(or Why I Like Limitations)
Last week Canon announced the imminent release of the 5D Mark IV, it’s long awaited update to one of it’s most popular professional camera lines. The new model features a number of impressive updates to an already impressive camera, such as a higher pixel count, wider ISO range, better video capabilities and more. There’s a lot of great sites out there to give you a detailed rundown of all the technical details, (I personally like and recommend dpreview.com.) but this post isn’t a camera review. (obviously)
The 5D Mark IV looks like an incredible camera, but I don’t plan to buy one. If someone decided to go over the top for me for Christmas this year (yeah right), I would have a lot of fun experimenting and exploring. But when I first heard about the release, one of my first thoughts reminded me of a subconscious negative mindset I used to have. I used to think that my creative ability and output was reliant on the gear I had. There was always some new piece of technology or gear I still needed. I always felt hindered by what I felt I lacked, because I constantly found myself comparing my gear to what other people were using.
This way of thinking started back when I finished school. Still new to graphic design, I decided I needed a Mac since most of the creative industry operates on that platform. And I needed to have all the current software. (like Quark. I’m dating myself I know. It’s fun to say, but the fun ended there.) Not an unreasonable perspective, right? But the desire to stay competitive and current slowly shifted into something else as the years passed.
Once I had the basics, then what I thought I needed never stopped. I need a better desk and working space. I need a digital camera. I need a Wacom tablet. (which I’m currently trying to sell on Craigslist, what does that tell you?) I need a better camera. I need more camera gear. But after a while I came to recognize the pattern – not the pattern of always wanting something shiny and new, that’s just capitalism in action for you. It was another version of a pattern of constantly comparing myself and my work to others. I wasn’t just comparing my gear to someone else’s. I was giving myself a built-in excuse for whenever I felt like my work wasn’t good enough. I was giving myself a reason for not trying my best, or even worse, sometimes not trying at all.
I was looking at the math, and subconsciously deciding the most important element of the creative equation – more important than the work, more important than the process, and even the artist – was the tools we use.
I had it upside down.
Once I understood how limiting this mindset was, I started to look at art and creativity differently. I realized the best creative work pulls me in, captures my imagination, and starts inspiring new ideas long before I start thinking about the tools the artist used. And knowing what tools are used rarely adds to my appreciation of the work. If anything, I’m even more amazed when I discover an artist who creates great work with limited tools and resources.