An Open Letter to Older Photographers: Please Stop Hating on the Analog Photography World

This blog post is targeted and directed squarely at a segment of the photographic and tech-oriented, bro population who with I sometimes share a similar mindset. In some ways, I feel like it’s the shoe being on the other foot. So let go deep down this rabbit hole.

Let’s circle back to around 20 years ago or so when most photographers were still shooting film. It’s crazy to think about it, but 2017 is the year that lots of college kids have put in their applications if they were born in the year 2000. Now that you feel sufficiently old, let that fact solidify for a bit. If you were a photographer back then, you probably knew all about pushing film, pulling film, loading it up, and all the possible darkroom techniques at your disposal. Many of you also probably machine gun shot your film cameras with their high fps shooting modes. To compensate, you brought multiple cameras with you and loaded them all with film. Then when you were all done, you went into the darkroom and spent a while developing the negatives, looking at them with a lightbox, figuring out what you wanted to do in the printing process, and then printing.

Today, photography is sufficiently different. You probably shoot tons of photos on an SD card, change SD cards if you don’t have a camera with dual card slots, and then, at your leisure, you probably go through all the images and edit/publish later on. It’s a far different process and most photographers today only spend their time in Lightroom in front of a computer or they port to their phone and ship them off to Instagram when they need to.

Now let’s back up to the fact that you’re old; remember how I said that some college kids applying for college today were born in 2000? Okay, so that means they’re finally becoming adults. When they were in high school photography class, they probably worked all digital. Their cameras at home? They’re digital, if they even have a camera instead of their phones and tablets–God forbid!

Let’s step even further back 10 more years. Let’s say you encountered someone who was born in 1990. They’d be in their late 20s today. In the 1990s, these people would have been around their parents as they shot film. Then in the early 2000s, the switch to digital would have started to come around. But until they were the age of 10, their parents were have guaranteed to have shot film. That means unless they took a photography class in high school that taught film photography, they probably didn’t step into a darkroom.

Step back even further; I’m a 30 year old man born in 1987. I still haven’t worked in a darkroom.

We’ve got all that solidified now, right?

Now turn this around on the older generation of photographers out there. Do you know how difficult it can be to teach grandma how to use Facetime? Or to take a photo and zoom in on it? Why is it so difficult? Why are they so fascinated by it? Well, because they haven’t experienced it. Why are YOU so fascinated with digital? Well, it wasn’t commonplace for most of your life. It’s the new, hip and trendy thing. And for the younger generation of photographers (millennials like me and others) we never really had a lot of opportunities to step into a darkroom, to load up film, to embed the smell of D76 on our minds, and to really carefully think about each image so that we don’t waste a single frame of film. Instead, we grew up in a society that more or less puts an emphasis on disposability. Disposable cameras? Those were a thing! Your camera is four years old? Huh, maybe you should upgrade because it’s starting to not deliver such great photos anymore vs how the industry has adapted.

In a world of constant flux, it’s nice to sometimes have something that stays stagnant and that we can always reliably come to. And for many of us, that’s the analog photography world.