Camera as companion


I’m in one of those “I should just bloody sell my camera” places today. Yeah, you know the one. Had a run of lousy days shooting, culminating spectacularly yesterday. Every frame in my memory card looked like it’d been shot by someone who’d never heard of a camera before. Pile of useless virtual crap.

Except I don’t really want to sell it. I’ve said many times before, how beautiful I think the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is – especially this graphite edition, ermagherd! – but it’s more than an aesthetic thing.

There are plenty of beautiful cameras in the world. Every banged up edge and scraped surface of this, and the ones before it though, is a marker on my journey: as a photographer, as a traveler, and as a human being who tries and fails and fails and fails, and gets up again, mostly to do more of the same. Great camera; can’t say the same about the idiot holding it.

The X-Pro2 is also a tangible representation of the relationships that photography has brought to me, and how profoundly they have changed my life. I’m still incredulous, after all this time, that I got to live the last 5 and a half years, a privilege afforded by luck of the draw (being born in this country, with this passport, is a big barrier eliminator), doing what work I know how to do, and the kindness of everyone who took a chance on me, personally or professionally.

I’m not one of those people who are extraordinarily successful in school, work, and/or everything else in life. I sucked at school, and try really hard everyday not to suck at work. In life, I do my best, mess up sometimes and make it work sometimes. I don’t do any of it on my own. None of us do.

I didn’t start this long stint of travel by stepping away from some high flying life because enlightenment! happened. In truth, I picked up and went nomad because it was the most appealing option of leaving a life I could no longer bear living, which had nonetheless given me the tools to make my that choice. I’d picked up a digital camera all those years ago because I’m kind of geeky and it’s a gadget. I wouldn’t be a photographer if not for digital. A darkroom is still not something I know how to get access to. Being a child of the computing age, a computer was already a part of my personal and professional lives when a camera properly entered it in 2006. Getting to extend my skills on an available platform? Heck yeah. Access it’s what it’s about. Digital is a massive barrier eliminator. This gadget continues to offer me an alternative way to consider the world and that, for the most part, is why I’m still using it.

A lot of my memorable experiences have had to do with some incarnation of this camera, or its manufacturer. Being a Fujifilm ambassador seemed like a fun prospect at the start, but over the last four and a half years I’ve been one, it’s become much more than that. I’ve been inspired, encouraged, and deeply connected to others who are walking their own paths with a camera in hand, Fuji or not. I’ve had opportunities to extend myself, level up, and try stuff I never would have, if not for the Fujifilm family. Big up Karl, Ib and my fellow X Series enthusiasts!

And that camera up there, the X-Pro2? That’s a better camera than I have any business using. It does take really good pictures if you point it at the right things. The shit ones are all on me.

I write all of this at a juncture. The last post about choices and the end of nomad living for now, wasn’t a rhetorical or self-motivational one. My life has to change pretty soon. At the moment, I have a few choices to make about the paths I could take. I haven’t the slightest clue where any of them will lead. If I’ve learned anything in the last half decade, it’s that what I think is going to happen, rarely has much bearing on what actually does.

I’ve put this off for a fair while, because it’s always easier to go with the flow (even if you know the flow is stupid). But enough already. Time to be an adult about it.

Wherever I’m headed though, that camera up there is coming along. We’ll keep travelling together.

Graphite X-Pro2: Fujifilm Nordic

XF 35mm F2: the gorgeous flare-y pre-production unit from Fujifilm Singapore.

Camera strap: a quality product by Simplr Straps.


  1. Mike Vincent says:

    Crap images
    The uncertainty of each moment.
    What is this gig called life.
    From the moment I came across your name, Fleming too, I realised that my life is similar, Magician, global traveler, hotels, Airbnb, Camera, deck of cards, fresh audience. Dam, what an adventure.

    Keep steady Charlene
    The key to it all is how much ucertainty can you comfortably live with.

    1. Charlene says:

      Mike, I live with far more uncertainty than I am at liberty to let on, every single day. I have a high tolerance for instability (in context of the societies i live in, at any rate). But when the trade off dries up, it makes no sense to keep going. You know what I’m saying? That ROI’s gotta be there.

  2. Al says:

    Hi Charlene,
    Life doesn’t come with a guaranteed ROI card. I’ve searched the box now for 67 years. Must have lost it somewhere.

    Part of you knows that what is important to living is to keep your flame burning. Yours shines so bright. At times it will shrink and just be a glow. You need to build a room inside yourself and use it to weather the storms that will inevitably come. I’m sure you have something built already. You can’t live there. It isn’t allowed. But visit your spark and make sure it’s doing well.

    The ROI will return, perhaps in the same way, or it may shift. You may have to let go and reach for another handhold.

    My past was filled with self doubt, and my picture of myself was ripped and attacked daily in a previous job. Heh, it almost feels like another life. Ups and downs are to be expected. Christopher Hitchens once wrote:
    The search for Nirvana, like the search for Utopia or the end of history or the classless society,
    is ultimately a futile and dangerous one.
    It involves, if it does not necessitate, the sleep of reason.
    There is no escape from anxiety and struggle.

    It’s so nice when things are going according to plan. But the universe will beat on your doors and break the windows and shatter it all. When it comes, and for some it comes too often, then you must keep your flame glowing. Why? Because it is unique. You, are unique. There is no one quite like you. That spark, that ember, must be nurtured and kept safe. It is you, and all your desires and hopes and fears. It must be kept from harm. When I was being torn apart it seemed that I had no safe harbor. But I promised myself that my flame, my core, my being (running out of terms here), the essence of me, was tucked away and safe.

    Hmmmm. It all sounds so cliche, so trite. The hard part is to stand firm in the wind. It may take you to a different place. We all look inward. We all doubt. Those of us that do not doubt are misguided at best, and are prone to beat other people’s flames to smother what they cannot or will not admit.

    Just be sure that your light never goes out. The world needs creatives, now more than ever. It needs your take on things, it needs your spark, your passion. It needs you. Because no one does it exactly like you. The world is richer, and yes, brighter, because of you.

    Damn, way too long and rambling. I hope the universe is kinder soon. It can be a very cruel master. Just keep your hands cupped around your flame, blow at it gently, keep it safe.
    Be good and safe dear lady.

    1. Charlene says:

      Sure, Grandad ;)

  3. Eileen says:

    You are one of the bravest, most creative, and most beautiful human beings I know. You are an inspiration to me every day. I’m proud to call you friend. Let’s keep travelling these roads together.

    1. Charlene says:

      And I, you. Off we go!

  4. William says:

    Arthur Schopenhauer, The World As Will & Representation, Volume 1. Cambridge University Press. On Kindle, so you can highlight the hell out of it.

    Take care, Charlene.

    (And thank you, Grandad, for the Hitchens.)

    1. Charlene says:

      How clever, all you tech savvy fellas!

  5. Jim Kelly says:

    I read somewhere that there are two kinds of choices. There are reversible choices, yeh you shouldn’t torture these too long just make them. Then there are irreversible choices. You should think long and hard about these. If it just comes down to “Do I want to come off the road for a while and put down roots.” Well you can always change your mind in a couple of years. I guess the choice here lies in whether you want to experience your life broadly spread or more narrowly focused. Its your choice.

    1. Charlene says:

      Ok Grandad!

  6. Jim says:

    LOL that is truer than you know ;-)

    1. Charlene says:

      Lucky guess ;)

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