“Buy books, not gear.”
I can’t remember where I first read this mantra for photographers, but I’m sure it was in something that the venerable Eric Kim wrote. No matter, these words stick. The mantra can be applied to any genre of photography, but if you mull it over, it especially makes sense for street photographers.
I’ve seen great street photographs made with anything from disposable cameras to smartphones to top of the line Leicas and beyond. So the truth is, a great photograph can be made with any camera. But our gear lust is a natural, unavoidable condition. Most folks are just wired that way. Anyone, from artisan to tradesman, would want to try the more expensive tool. To drive a Ferrari on the track. If anything… just to see what it would be like.
So, it is suggested that we buy books and not gear, because buying the best gear will not make us better photographers. Just like a better hammer will not make you a truly better carpenter. So why funnel your cash into photo books? Because the photographer’s soul is constantly hungry for inspiration and it’s constantly wanting to give appreciation. A good photobook will bring endless returns. A physical keepsake that we can come back to anytime. A reminder that we can always be a better photographer. And sometimes that reminder is subversive, hidden in the guise of our appreciation of an image. While we gush internally over a particularly great photograph, somewhere deep, deep down we end up longing to make a photograph as great as the one we’re viewing. There’s real value in that lust, if we channel it properly.
And let’s be honest, looking at a printed image blows away looking at an image on a monitor or a phone.
But let’s also be honest about this… quality photo books aren’t cheap. It’s no stretch to say $30 USD and beyond is the norm. A photo book habit (which can be developed very quickly, trust me) can drain your account real quick.
So enter the zine.