Art Here and Now
Daring creativity happening now around the world
Getting the Right Tools vs. Actually Doing Something

I read a New Yorker story recently about the cult of Leica cameras. Some of the most famous photographs in history have been taken with Leica’s, and photographers love them. But at $4,000+ a pop, you’d better really love it, and you’d hope it takes a great photo.

…as the camera has evolved over eight decades, generations of users have turned to it in their hour of need, or their millisecond of inspiration. Aleksandr Rodchenko, André Kertész, Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Robert Frank, William Klein, Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, and Sebastião Salgado: these are some of the major-league names that are associated with the Leica… Even if you don’t follow photography, your mind’s eye will still be full of Leica photographs. The famous head shot of Che Guevara, reproduced on millions of rebellious T-shirts and student walls: that was taken on a Leica with a portrait lens—a short telephoto of 90 mm.—by Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, better known as Korda, in 1960.

Years ago I read that George Lucas stopped making Star Wars films after Return of the Jedi because he didn’t want to have to build the special effects industry at the same time he was filming. Before he continued, he wanted the effects tools and infrastructure to be at his disposal, not having to invent them along the way. A lot of people think the later movies weren’t as good as the first set (if they liked them at all), even with modern effects and landscapes of a thousand robots. Was the wait worth it?

Many great novels in the last hundred years weren’t made into films until recently because they technically weren’t feasible. The tools that existed just couldn’t tell the story in film form, at least not with a reasonable amount of time and money. At least that’s what they’ve told us about Lord of the Rings and Narnia. But didn’t they make the Ten Commandments, Cleopatra and Ben Hur with casts of thousands before computer animation existed? Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were even made first as animated movies.

It took me a long time to find the right balance of art supply lust and actually getting things done. I’d think: If only I had a guitar, if only I had tungsten filters, a new watercolor brush, better paper, Maya 3D, an HD video camera, or a digital mixer… In the meantime, I wasn’t making much actual art, especially as the tools I thought I needed were so expensive it was a long shot I’d ever afford them.

Obviously I’m a great procrastinator, but the bigger question is still worth asking. When do you wait for the best tools or best circumstances, and when do you just go for it? When is quality important, and when does it just get in the way of doing something?

The first South Park was made with construction paper and magic markers.

Buy a Leica
construction paper and magic markers.

Related posts:

posted by Trout Monfalco