The Digital Age: Too Hip(stamatic) For Me
Looking through my parents’ old photo albums, I stumbled across a collection of photos from my mum’s holiday in Greece when she was 21. The photos are tiny, with rounded-off edges and a very slight grainy quality more flattering than any tweaking on Photoshop could be. There are only thirty photos, each one completely different, and each one worthy of display. This was one of the reasons I decided to experiment with film photography myself. Also, I’d challenge anyone to watch ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’ and not be tempted to make the switch from digital to analogue…
Browsing through my own old albums from holidays with friends (stored on the computer, not an adorable leather-bound album), it seems that we each have over 200 digital images documenting the same drunken nights out, swinging around poles in Malia or ‘flirtily’ posing with cocktail straws in our mouths. We could be anywhere.
The benefits of digital photos are plentiful, and it’s great to share pictures with friends and showcase your holiday, not forgetting the ability to remove red eye with the click of a button. But digital photography has made people lazy, and, I think it’s fair to say, has removed the creativity from photography. With a screen to display your image the second you’ve taken it, and a single button allowing you to delete it just as fast, why not take 200?
Most of us would have got our first cameras when small point-and-shoot digital cameras became pretty cheap and easily accessible, so for many there wouldn’t have been a choice between analogue and digital. My very first camera used 35mm film and regrettably I abandoned it for years as soon as I went digital, favouring the instant results over waiting agonisingly until the end of the holiday to see the pictures, a pretty ancient concept for young people today. But many of my best photographs were taken with my Olympus StylusEpic, so over the last year it’s been back in use, still taking great photos.
The recent popularity of apps for the iPhone such as Old Photo Pro, suggests that people are hampering after the retro look. Most of you have probably seen products of the Hipstamatic app on the iPhone, which is inspired by the Kodak Instamatic camera. It puts computerised filters over your iPhone camera to make your photos look like the beautifully aged and flawed medium-format photos that you typically see when rifling through old shoeboxes in the attic. Ironically, the application itself celebrates the look of film photography while also contributing to its inevitable disappearance. The only easily accessible film from the high street now is a standard 35mm roll, which will set you back around £5 to buy and the same again to have developed in somewhere like Boots. So, with the cost of experimenting with film being so high, it is understandable why people go on using digital. But those images on the screen, no matter how painstakingly edited, will never achieve quite the same richness as photos processed in a dark room. Some of the greatest photographers only ever shot using film, and British fashion photographer David Bailey insists he still does.
He rose to fame in the 1960s, so sticking with film might appear to have as much to do with nostalgia for Swinging London as a preference for the old way of shooting. While taking a portrait of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently, Bailey was reportedly asked if he ever uses digital. He replied, “Nah, digital’s like socialism – it flattens everything out and makes everything the same.”
In recent years, toy cameras have been popular alternatives for those wanting a different and more creative edge to their photography. Unfortunately, the Hipstamatic App changes this. Now there is a fast, cheap and easy high-quality alternative to toy cameras and it will be interesting to see how long they can stay on the shelves. I have the Diana Mini, which is tiny and lots of fun to use. Using a camera like this is a good way to learn about the relationship between aperture and ISO, plus you have to become more aware of your surroundings and available light when shooting film.
Admittedly it’s a little pricey to develop, but the excitement of seeing how the images have turned out is worth it; even a few brilliant images can be very rewarding. It makes you feel like you’ve achieved something by capturing it, and the whole process seem a lot more like art. And unlike drawing or painting, it’s not hard to be good at!
However, amazing photographic moments do not just drop into your lap. And wandering around Durham it’s hard to avoid the obvious subjects such as the cathedral, buskers on the bridge and the Old Bailey. But, as the weather gets brighter and the end of exams is not far off, now is the perfect time to get experimenting with film photography. A recent photography blog suggested the following as some of the images you should aim to capture in your lifetime:
A great portrait
A complete story
Take your camera everywhere with you: you don’t want to miss a great photo opportunity. Film photography cannot survive on sentimentality alone, so get shooting some rolls of film and send your results to Palatinate if you fancy having your work featured in the art and photography section of Indigo this term. Go to www.lomography.com if you want to buy an analogue camera, and check out these websites for some artistic inspiration: