Hot New Set of Wheels

I’ve no idea what mileage my camera bag has done, but its wheels have been showing signs of distress for quite some time. So rather than fork out £300+ for a new bag, the old one probably ending up in landfill, I decided to give it a new lease of life with fresh wheels.

Luckily, inline skate wheels are a perfect fit for the existing bearings. I’d wanted to replace the bearings too, but standard bearings have a different bore which doesn’t fit the axle shafts for my bag. It’s not a critical issue as the old bearings still run, and I think I’ll be able to source the correct bearings once I have time to do more research.

One slightly stomach-churning moment was when I realised how much human hair had become entangled in the axles (I must be running over a lot of human hair!), but with everything removed, cleaned and re-greased, I was able to fit the new wheels and get the ol’ bag rolling again.

It now runs smoother, quieter and more easily over rough ground. In fact this photo was taken after a rather punishing outing over stones, flint and slate pieces for a recent assignment, but I’ve included one of the old wheels to show how much they had worn down and their general state.

Plus I think the skate wheels look rather fancy. Hopefully I can now get to your jobs slightly faster than before!

How Low Can LowePro Go?

This might seem like a relatively trivial point considering the state of the world, but something which has been irking me with increasing frequency is the use of certain words and themes in photography and the marketing of photographic equipment.

What prompts me to write this today is seeing the mini-site promoting LowePro’s latest camera bags, the ProTactic 350AW and 450AW.

For the sake of clarity, I’ve been a long-term fan of LowePro and use their bags almost exclusively now. I have a large roller case for one of my portable studio lighting kits, a shoulder bag for occasions when I just need a few pieces of kit for a specific job, a belt pack for when I can really whittle things down, and my current workhorse, a small rolling backpack. So it’s not as if I don’t like their products, but the marketing angle taken for these bags seems to positively encourage a connection between photography and combat.

Starting with the product name, why has the word “professional” been conflated with “tactic”? Tactic could be a reference to football, but let’s be honest, all the text and visuals surrounding these products are nudging us into thinking about confrontation otherwise the models would be shown freezing to death in the February sleet on the touchline at the grounds of Tottenham Athletic FC (I know nothing about football, but I used to cover it for various papers so I know the pain of photographing a deep-winter evening match).

Screengrab from LowePro ProTactic camera bag mini-site showing two models in distressed urban setting taking photos.

I see four camera bags, only two photographers. Perhaps two fled when things got dicey.

The models used in the stills on the site appear to be “shooting from cover”, even though they’re dressed for an evening at a trendy loft bar rather than coping with some kind of urban riot, but that’s just slick marketing and I have to give credit for them not being dressed in desert boots and camouflage.

The text reinforces the macho, military messages with the phrase “Mission-Critical Access” which I take it means these bags have zips with which to access the various internal compartments. Really? Mission-critical?! How about weapon-ready compartments for putting your cameras and lenses in? Or an ammo pocket for memory cards and batteries?

There’s a video to accompany the marketing. It’s got some young, trendy-looking photographers leaving their studio apartments, traveling by skateboard and motorbike so they can get some mission critical shots of erm… graffiti, or accessing the top of a high building (hopefully legally) to take photos of lightning on the city skyline while drinking latte from a flask (or is it freeze-dried army surplus broth?)

I don’t like photographers referring to themselves as “shooters” and I’m uncomfortable with companies marketing their equipment or accessories in a way which promotes photography as some kind of conflict game. Last week I watched McCullin, the documentary on Don McCullin’s life as a photographer of conflicts and famines. He didn’t mention what bags he used in Vietnam, but I suspect he didn’t buy ones called War Junky 101 or something.

It’s in poor taste to harvest phrases from such terrible events as wars and commercialise them to attempt to make photography seem cooler by associating it with conflict which, while seemingly still very much in vogue, is definitely not cool.