Oh! Cecilia....

<note> if I was a girl I’d have tons of shoes. I’d have tons of shoes, tons of handbags and tons of skirts. But I’m a guy so I own camera bags and camera straps; can’t get enough of ’em. One of these days they’ll make a reality show called Hoarder Photographers and there I’ll be, sitting in some weird, tiny apartment, half-buried in nothing but straps and bags. And coffee grounds because… Coffee. </end note>

At the beginning of summer I received an email from McLean Fisher, one of the partners at Cecilia — a young company specializing in camera straps and based in Mamaroneck, just north of NYC. I say "young" but they work with a leather family-business that's been around since 1803... So experience isn't much of an issue here.

McLean wrote in to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing their product. When I get these types of requests I always make it a point to check out the website and see what the company is about — I never write about anything I don’t believe in so this is just basic courtesy. If I sense I won’t be a good fit I’d rather let folks know right off the bat. In this case I was quite pleasantly surprised: the landing page felt more like a gallery than a store. In fact, the first link I saw lead to a section featuring a handful of very talented photographers. Subtle, clean, very nicely done.

We exchanged a couple of emails and he offered to send me the model of my choice. Full disclosure: I received the strap free of charge. But I wouldn’t be writing this review if I didn’t like it — it would’ve gone straight back.

straps — fashion alert

Some of you may remember the review I wrote for Tap & Dye, another New York outfit. I still love that strap, perhaps even more so now that it’s started aging. The Cecilia flavour is quite different — I’ve been using both side by side for about two months now (Tap & Dye on the X-T1, Cecilia on the X-Pro1) and while they’re both equally comfortable they’re from different worlds: one is like a worn out, rugged pair of Levi’s jeans; the other is a sleek designer jacket. That is unless you go for one of the patterns… Then it’s designer meets Hendrix ;)

Cecilia currently offers 16 models, all adjustable in length and either entirely made of leather or a combination of leather and alpaca wool. This combination of material was apparently the genesis of the project:

During a trip to Cusco, Peru in 2011, Michael Fleisch crossed paths with a woman selling handwoven alpaca wool belts. He decided to combine the belt with leather in order to make a camera strap. Michael showed the strap to friend and now business partner, MacLean Fisher, who encouraged him to perfect the design and take the straps to market…

…The leather selected for the straps is full-grain Argentinian cowhide. The tanning process gives the leather its supple feel, deep color, and traditional aroma, and its full-grain structure provides strength and durability. The hides are finished in the USA with surface treatments that further protect the leather.
— Cecilia

I went with the brown baby alpaca wool / brown leather strap. I chose this model because I wanted something discreet when I’m working. At first I was a bit affraid the wool would end up feeling gritty around my neck but it doesn’t — all you feel is the smooth leather, the wool side merely adding a visual (and texture) accent. Don’t be fooled by the chic factor though: I’ve been carrying this around on shoots and never once had second thoughts about leaving the X-Pro1 to dangle freely around my neck. It's as tough as it's pretty.

I could’ve shot those pictures when I first took the strap out of the box but I’m glad I waited: like all good leather products it has softened, wrinkled and already gained personality in the short time I’ve had it.

The choice of a camera strap is like everything else: it can be purely utilitarian, a chance for self-expression or a combination of both. For years I never even thought of purchasing a third-party strap and went around with a big yellow Nikon logo boldly printed across my chest. And yes, I survived. But I have to admit these types of straps add a level of comfort I’d now find hard to leave behind — given the time I spend with a camera around my neck, I don't see them as luxuries anymore. Hey, we all get picky eventually… Might as well look good right?

I do wonder about the name Cecilia — didn't even think to ask really. All I know is I had Simon and Garfunkel playing in my head all the way through this shoot... You could do a lot worse ;)

Prices for these range from $60 to $90. 
For more info visit ceciliagallery.com.