Are You A Black Man?

I am. I didn’t become a black man until 1969 when I joined the London Evening News as a staffer.  Having become one, I stayed that way until August this year. It wasn’t a choice to concede my black status, it was forced on me by an aesthetic imperative. They happen a lot to photographers, aesthetic imperatives. Part of the job almost.

It only lasted for six months before I felt uneasy and started longing to re-instate my old black self. No question about it, it was self-indulgent and to someone colour blind a totally unnecessary expense. But did it anyway. It’s my money and while it may seem effete to you, to me its a visceral thing.

Now look at this picture and tell me it wasn’t worth it. I’m black and I’m proud. Silver is for sissies.

gx8

 

 

 

 

 

Real photographers tote hard black pitiless cameras. They shelter in bullet pocked doorways in bombed out areas of war torn towns in Wheretheactionisistan, oozing charisma and audacity. They video themselves bungee jumping from the Eiffel Tower. They wash in cold streams in the foothills of the Himalayas, their black camera thrown carelessly around the neck of a nearby Yeti.

The silver camera people, they worry that their man bag’s mohair hair lining might scratch the nice shiny swivelling monitor.  The women that their lipstick might make the shiny, pretty silver finish look greasy and smear on the monitor. Worse, that they don’t have their microfibre ‘Clean’n’Shiny Camera’ cloth with them and other photographers will think they are, well, not concerned with hygiene.

Now, I wouldn’t want you to think that I am in any way prejudiced. There are red cameras, white cameras, even blue cameras. They all have their place. I’m not sure where it is but I am sure where it is not. Nowhere near a black camera. People tell me that some photographers who use coloured cameras can take quite nice pictures. And I believe them, just as I believe people who tell me that fairies really exist. I’ve never seen one myself but I’ve read many articles by Victorian fantasists, frauds and lunatics who assure me they do and who I am I to argue with that?

When I started out in photography, this colour discrimination didn’t exist since the cameras were mostly made of wood. Then I had a various Japanese 6x6s that came in silver with a leather finish. Then various Pentax SLRs and Canon rangefinders that came in silver. It was only in Fleet Street in 1969 that I came across black cameras, The Nikon F!

From the moment that I realized what a great scam – this was work? – sorry, career, press photography was, I had visualised myself walking up Fleet Street, a brace of Nikons slung nonchalantly lens facing in over my right shoulder. I would greet my heroes, the people whose work  I had seen in the papers, Arthur Steel, Terry Fincher. Hi, Arthur! All right, Terry? And they would smile back, raise a hand in acknowledgement. They were decent sorts and even if they didn’t have a clue who I was they’d raise a hand just so as not to be rude.

When the Evening news handed me my camera kit, Nikon bodies, lenses, flash, bag, all the bits and bobs fresh, brand spanking new from the buying department, it was the first time I’d really noticed black cameras. And I realized that all my heroes used black cameras. I imagined the humiliation if Nikon had supplied silver Nikons instead of black. Backs turned all over Fleet Street. Who would deign to be seen acknowledging me, let alone talking to me or treating me as an equal? I would have been that new guy with the funny cameras, you know, the wimp.

But I wasn’t. I was a black man like all the others. One of the crowd. The in crowd. Which brings me up to August this year and my excursion into silver cameras. I thought the the Panasonic GX8 I was buying had a lot of spare space on its body. I thought it would look prettier in silver. It did, actually.

But pretty? A hardened old ex news hound, cynical, the kind of guy who nonchalantly slings his cameras on the sawdust floors of dangerous dive bars in African hell holes, has a pretty camera? Not this one. It taught me a lesson. I’m a black man through and through. So I swapped the silver body for a black one.

And you know, it feels good. I feel manly. I feel virile. I notice beautiful women looking at me again and fear in the eyes of other photographers. I walk tall. As I put on my slippers, do up my cardigan and make my cocoa, I can hear the voice of Mae West , summing it up for me.

“I’ve had silver cameras and I’ve had black cameras. Black is better”

 

42 thoughts on “Are You A Black Man?

  1. Jörg

    Hi David

    Now, that was a good read, the kind of read one sadly doesn’t see all to
    often on a photo blog.

    But back to the subject : I’m some kind of a “multicolored man”, more by chance
    though.

    I’m mainly an analogue man and have a few Nikon F2s’. They were all bought 2nd hand
    and I was looking more if they are in good shape, color didn’t matter. The best
    samples turned out to be in chrome, only one or two are in black. I dont’t think
    one is nicer than the other, but I can load the black ones with bw film and the
    chrome ones with slide film, the color helps to keep them apart.

