Op-ed: Canon got me into photography. Now I’m cutting them off.

My first Camera was a Canon Rebel T6. It was a workhorse, utilitarian and strong, and the first awkward photos I took with that machine ignited something inside me. Some deep primal desire blinked to life inside me when I opened those photos on a big screen and saw the color and bokeh in the captured folds of light. It was the first step on my journey as a photographer.

Another milestone on my journey occurred on September 9th, 2020, in San Francisco CA. The dry summer had culminated in a series of Megafires up the west coast. 9,917 fires burned in 8 different states, ultimately causing 12 billion dollars worth of damage—the largest recorded wildfire in California’s history. On the 6th, I got a few frantic texts from my family in Washington state that fires were starting to encroach on my Father’s land, and on the 7th I received a call from my sister telling me that her house in Malden, WA had burned down in a separate fire. Malden lost 80% of its houses in the fire, and my sister, her boyfriend, and their two children were homeless. Two days later, on the 9th, the skies turned orange in San Francisco from the combined smoke from those fires.

A view of San Francisco from Corona Heights. The sky is completely orange due to the wild bushfires.

Corona Heights, September 9th, 2020, by Patrick Perkins

It was as dark as dusk when I took this photo at noon from Corona Heights in the Castro District. I remember the numb feeling of sinking claustrophobia as I thought about my sister, now a climate refugee. My immediate family was poor, but between the 5 of us we had some orchard land in Washington, and my sister’s house. Now, one house down, one to go. It felt like a matter of time before my father’s land burned up like my sister’s.

Burnt ruins from what used to be a house.

The remnants of my sister’s house, September 16th, 2020, by Madeleine Perkins

If you’re here reading this article, I have to assume you already know that Canon lags behind other camera manufacturers in climate goals. You probably also know that Canon is supporting climate denial propaganda, through the “Canon Institute for Global Studies.” On CIGS’s website you can find multiple articles by Research Director Taishi Sugiyama that push climate denialist propaganda. Mr Sugiyama has prolifically published books and articles on the topic, making bold statements such as “Gradual global warming may continue, but there are no signs of a catastrophe” and “The climate crisis is liberal propaganda.”

A view of San Francisco with hazy, cloudy orange skies due to the bushfires.

Sutro Tower, September 9th, 2020, by Patrick Perkins

After the Camera’s Don’t Lie photography competition published the winning photograph in Times Square, Canon got a chance to respond to the allegations that they were pushing a harmful narrative in this article in Petapixel. I strongly encourage you to read it yourself and see if you can wrap your mind around the outlandish logic they employ when measuring their meager climate goals (they currently have no goal set for reaching net zero carbon emissions, standing at odds to Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Ricoh, and Fujifilm). You can also read Canon’s bizarre statements distancing themselves from the “Canon Institute for Global Studies,” the think-tank that Canon established and that bears their name.

A view of downtown San Francisco with hazy orange skies, due to the bushfires.

Downtown San Francisco, September 9th, 2020, by Patrick Perkins

I have to wonder how long Canon thinks it can get away with this unscientific harmful propaganda. Does Canon worry about being directly associated with an ideology as unpopular as climate change denial? Is Canon so disconnected from their customers that they think this disregard towards the environment won’t ever affect their bottom line? You might remember that sky turned orange again, this time in NYC and this time on June 7th, 2023—did that shift their ideology at all? How many photographs is it going to take, of drying lakes and bushfires and floods and dead fish and orange skies, before they say enough is enough? Or will they have to choke on the ashes of their burning houses, like my sister did, before they change their mind?

Patrick Perkins is a designer, photographer, and artist living in San Francisco, CA. See his work, Stay In Touch Studio, here