“I think I’ve fallen in love with this bag!” For those who know me, those are words, which didn’t come from my wife. They were mine. Yes, men can also fall in love with beautiful objects such as bags. They are an essential necessity for photographers – they carry and protect what’s holy and precious to us. So let me give you some insights on my life and the unconventional love story between a photographer and his Billingham Bag collection.
It all began when I purchased my first Billingham bag in 1979. I was learning under a lovely old gentleman in Bath, England and just starting to make a name for myself as a travel photographer. Hah, that wonderful nostalgia. Feels like only yesterday since I started on my long journey of love, loss, frustration - a dream of mine. I had my equipment set: my cameras (medium format & 35mm), lenses, rolls of film, notebook, pen, passport, some spare underwear and on the road I went. But just how would I carry all of that stuff around with me? And of course discretely? I had a very tech looking black bag at that time, just a regular one, where I would just throw my stuff in, without thinking twice, if my equipment would survive another British Airways rollercoaster ride. After all I’m paying for this insurance thingy, isn’t that right? Wrong. I would learn very soon, that a good carry-on bag is essential, especially as a photographer.
One day a friend of mine asked me, if she could borrow my Billingham bag. Naively I gave my precious bag away, not knowing I would never see it again. Years later, once we arrived in the age of modern digital technology, I was reintroduced to my passionate obsession again. This time to a second hand little brown Billingham bag I found online in Berlin. It was a 307, still my go to standard kit bag. But now I was shooting diverse locations, subjects with very varying kit requirements, so I clearly needed more than one bag - and I of course wanted to remain stylish! Next ordered was my big blue carry all bag, the flagship 555 – big enough to fit just about all the equipment I was now using, all my Leica and Canon gear. The only thing that was left was to have patience, till my new love would arrive…
I felt like a kid again, waiting for Christmas. Every day I’d ask the postman, if Santahad come by and left me a gift. And then one day, he finally did. My own imperial blue555 Billingham bag. And the story continues, I have since acquired a burgundy S4, a sulphur yellow Hadley Pro and another imperial blue - this time a Hadley Small. So bags are no longer women's domain. Men can have the same obsessions.
You might think now: “Ah, come on – they’re just bags with some pockets in some flashy colours.” Well, you are right regarding the flashy colours, but that’s only one of the great aspects of Billingham. I never had a bag before, where it was so simple to access all your essentials, yet secure enough, that you don’t have to worry of your camera falling out at any given second. The TukTop feature really got my attention. Pulling the equipment in and out of the bag effortlessly, whilst having a busy shooting? Now that’s what I call a thoughtful and handy invention! This jamboree bag has a lot of specialties and my kit is secure, and they don’t look obviously like camera bags - often an advantage in some situations…
They have become my dearest companions on my diverse travels. I’ve taken my bags to Morocco, South East Asia, the USA, in the last months to Mallorca and London for wedding and editorial shoots. I’ve shown them the best sides of Berlin – and my journey as a photographer has really only just begun. I am sure there will be more memories I will collect – and I will share them with my beloved Billingham bag.