Mar. 2, 2022 – [Poem] You Only Need One Camera

In a few days I’ll be leaving for a long weekend stay in New Orleans. It will be my fourth time there. 2008, 2009, 2017, and now 2022.

As a photographer, I pack my clothes last. Or rather, clothes tend to be an afterthought. If there is an event I am going to, then that outfit is decided upon first. Everything else simply needs to be practical, comfortable shoes being the most important.

As it happens, the clothes are already packed. The problem, as always, is what camera to bring. I’m not going on assignment, so there are no parameters regarding what type of images I am going to make. That doesn’t help narrow anything down.

I won’t be there long, so no need for a large kit, best to pack light. Thinking this, I looked to my rangefinder sitting on my shelf with a 35mm lens on. That alone is enough for an entire photographic career. I think, “good, that’s settled then.”

But of course, nowadays even I want to keep a digital camera somewhere nearby, and my cell phone’s camera just doesn’t do the trick. So I add my digital point-and-shoot to the bag. It has a wider lens, is small, and quiet. Great for walking around. Done. …

I notice some color film I purchased a little while ago. Maybe it would be good to bring a second film camera to always have a roll of color film loaded. After all, the difference between color and black and white is…well…as different as black is to white. But remember, I’m packing light. So into the camera bag goes a small point-and-shoot for those color images. I think of images from point and shoot cameras as informal journal entries. They have a casualness and a vulnerability to them.

I recently shared some of my poetry with a friend. They graciously told me that I should keep at it and suggested a poem-a-day type exercise. Even if the poems are crap, just write something is the idea. Just write. So I want to make sure I have plenty of inspiration to help with that writing. If I can’t writ in the moment, Ill need an image to remind me of what I was feeling. However, I don’t enjoy looking at digital screens, so I won’t be using my phone or digital camera for that.

The days of one-hour photo labs is long gone…replaced by…the come back of the instant film camera. A solution. I have a terrible camera that just might get the job done. The images it makes are charmingly–and charmingly is doing a lot of work there–distorted, vignetted, and usually too dark even for my taste. So be it.

And that’s how I packed for this trip, how one camera became four. Laughably, this is the second iteration of gear, and it is the least number of cameras I’ve ever brought along on a trip. I long for the day when I am satisfied only bringing one camera with me.* Who knows, there’s still one more day. Perhaps by morning I’ll have a new plan.

Thinking about this problem, I sat down and wrote a little poem about it. It is far removed from my normal style. For one thing, it has humor in it.

You Only Need One Camera, 2022
S.R. Shilling

When preparing for a trip
you only need one camera

One camera with one lens
	Not another?
Camera or lens?
	Take your pick.

Well maybe just one more.
	Camera or lens?
After all, you’ve got two eyes
why not take two cameras?

One for color and one black and white
Maybe also one to see wide and one close up
	I ask again, camera or lens?
And maybe one so you can see
your picture instantly.

	I haven’t figured out the math on this yet.
Neither have I, can’t you see?
I’m already up to three.

*On the topic of gear, photographer and author, Tom Ang has some brilliant words to offer the photographer of any skill level.