It happens with movies. It happens with fashion. It always happens with music. And now, it would seem, analogue photography is poised to take its place in mainstream popular culture. All of the indicators are there: the recent growth and expansion of the brand, the embrace of analogue among influential stylemakers and Hollywood hipsters, and the increased name recognition of cameras like the LC-A, Diana and Holga. (My Mum even pointed out a small item about a Holga as a holiday gift suggestion in a Canadian magazine that’s, well, rather Mumsy.)
But for those of us who have been shooting film a while, the mainstreaming of analogue photography is both exciting and awkward. It’s exciting because it’s great to see so many people taking a chance, experimenting and experiencing that initial rush you feel when you know you’ve stumbled across something really, really good. And it’s awkward in that way it was in junior high when the Brit-pop band whose records you’ve been spending your hard-earned babysitting money on at the import record store on hits the big time and is suddenly at the top of the charts. You still like their music, no question, but can you love them the way you always have when every kid in class has your favourite band’s cassettes in their Walkmans and they insist on talking about them like they’ve been listening to them forever?
Yes. Of course. And maybe a little bit no. It’s a personal thing. It’s too easy to label anything popular that was once known to a much smaller group of people as a sell-out. And while analogue photography — particularly using expired films and different processing techniques — may no longer be considered “underground” or “alternative,” it can still be experimental and new — it’s all in how you use the cameras, the film, what and where you shoot, and how you push yourself to keep your work fresh.
Sure, there will be people who start shooting with analogue cameras just because they heard it was cool, but those people will be on to something else in six months, their cameras up for sale on eBay. But some newbies who heard it was cool will end up tumbling down that wonderous analogue rabbit hole and creating stunning images. I believe that if you really love it, it shows in your images and your style.
As people worldwide have come together in the last decade to bond over their analogue experiences in person, on Lomography.com and other online outlets, a unique protectiveness has developed. It’s hard not to feel possessive and proprietary of this lifestyle that has up until recently flourished quietly in a digitally-enhanced, DSLR world. And now with analogue’s growing popularity, it’s a bit like being the long-time girlfriend who finds tons of girls flirting with her boyfriend every time they step out.
Everyone will have their own response as the analogue renaissance bubbles up into the mainstream. I, for one, will never stop shooting film and playing with crappy cameras — and I’ll do my best not to be that possessive girlfriend.
How do you feel about the growing popularity of analogue photography? Share your thoughts with me!
Pamela Klaffke is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who now works as a novelist and photographer. Her column appears weekly in the Analogue Lifestyle section of Lomography Magazine.