Last Updated on 03/11/2023 by Chris Gampat
One of the reasons why the modern film photography trend started has to do with nostalgia. It really hit hard in the late 2000’s when my generation was only just starting to graduate college. We’d look at old film photos of our families and through slides we found at thrift shops. Each and every time, there was just something about the old film photos that hit us so deep. We, millennials who started to embrace the major switch to the multimedia web, were looking for ways to emulate this look digitally. And surely, we did. Modern film photos undoubtedly have a dazzle to them that’s felt across the algorithms. But they still don’t match the appeal of old film photos.
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The Difference With Old Film Photos
I’d often look back at photos of my parents and their siblings. They were all having a very good time, and they were often very well-dressed. Without a doubt, taking photos was a special ritual akin to the way that people used to dress up to ride on an airplane. Back then, humans didn’t document every single moment. That’s really a very recent curve in time. Cameras only came out for special occasions because we were very selective about what we wanted to document. The whole idea of loading up film, shooting it, rewinding it, and waiting for the photos was a ritual.
And that’s much unlike today.
The thing with old film photos is that can also be attributed to the fact those were taken on film; and because there wasn’t endless storage, people had to be much more careful. Folks did their best to make the best of that shot, and most of those film photos were taken at more important events. My grandparents didn’t wear clean clothes every day because they were very poor and worked hard on farms. But the photos that I’ve seen of them show them in button-downs, dresses, and even shoes. These are things that we take for granted in a first-world country.
It’s similar to photos of my parents in the 70s. They looked as trendy as they possibly could back then.
The Mentality of Modern Film Photography
The practice of people taking photos for special occasions really continued into the 2000s. But when phone cameras become more than satisfactory enough, digital point and shoots targeted at consumers started to die off. With tons of storage, people would take photos endlessly as many times as they wanted. You see the same to a certain degree in film photography today. But those shooting film today are often doing it because they love photography and they really love making their photos stand out.
While folks like to say that everyone is a photographer these days, that’s wrong. And part of that is that we really need to change the idea of a what a photographer is. It shouldn’t necessarily be defined by the tool, though that’s surely a part of it. It should also be defined by their process of making the photos come to life in-camera. If you spend a whole lot of time making a photo in post-production, how are you different from what AI or presets do? But if you make the photo in-camera, you’re far different from those who spend their entire day editing photos.
On top of all this, we don’t really treat photos as special anymore. And we have to find a way to do this.
Stop Taking Snapshots. Start Making Photographs
Today, we have to find a way to rekindle the love and effort that we put into old film photos. And we have to do that by treating each frame as something special. We don’t need to shoot portraits at 20 frames a second. Instead, we need to shoot a single frame and pay attention to what we see in the frame. That often involves a higher sense of thinking and planning. But these days, algorithms more or less drain our brain power.
Just writing all this made me think that it’s time to look at old film photos and reminisce on a better time.