The Dusty Drawer or What Does This Do?

The comedian Michael MacIntyre does a skit on the ‘ man drawer’, the drawer somewhere in your house that is filled full of ‘useful’ stuff most often he says created by a man. My wife has one of these drawers in her desk so I am not sure if such a creation is defined by gender, but I do know that the photographer’s drawer has specific qualities and elements defined by the medium.

The Olympic standard drawer is reached only through time and time alone. It requires effort, and the rapid development and rejection of new technology to achieve maximum performance. It most importantly of all requires cables. Not just one or two cables, but many cables, preferably featuring a multitude of different connections. If these connections are no longer in use by any functioning electronic equipment all the better.

Such a drawer must be difficult to close and to open, due to its disorderly contents. A photographer will keep every charger, type of battery, and lead in their drawer, but it may also be the repository for manuals for cameras no longer owned, defunct mobile phones, broken hard drives, lens caps, mini tripods, lens filters and camera straps. You can simply add to this list by reviewing your own drawer.

Of course nothing in the drawer is of any use. This does not mean that something in there may not be useful at some point in the future in your mind, but when you do visit you will find that as nothing is labelled you will merely spend hours looking for the thing you want without success.

Despite this search for a holy grail lead and plug resulting in fruitless hours wasted you will not use this as the reason for a tidy, sort out, or declutter. You will instead return everything to the drawer with a sense of relief when it finally closes.

Now I know that there are some photographers who are organised. Strange folk who are on top of the labelling game, who have a place for everything and who keep everything in their place. I am not one of those, although I admire their dedication to keeping their world in order.

I have tried this approach but failed. To lose my drawer of stuff would be to remove my belief that I have the thing I need when I need it, even if I don’t. The drawer gives me a sense of optimism even if it is misplaced. The fear of throwing away something in the drawer that I may one day need is too great a burden to bear.

I am my drawer and it is me. Now, please excuse me as I need to find the right connecting cable, male to female for my 2010 JVC video camera, it may take a while, but I know where to look!

Dr. Grant Scott is the the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018

© Grant Scott 2022

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