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It never fails. Every time I have a show, someone comes up to me and asks me what kind of camera I use. Usually they preface the query with some nice remarks about my work, my sense of form and color, or my composition. But it's clear what they really want is intel.

I thank them for the compliments, then smile and tell them what I shoot with. What I don't say is that the camera's just a tool, an instrument that I use to express what I see. Two people using the exact same gear, in the same place, at the same precise instant, will never get the same results.

Often as not, the next question concerns megapixels. More must be better, right? That is, after all, the true American religion. These folks don't really want to hear the answer, which is qualified instead of absolute. A few go on to dig for dirt on how I process images, what software I use, whether I use physical or digital filters, and so on. They hope, I think, for a secret gem of photographic lore, a magic key to unlock everything. Sadly, or perhaps not, there is no such thing. There's nothing I can say that will transform the most vital piece of gear, their vision. By that I don't mean the eye itself, but the most critical, and individual, part of the visual apparatus: the brain.

Photographers hate this sort of question. It's like asking Matisse or Monet what kind of paintbrush he used, thinking the bristles were what gave the canvas life. Clearly that would be ridiculous. Tools are wonderful, and important, but they're just a starting point. Art is made from timing, will, and creativity, and all the things that make us each unique. Art is who you are, not what you use.

With a Perspective, I'm Peggy Hansen.