Modular Is As Modular Does

Modular Is As Modular Does

I am starting to develop a strong sense of sympathy for shop assistants in shoe stores. Apart from their trials in dealing with customers who never wash their feet…and we have had a few of them too…they are confronted by a bewildering and ever-changing variety of goods from different manufacturers that have to displayed and rotated on the shelves. There is a real fight between making a visually-appealing display and just getting the stuff out there to be pawed over.

We have that with camera bags. We stock major maker’s products plus other minor types. Add to this the remainders of every other range of bags for the last 6 years and you can see why the storage space and display wall can sometimes get chaotic. The final straw is the ever-changing size of outfits that photographers carry and what is going to be in fashion in any one year.

There is no one-size-fits-all bag. There are a great many one-size-fits-nothing bags, and people who buy one of these invariably buy three more to compensate for the fact. These are hardy souls that haul everything they own on a pleasure trip – they use 1/4 of what they pack and spend more time trying to find things than actually taking pictures. We love them down at the shop and take bets on how far up the street they will stagger before they fall over.

Elegance rears its ugly head as well in the bag game. We have been sellers of ladies handbag-style camera cases that were either beautiful or functional but not often at the same time. I knew as soon as we unpacked them that we were onto a winner, if fizzing artillery shells are winners. There was a plum-coloured thing that looked like a Soviet bowling bag and the longer you looked at it the more appealing it was.

I have noted that the fitted leather case has gone out – fashion or animal-rights or whatever has accounted for that. Perhaps all the old saddlers who made them are dead. I miss these bags, though they were really as heavy as lead. There was an elegance about opening one with its flock-lined fitted compartments for each accessory that you cannot get with nylon and velcro. Of course equipment these days is changed so often that it would make the fitted case redundant in 6 months.

Still, if there were a modern equivalent of the Benser case system you could probably sell it to gorillas with forklift trucks.

Benser case? Look it up, if you have a Leica M camera and a number of lenses, but be prepared for the 1950’s version of down the google rabbit hole. Benser made measured modular boxes for any sort of Leica accessory you could think of, and they were more finely crafted than anything I’ve ever put on an airline’s scales. It was an era of enthusiasts’ dedication and collecting the right thing for the rest of your outfit. Sort of a 3-D leather Tetris game with Leitz lenses inside.

I still get goose bumps just thinking of them.

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