Are You An Artist Or Just A Collector Of Art Materials?

image: dan james

In the last couple of years I’ve moved towards minimalism, simplifying my life, the activities I do, and the number of possessions I have.

However, on the other end of the scale, something I have increasingly more of are film cameras…

This love affair started when I was given a Holga for my birthday last June, and soon I wanted to try another kind of film camera too.

Then another. You know the story…

Now, some eight months later, I have seven film cameras, with another two on the way from favourite online sources.

At first this might seem like collecting, even hoarding. I mean, does anyone need nine different film cameras?

And what kind of part-time hypocritical minimalist does that make me??

Along the way in collecting, I soon realised I needed a couple of simple rules to guide me.

To keep the collecting in check, and ensure that more cameras meant more artmaking, not less.

They are –

1. Only buy a new camera if it does something unique and special that no other camera I have is able to do.

2. Do not keep a camera if it doesn’t get regularly used. I want creative tools to make beautiful things, not pretty ornaments to gather dust on a shelf.

Sticking to these couple of simple guidelines means that having this range of cameras enhances my ability to explore and create new photographs and expand my abilities and experience as a photographer.

The danger of collecting (or at a more advanced stage, hoarding) many objects or materials is that we become overwhelmed by them, and they severely debilitate our ability to just make new art.

If you spend more time debating with yourself which materials and tools to use than you do actually using them, then obviously this is having a detrimental impact on your art.

A dangerous cousin of this kind of limiting behaviour is the organising of all these tools and materials.

Again, if you find you’re spending more time and energy organising, arranging and rearranging your art stuff more than you’re using it, there’s a negative impact on your creative life.

It’s become all about managing the stuff you have, not about making art with the stuff you have.

After all, do you want to be an Artist or some kind of Executive Organisational Manager Of Material and Resources?

At present, I’m firmly at the artist end of the scale. In fact, the collection of cameras I have mean I’m probably as creative as I’ve ever been in my adult life.

I think it’s important to add that when I go out to photograph, I don’t take a bag crammed with all nine of them. It’s most often just two (my coat, conveniently, has two pockets), and sometimes only one.

Like that saying goes, however many cameras you have, the best one to use is the one you have in your hands right now.

Think for a moment about your creative life.

How do you organise your tools, materials and equipment?

How much time do you spend organising, arranging, choosing and purchasing tools and materials and equipment, compared to how much time you spend actually using them?

If it’s anywhere near half your time, or more, then maybe you could ask yourself whether this is time well spent?

Or whether you could be focusing more of that time and energy on that core activity that makes us all artists – actually doing the work, making new pieces of art…

Give up the Executive Organisational Manager role, and come back to being an artist, to being the artist that only you can be.

Join the conversation over in our community to let us know of your experiences over in our community.


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