    Altough I shoot mainly analogue, I did buy a few brand new digital cameras, two
    GF 1 for being precisely. The first was black, it’s still with me and still is
    mostly black, the 2nd was red. Yes, red ! Reason for that, I wanted to see on one
    blink of the eye which camera I am grabbing (seems to be a major point for me)
    and second, it was “new old stuff” after the production of the GF 1 had ceased –
    it’s sold now.

    Now I’m in the market for the next generation of digital cameras. I’ve slimmed
    the choise down to the Nikon Df (if I go the FF way), the Oly OM 5-II and the
    Pany GX8 (if I go the MFT way, and the reason why I spend an awful lot of time on
    your blog lately David, it’s the best re MFT and photography in general).
    On all of these three cameras I have the choice of colors. Today I generally prefer
    the chrome versions because I think it breaks the shape of the camera down from
    a lump of black metal and plastic to something a bit more delicate and refined,
    but yes, it’s less manly, I will have to cope with that. Yet, the Df looks rather
    cheap in chrome, so that would be in black. And, for being honest, the GX8 is just
    an ugly camera, no color in the world could change that.

    Cheers
    Jörg

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Hi Jorg – nice to know you like my stuff. Yes, some cameras do look better in colours. As an ex news photographer red wouldn’t go down too well, I’m used to trying to melt into the background!

      I don’t find the GX8 so ugly, though it is certainly not a looker. Bit brutal, really.

      The E-M5ll is a lovely versatile camera, though the focusing is less good than the Panasonic and I personally find it too small. On the other hand, I went to Micro Four Thirds because I was tired of humping around big lumps of metal which did nothing to enhance my actual photography. It’s all compromise, like everything else, really. All I know is that, having made a decision, the best thing is just to run with it and not look back,

      Reply
  2. Conrad

    I always chose black, for the reasons you mention. Albeit I’d gladly take the $100,000 Leica Titanium set with the presentation box. While it screams steal me, it would never leave my house. I would have to win the lottery for those. My father had a camera store and it completely ruined me for life. The amazing things in the attic were joy to a young impressionable child.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      A camera store! I always though I wanted a sweet shop pr a brewery but camera shop, paradise!

      Reply
  3. Eric Nepean

    What I really want is silve lens caps, and they are almost impossible to find.

    So far I have bought cameras in black if available, since I didn’t really care, and lenses and filters in black, to avoid reflections.

    I recently purchsed my first silver lens, it came with silver/white lens cap. I found the light coloured lens cap MUCH easier to find in a camera bag, and of course, I don’t care about reflections. I would gladly put light colored lens caps on all my lenses. But I can’t seem to find any to buy.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      That’s a good point about finding things in the bag. Yesterday i spent ages looking for my (turned off) phone. It was in my pack pack which has a black lining, in a black case. I had felt around in the bag but the phone had lodged in a corner. If the bag interior was any colour other than black I’d have found it. I never thought of that with a lens cap.

      Reply
  4. John Ouzts

    As a huge fan, and annoyed silver man, I would like to point out that you probably would not have lost the lens hood of your Pany 35-100mm f/4.0-5.6 if it had been a more conspicuous silver. It might have been cheaper to buy too, at least since the GM5 has been canceled. I guess dealer’s are afraid of getting stuck with an odd-ball silver lens. Mine was ~$30 less than the black version.

    Sadly I could only find the black version of the GM5/12-35, which I secured for $439. So at least I look manly when using the GM5. I do drool when I see cheap prices for the silver version of the 12-35. It would look better on my GX7 or GX8, not to mention restoring my effete status.

    John

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      That’s true about about it being less easy to lose a silver item. Also, I carry a camera and spare lens in a back back pack quite often. It has black interior and it’s really difficult to find black items in it. I end up finding things by touch. So silver would help there.

      However, that is not the manly answer. I will have banks of flashing LEDs mounted on the black lens and hood, thus preserving my masculinity and still being able to find the items easily. By the way, I didn’t know the GM5 was discontinued. The shop where I buy my cameras told me it wasn’t selling well a while ago when I bought the GX8 so I suppose it has been on the cards a while. I’d have expected it to be very popular but that’s probably the end of super small Micro Four Thirds cameras then.

      Reply
      1. John Ouzts

        There are rumors of a GM7. (The rumor must be correct, since it is not a consecutive number.) I believe that the GM7 will incorporate some capacity for taking selfies. Apparently that is seen as the major impediment to GM5 sales. Not a problem our age group needs solved I’m afraid.

        I think I read about the rumor in an Australian review of the GM5 or one of its lenses.

        I should also point out that the very small, all-black GM5 makes my tiny hands look almost as big as Donald Trump’s.

