Related News

Home » Feature

New status symbol a fancy camera

THE latest fashion accessory these days is a fancy camera - no more point and shoot. Toting sophisticated gear is supposed to make one seem arty, educated and intellectual. Katie Foley watches the birdie.

I once asked a professional photographer I worked with what I thought was a simple question: "How do you know when to push the button?"

But he couldn't answer. He stopped, started and then muttered something about "you just know."

When I saw him again weeks later, he told me that my question made him start thinking about how he knew when to push the shutter button, and he couldn't figure it out.

He had been put off just by thinking about it.

On every shoot he struggled with the question.

Several weeks later, he told me that as a professional photographer he was intimately familiar with the timing and capacity of his camera.

He just "knew" when to push the button.

Until recently, sophisticated cameras like those owned by my photographer friend were the exclusive domain of the professional photographer.

But in the photography world, the traditional "point-and-shoot digital camera favored by tourists and hobby photographers has been giving way to the more sophisticated digital single lens reflex (DSLR).

These larger cameras produce more technically advanced photos. They offer a greater depth of field and higher pixel and ISO counts, but require a certain amount of know-how to get the best results.

The huge drop in price for entry-level and mid-range DSLRs has produced a huge number of semi-professionals, or people who like to think of themselves that way.

For those people, a DSLR is often more of a status symbol than a tool.

It's a common sight in Shanghai. Just head to the World Expo 2010 in these final, frantic days and cast your eyes around: lots of people with enormous, complex cameras who are really only just pushing the button.

"Smaller is better" has been the mantra of the electronics industry for the last 10 years, but the photography scene in Shanghai is definitely bucking the trend.

When it comes to the new wave of photography - bigger is absolutely better.

Shanghai photo blogger Stan Tang says the Shanghainese flocking to DSLRs can be roughly broken up into two groups, "arty youth" (wenyi qingnian) and "people following, or chasing the wind" (gen feng)

On arty youth, a search turns up some interesting translations depending on which side of the cynicism divide you sit: "pretentious bastards," "dilettantes" and "cult youth," being in the mix.

Tang says photography is seen as the most accessible route into the arts by young Shanghainese who are eager for communication, insight and shared experiences.

"In the old culture in China, people didn't like to talk too much, but now young people get fresh ideas from the Internet or news," he says. "They open their minds, and because of that they want to share their knowledge."

Tang dislikes the trend toward big cameras, saying the notion that "expensive camera equals good photos" is not true, but is merely a manifestation of the Shanghainese preoccupation with cash and status.

"I don't want to see what kind of camera you use, but the photos you take," he says.

And increasingly, Tang says, some arty youth are even moving back to the non-digital SLR because it provides a more authentic photographic experience in which skill is important.

Chasing the wind

The second group Tang identifies broadly as "people following the wind."

"They get the fashion and have the cash to buy what they want," he says. "This kind of people used to use digital cameras, then they followed the wind and bought the big ones."

What Tang describes as "chasing the wind" is similar to the concept of "fashion chasers" described by Shanghai journalist Wing Tan, who says photography is popular among her friends, and sophisticated cameras are a prerequisite to look the part.

"They (DSLR cameras) send this message, 'I'm rich, I'm fashionable.' It's a status symbol to tell other people that you're in the fashion," she says.

"Many young Chinese are fashion chasers. It's like if you don't have a professional camera, you are out of the trend," she adds.

Tan, who is planning to update her DSLR camera lens, gives the extreme example of a friend, married to a wealthy man, who bought a 30,000-yuan (US$4,414) DSLR camer before a trip, because she saw everyone had one when traveling, "but we didn't see her use it once."

"It was too heavy, it just sits on her shelf at home now," Tan says.

She describes the attraction of photography as coming from Internet photo blogs.

"When you see those beautiful pictures others have taken, you have an urge to take pictures as beautiful as those," she says. "I wanted to make it more beautiful and to express my feelings when I am taking the picture. But I found a small camera couldn't do it."

Tan says she frequently sees young girls of the chasing-the-wind variety on the street, but mostly their boyfriends carry their cameras because they are too heavy for them. "I think it is ridiculous when I see those girls. They should spend more time learning the skills.

She says photography is becoming increasingly popular in Shanghai, both for of expression and creativity, and another way to show off.

"If you have a fancy camera, people think you have a certain lifestyle and are well-educated and intellectual.

"It's humiliating to take out a small camera," she concludes, sighing.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend