs. digital) may be equally important in affecting one’s visual horizons; if not the actual creation of a photographic result, then in determining one’s engagement with the social environment, cultural landscape, and physical conditions where one is shooting. Consider how streamlined one can move through an event with a small point-and-shoot camera vs. Polaroid instant color camera vs. something mounted on tripod that involves film holders and chemical post-processing.
There are circumstances that call for one camera instead of another; or indeed of carrying a few different photographic recording devices simultaneously. The image of a worker’s toolbox comes to mind: with just a hammer, all jobs look like opportunities for pounding. But with a full set of tools, the available response for solving a problem or overcoming a challenge is much wider, carefully considered, and artfully produced in the end. Accepting that “you are what you carry,” the question to ask of yourself is: who are you? Do you traverse the visual landscape in a vehicle that is massive or micro, stylish or non-descript? Perhaps all of them will carry you across the ground you wish to cover, but some can also go places the others cannot because they are too light-weight, or the contrary, they are too heavy for the surface, or maybe it is otherwise not suitable.