        Reply
        1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

          So keen on selfies am I that I never appear in my own videos if I can avoid it. Can it really be a criterion for buying an expensive camera? Yes, they are tiny aren’t they? I’ve actually just got the GM1 at the moment which is pretty good. I only use it on one Custom setting so the rather awkward controls don’t matter so much. I’d worry about the GM5 more if it made my head look as big as Donald Trumps 🙂

          Reply
          1. OG

            If GM5 is being discontinued I have to hurry. I have a GM1 and love it, except fiddly controls and no viewfinder. I want the GM5 before it goes away unless the GM7 is as small? Any idea about the rumoured GM7 size anyone?

          2. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

            If the GM1 and GM5 are both discontinued that means there is no truly small Micro Four Thirds camera. But maybe the GMs clashed with the GF range. We’ll see!

          3. John Ouzts

            I got the GM5/12-32 recently from Adorama for $440, but it now appears to be back up at the “regular” $500 price. The common price of the GM1/12-35 seems to be $400 now. Prices this low seem to support the rumor of their discontinuance.

            I have seen no details about what a GM7 would look like, except the Australian suggestion that would allow for selfies. A tiny GF7 with a viewfinder?

          4. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

            I’ve just seen a lot of wild guesses and wishful thinking 🙂

  5. OG

    I tried a silver once. Looked great until I pulled it out on a street in Cape Town..Instant “please rob me” sign went off over my head. Silver shines, silver is for magpies. Blacks don´t get robbed. Not so much anyway.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I’d never have thought of that. It’s amazing how many different takes their are on camera colour and would be impossible to foresee them all. Cameras are used by all kinds of people all over the world – I wonder of there is any reason for buying, say, a red one, other than for the pretty colour? I bet someone has a good, non cosmetic reason even for that.

      Reply
      1. Jeffrey Peckham

        It was actually for this reason I went for a blue and silver GM1. Anyone who looks at it will assume it’s just a toy and not take it seriously

        Reply
        1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

          Lovely bit of lateral thinking there! More than that, it works, I bet. I have a GM1 and really like it, although a bit I find a bit….small :-). How many systems using the same range of lenses can provide at one end professional video and stills and at the other a body of compact camera dimensions? I find the camera less awkward than it could be because I have a set pattern of settings and I just set them all to C1, so after that I’m really only altering aperture or ISO, both easy to do. Being sensible, there have to be limitations on ease of use of such a small camera. What is remarkable is that small or not it has hardly any limitations on what you can do with it compared to bigger models.

          The thing about the finish is, while I stand there with my deeply masculine back camera, you with your blue and silver confection, you get the shot because I’ve been escorted out. So you have to sort out, what’s more important, to get the picture or to look manly? Well, to look manly, obviously!

          I’m a bit sad the GM1 has been discontinued, poor sales apparently, because it had the potential to become a classic Micro Four Thirds camera in the way that the Canon Sureshot became the classic in the 80s.

          Reply
  6. Richard Drdul

    Very enjoyable reading! I’m a black man, too, but I’m also aware that many people who buy cameras do so not to take pictures, but to look hip or showcase the camera on their mantle or whatever. If they want silver, or blue, or pink, then I am glad that camera manufacturers are making those colours for them because it keeps them in business, and while they’re at it they can continue to make a few black cameras for me, you and other extra-manly photographers.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I take exactly the same view as you. So long as it keeps them going in R&D and keeps them making cameras, I’m for it.

      Like you, I am extra manly though I do confess to occasionally hankering after a pink camera to slip into my handbag…but of course only when I am very, very drunk 🙂

      Reply
  7. Michael Gent

    Black E-M1, EPL5, Ricoh GRII camera and lenses here, though he silver looks nice at a distance close up there is a cheapness about it. Pentax ME Super, Oly OM2n Oly Trip 35 have the silver that looks legit whereas the latest batch of Fuji Rangefinder stuff comes across as cheap and would just bug me.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Interesting thought, maybe something to do with silver finish over plastic. I certainly remember lots of cameras that had a beautiful silver finish. In my Fleet street days a black Nikon worn through to the brass underneath was a sort of battle weary emblem and that looked rather neat too. I’d imagine that the silver finish on modern cameras is very different from that on the quality film cameras. Getting the cost down sems the major priority now.

      Reply
  8. Ian

    I can’t remember the last ‘silver’ camera I had. It would have been a long time ago. I think it might have been an Olympus Trip when I was a teenager.

