The Life and Death of Analogue Photography

In HOME by Hannah Beer

In the words of my mother, all trends will come back around eventually – nothing will ever be new, just redesigned and reworked. Unsurprisingly for her, I reckon she’s right. We have this strange desire to reuse ideas from the past, recreate trends and lifestyles but still attempt to pass them off as something new.

Beyoncé perfecting the art of the throwback.

From fashion through to music this constant culture of reinvention is unavoidable. In fashion we are surrounded by the so-called ‘vintage’; we fantasise the worn-out and aged look. The latest trends in shop window are things we’ve definitely seen before, in fact I’m pretty sure Topshop and Urban Outfitters are selling the same clothes that I wore in the 90s…back when I was a remarkably unstylish five year-old.

This fascination with looking old school has now spread into the realm of photography. Initially, in the 1800s when photographs were first being developed they were rough and scratched images often clouded by dust or light. Many photographers strived to remove these imperfections but now we seem to be putting them back. Instagram’s defining feature is its array of vintage filters via which you can even impose light leaks or scratches onto your iPhone pictures to get this desirable old film effect.

There was a moment, who knows exactly when, that we all seemed to stop using the film cameras that fill so many of our family albums and began storing all of our information in the cloud. But, as the retro trend spreads throughout the arts and into everyday life we see people heading for disposable cameras and 35mm instead. Analogue photography today is a popular method of taking photos again, especially for those in the moment people, on holiday or at a festivals; ‘snapshot’ culture is undeniably on the rise.

STZ15ALEXA5_368812kOld school selfies look pretty cool.

For me, using film is without doubt the most rewarding way to photograph. As a photography student we are taught everything and anything about digital media – to a technical level that is near impossible to understand – yet the use of film is nowadays slightly neglected. Whether it’s the same anywhere else, I do not know but I for one feel that if you want to shoot film, you better buckle up and prepare to teach yourself properly, otherwise you won’t ever get to experience the true feel of raw photography.

We live in a world that transforms very rapidly, especially in technology. I can’t remember a time in the last few years where there hasn’t been a new wave of smartphone technology guaranteed to ‘make your life that much easier’ (why then does my phone cause me so much more hassle?!). It is true that this techno-bubble we live in is incredible and I am mesmerized by the sheer intelligence involved, but in the photographic industry the need to splurge on the newest equipment instead of going back to basics, seems a shame.

Using analogue photography has boomed in the last year or so though, especially in the fashion industry and for portraits of individuals. Many fashion photographers now are choosing to shoot their images on film because of the intense high quality you get. Although digital photography is so much more developed than it used to be, it won’t (and might never) be able to give you a great quality crisp print like a negative. Using film has so many benefits; the colour casts are so much better, even using it for portraits you can see the skin tones are very different, and much more real. One example is Photographer Victoria Will, who is going even further back in time by using Tin Type methods to photograph portraits of celebrities at the Sundance Film festival. The outcomes of which are far more intriguing and delicate.


Be still my beating Kristen Stewart.

At university I became obsessed with using a beautiful piece of machinery known as the Hasselblad camera. Of course large format cameras are pretty bulky and bring with them the pain (and price) of larger film, but when you get your prints all this is forgotten. Maybe it’s the suspense of waiting and not knowing the outcome that got me interested in film photography. I would grab my 35mm or 120mm camera, load my film carry it for days in case something caught my eye. By the time the roll was finished and processed, I had long forgotten what I had shot and so every picture was like remembering a moment. I could spend hours in the dark room processing prints, ignoring the world and just watching the images come to life.

In this process every outcome is unique, the images develop differently and there can be no mechanical duplicate, but also for once the creation of images does not involve staring a computer screen. The personal experience and role of chance makes developing film so very rewarding.

Stevie Nicks with Hasselblad.

Living in a super fast century, social media is constantly in high demand, so we feel the need to create and publish things quickly. Analogue photography and film does not offer this, but what would you rather sacrifice: some ‘likes’ or a beautifully processed print? Maybe a few years ago analogue was a dying trend, but it’s definitely back…I wonder how long it will stay before people find something else that’s ‘new’.

Lisa Gillies

Up until recently Lisa’s life’s obsession has been sloths, but she has recently discovered the joys of procrastination – namely trips to Ikea and Game of Thrones. P.S. Jon Snow – she’s patiently awaiting your marriage proposal.

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(Images sourced from: here, here and here).