“It’s not the sword, it’s the swordsman.”
I must have read/heard this phrase gazillion times over a period of three years, just about the time I was getting into the hobby of photography. It confused me, to say the least.
If it’s the swordsman, how come professionals can only be seen with top of the line professional equipment, i.e. cameras, flash, speedlights, lenses? How come no one from their ranks uses a mobile phone camera or a point & shoot to document a wedding, shoot an advertising campaign, or take portraits of clients for publication? Wouldn’t it follow that the sword be irrelevant vis-a-vis a swordsman’s skill?
On the other hand, I have personally seen eye-popping images produced by point-and-shoot and entry-level cameras. And so, I took it upon myself to solve this “mystery”.
Of course, it took me a while to figure out the missing link. Finally, I realize that the phrase itself is lacking in context. It should have been: It’s just not the swordsman, it’s also the sword.
Allow me to expound.
The missing link, my friends, is a singular factor called ‘vision’. David Duchemin in his book “The Vision-Driven Photographer” defines photographic visions as:
“… photographic vision is the combination of the way we perceive things and what we want to say about those things. It is the intent behind the photograph. It is specific and it is not accidental. It is what leads us to frame an image in a certain way, choose a certain lens over another, or photograph from one angle or another.”
With this individual vision, we are led by an intention to fulfill a vision in our mind’s eye and as we follow through it, we single ourselves out among hundred, if not thousands of hobbyists and professionals. It is when we reach this stage, this moment, in our photo-filled existence that we elevate ourselves and find our unique place under the Photography sun.
Personally, it took me about that long to develop this inherent eye for my brand. It is for this reason that I have 3 prime lenses and just one of telephoto, macro and UWA. Because my vision led me to prefer taking portraits and not landcapes, not small objects and insects, not underwater creatures, and so on and so forth.
In life, as it is in photography, I follow the adage: “To each his own.” It makes for a very liberating experience.