    I had a Nikon F outfit in the mid 70’s that was black (although my Western light meter was silver), then moved on to a Canon T90 which I think they only did in black. After a bit of a break from any sort of ‘proper’ photography, although the Canon came out occasionally, I came back to digital and used Nikon Coolpix (a 950 and 5000) both only black, so when it came to M4/3 choice it had to be a black G5, now with a GM1 as a second body both black.

    I look at the retro fad Pen-F thing in silver and feel a bit sorry for the buyers who are clamouring to get the thing!

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I wonder of more black cameras are sold than silver? I bet the red and brown and white onesdon’t sell many.

      Reply
  9. Mal

    I think maybe the people have read this article and agreed with you, as a consequence Amazon have a surplus of silver GX8’s. I bought a GX8 with 14-42mm lens for £649 compared to £889 for a black one, I dont mind looking “iffy” when I can save that much, but yeah if they were both the same price I would plump for black every time. I always look forward to your blogs and vids, you manage to inform and entertain in one go.
    Cheers

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      That’s a an absurd price differential, isn’t it? I’d buy silver every time for that price difference. Nice for people who actually prefer silver, too. Glad you enjoy the blog and vids. Cheers Mal.

      Reply
  10. Andy Pearson

    Yes – black only and rosewood fingerboards on my Strat and Tele. The only way to go!

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Haha! Me too. I dislike the slippery feel of maple and I reckon the nice dark rosewood looks as well as feels better. I had a black Strat with rosewood board – gorgeous.

      Reply
  11. Ouria

    David,
    I read your blog and love your reviews but i have to tell you that this one os the best post of them all!
    As an ex news photographer I felt that you are writing my story.
    Thank you!
    Ouria

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Thank you, Ouria. It’s funny how little things like a camera’s colour can matter so much but they do!

      Reply
  12. David Cantor

    Yep, me too, to paraphrase that wise sage Barney Rubble, “I’m wit you David”. The aesthetic of a camera is very important to yours truly and one of the reasons that I haven’t upgraded my Olympus EM-5 is that it’s successor’s appearance is marred by excessive levers, buttons and dials. One one my favourite cameras was the black Canon A-1, it oozed masculinity, the small Ricoh GRv likewise on a dinky way.

    Some cameras just beg to be ogled. My Nikon 35ti is one, it’s not all black but can be more than foregiven because of those beautiful analogue dials. Incidentally, had the chance of handling both versions of the new Pen-F yesterday, much prefer the black version. Black is beautiful, now where did I hear that before?

    David Cantor

    Reply
  13. Keiron

    Love this post, I had many discussions with myself regarding the colour of my GX7 but at the end of the day the black one was in stock and 50 euros cheaper so my decision was made for me. 2 years later I have coloured in all the white branding with black marker and even made my lenses pitch black. I have had GX7 owners walk up to me and ask me what camera I have and deep down I love it. I agree with you, silver is better for the mantle piece as a conversation starter while black is just proper.

    Reply
  14. Malcolm

    Yes what is it about black? I’ve seen the Gx8 in our photography store and somehow the black just looks better. When the silver EM1 first came out I thought it looked really smart but over time I’ve gone off it. I’m glad I have the black, Seems petty but might as well be satisfied. Less obtrusive perhaps.

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Yes, maybe less obtrusive but in the end I think i just like it better.

      Reply
  15. Gary

    I almost fell for a silver LX100, because it’s the only one in stock in my favorite camera store. I’m glad I waited for another LX100 to show up, this time it’s all black!

    I don’t dislike silver camera, or any other color in that matter. I just want my camera to look as low key as possible. Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, black is the only color that looks low key the most.

    Right now, I’m wearing my dark jeans, black jacket, and black pair of shoes, with a black LX100 with a black strap hanging around my neck, and both a black GX8 with a black 14-140mm and a black GX7 with a blacked-out 7-14mm sitting inside my black camera bag that I’m wearing across my shoulder. I really should black-out my silver Olympus 75mm f1.8 too I guess, I feel like it doesn’t belong in my bag because of its color, which is a shame really……

    Oh well, black is the new black hahaha! Thanks for the entertaining post David, have a nice day and take care 🙂

    Reply
  16. Rod Thompson

    I have 3 Em 5 cameras and managed to secure all three of the finishes (2 black)
    I hate to admit it, but I am a “Black” man also (it annoys me that Olympus cannot match their silver’s between their lenses and cameras!), but the silver has proven to be the most stable (both blabk have lost a top dial that was easily fixed, but annoying), and the older silver has had no issues yet. I only really settled with my Oly kit when they released black in the lenses and the whole kit matches and yes I am clearly sexier not, no doubt!

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Yes, I find when I carry a black camera women flock to me. Well, I can wish, can’t I?

      Reply

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