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“What’s In Your Bag?”

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I am, when you get right down to it, lazy. In fact, while not being particularly untidy, I do remember when I lived on my own there was a receipt from Żabka for fruit juice and a Kit-Kat that lay on the floor of my hallway for considerably longer than it should, despite the bin being no more than 3 meters away. That’s not to suggest I’m work-shy. I spend a lot of time thinking about my work, and I spend a lot of time on the street walking and shooting, but there are little moments of laziness that creep in, and that laziness can manifest itself in the most infantile ways.

One such is the petulant irritation of carrying around a bag all day. When I’m photographing, I may walk the streets between 5 to 8 hours in the day. To lug around the extra burden of an over-stuffed camera bag is not an appealing prospect.

Unnecessary and untenable

When I came back to photography in winter 2020/21, I bought the shoulder-bag I still use, though at the time I was somewhat optimistic as to how much I would carry around with me on the daily. A polaroid I took at the time shows a full lens cleaning kit, a field-notebook, a second camera, my pinhole adaptor, a cable-release, and a bean-bag pod. With the exception of the second camera (on very rare occasions), the rest was largely redundant day-to-day. It didn’t take long for me to discover this was both unnecessary and untenable to carry it all around.

Jump forward to early summer 2022 and, in class, one of my students asked what I carried in my bag when I’m out working. While i run the risk of falling into a trap tripped by every provincial ‘local band’ as they take their first stumbling steps out into the world, and mistakenly believe that anyone will care – even for a second – for an exhaustive list of the equipment they use, right down to the strings and the picks they play guitar with; I thought I might write something here.

Given the choice, I’d happily leave my flat with nothing but a camera and a few rolls of film. Given the choice, I would leave the bag behind. Alas, I would have to forsake a few other bits and pieces I’ve found handy to have around. And of course, if I’m cycling to my destination, there’s nowhere to put the camera. Maybe I could buy one of those fisherman’s vests with all the pockets, but… I fancy I’m yet a little too vain to be kicking around the city in one of those. I suppose I could get myself a wee bum-bag to put stuff in. Now, I know they’re fairly popular here in Poland but… come on.

No, for now, the bag stays

No, for now, the bag stays, but I’ll do all I can to ration what it carries around. Of course, when I travel, all bets are off and the bag suffers from a little more abundance. What follows, though, is its normal day-to-day contents.

Starting, as we must, with the camera. Since the beginning of this year, the Leica M3 (at the moment off at Leica for a CLA) with the Summicron 50mm has been my main weapon of choice with the M6 as back-up, or when I need a second body. I will carry the second body if I know I’m going to need it though I try to stick to one.

These days, an additional lens comes out with me only if there’s need. If I’m working at night, I’ll take the 50mm f1.4. If at a protest, I’ll add the 28mm. All being equal though, the Summicron tends to ride solo.

I leave in the morning with 4 or 5 rolls of Kodak Tri-x in my bag. For some, that may seem overkill (though Daido Mariyama might argue I was packing too few) and often I don’t come close to using it all. I tend to err on the side of caution. I’d rather bring some home unused than run out half-way through a fecund day.

While, more often than not, these days I’ll be using the sunny 16 rule to set my exposures, I like to have a light meter out with me as a bit of a crutch, so my trusty Minolta Auto Meter IVF rides along. In the same pocket can be found a few business cards and my lens cloth.

You never know when you’ll need a break, so in the other pocket can be found a book. As I write it’s Alasdair Gray’s Lanark – which, while my favourite book, I won’t lie – it’s a little heavier than I’d like. Depending on the season, there might also be some suncream and sunglasses beside it. There will almost always be a phone-cable, and these days, an N95 mask.

It’s all you need, really, isn’t it?

When you boil it all down that’s really a camera, some film, and a light meter. And a few other bits and pieces that, on the laziest of days, could always be left at home. It’s all you need, really, isn’t it? Even if you allow the indolent impulses to get the better of you.

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