Happiness is a nice camera. Acinipo, Spain. 2009

For my wife, Engogirl, an interest in photography started as an act of retaliation to my photography. Let’s face it, photography is a crap spectator sport. My wife is as close to perfect as one could hope for and she indulges me in just about any way one could wish for, but watching me photograph things was beginning to pall.

I sensed Engogirl’s frustration in having to wait around for me to take my shots, so when I bought my SLR, I gave her the little compact camera that I’d been using to keep her amused.

Engogirl isn’t afraid of technology, as a matter of fact she actually likes reading instruction books (what’s that all about?!), so it wasn’t long before she was off and taking her owns shots. At first, I think doing something with a machine was what Engogirl found more engaging than the resulting images. I don’t think the images were as important as having something to do. After a while Engogirl discovered the pleasure of sharing her pictures with me. Luckily for me, my wife has a good eye and it was a joy to see her images improve over time.

By the time we went on our trip to Europe last year, Engogirl was really enjoying taking her photos, but then a fly settled in her ointment. Engogirl discovered the short comings of her camera. How come her clouds were all blown out and mine weren’t? How come, my shots had better colours than hers? Why was I able to get shots she couldn’t?

As technically minded as Engogirl is, being an engineer and all, she wasn’t all that interested in educating herself in yet another discipline. The idea of humping a big heavy SLR with a few lenses around with her all the time didn’t appeal either.

About one and half months into our trip, my wife’s camera started to play up. Many shots were coming out with thick magenta stripes through them. By this point, Engogirl wouldn’t dream of going out for the day without her camera, even though she was becoming disenchanted with it’s lack of capabilities. I though this situation was a good opportunity to lure my wife further into sharing my love of photography. I mentioned that I thought it was a good time for her to upgrade to a better camera.

Engogirl said, “but I don’t want to be lugging around a heap of gear like you”

Me: “We’ll get you something that is smaller”.

Her: “But it’ll be crap like what I’ve already got”.

Engogirl had a point. Most smaller cameras are aimed at “happy snappers” who would have a brain aneurism if they had to think more that a nanosecond before they took a shot. I then remembered my friend Paul raving about his Canon G9.

Paul is a card carrying, grade “A”, gear freak.

You name it, if Paul is interested in it, he’ll research the hell out of it and buy the best thing he can afford. I respect Paul’s opinions about equipment, be it photographic, camping, cycling or woodworking. So I suggested we get the G9 for Engogirl. We were in Nimes in France at the time and we went into a camera store to get the G9 but it was out of stock because it was discontinued ( I found out later that the G10 which followed the G9 wasn’t a very successful design) and the new model G11 was coming out soon.

“How soon?” We asked.

“A few days, would you like us to order you one?”

Nice try, sales guy, but unfortunately we couldn’t hang around and wait. So every town we went to, we’d check to see if the G11 had come in. Every time I took photos when Engogirl didn’t have a camera, I felt guilty. I even went so far as to hand her my camera to take photos with (no greater love), so she felt like she was getting shots of things she found interesting.

It wasn’t until about two and half weeks later that we were able to find a shop in Lisbon, Portugal that had the new G11.

What can I say? Other than my wife is totally thrilled with her G11 and now is actually interested in printing out some of her shots. 

As for me, I’m constantly amazed how my wife’s photos are so different from mine. We often take photos in the same places but they couldn’t be more different.  I often take very wide angle shots because I’m interested in context, narrative and interaction, whereas Engogirl is into recording detail and objects. Often when I see my wife’s shots, I find myself thinking to myself, “why didn’t I take that?”

So together, we’ve got a very broad record of our trip together.