Film cameras and Gen Z’s search for authenticity
Sarah Decory explores the latest trends surrounding film cameras and what differentiates them from their digital counterparts.
My mum was quite surprised when I came home one day with a disposal camera I had just bought from my local corner shop. To her generation, film cameras seem quite outdated as the popularisation of digital photography made them irrelevant.
Nowadays, digital cameras have improved extensively, and professional-level photography is widely accessible. Why is it, then, that people continue to yearn for film?
Going beyond the social media trend, photographers (amateurish and experienced alike) enjoy film’s uniqueness and special quality. The intent behind digital and film photos is quite different. Digital provides more freedom, as there are many settings to choose from and one can experiment endlessly before taking the perfect shot. Film pictures, however, have a special grain and feel to them. The saturation and colours are different from digital, which lots of photographers are fond of. Even in Hollywood, several huge budget productions use film cameras. A relatively recent example is the 2017 film Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan and famously starring Harry Styles.
Film pictures have a special grain and feel to them
Furthermore, when I use a digital camera, I always end up with around ten identical shots and can easily take five hundred in about two days. In addition to never having any storage space, a downside is that these pictures often end up forgotten in a random folder on my computer. With film cameras, however, you can’t see your photos instantly and they are limited in number. As a result, I tend to be more conscious of what I shoot. The pictures, therefore, are more precious as there are fewer of them and they have been carefully thought through. On top of that, the fact that you can only see the results a few days or weeks later makes for a nice surprise, that enables you to relive the moments you photographed. Even though you could also go through your digital camera roll, there is something truly special about discovering your pictures for the first time weeks later, and anxiously waiting to see how they turned out. I remember getting my pictures back after a trip and being slightly disappointed when one of them had my finger right in the middle of it, but it resulted in a good laugh.
Another aspect that contributed to the popularisation of film is that people love to see and experience old-fashioned things. Whether it’s going through your grandma’s attic and finding her toys or even going vintage shopping, young people have always been fascinated by old trends. Just like high-waisted jeans and vinyls, film cameras have become trendy again.
Whether it’s going through your grandma’s attic and finding her toys or even going vintage shopping, young people have always been fascinated by old trends
Social media pushes people to produce original content and find ideas that will make them stand out and get likes. Adding a pinch of retro to their feeds, then, seems like the perfect way to stand out. Recently, however, it seems impossible to scroll through your Instagram feed without seeing at least one picture shot on film or mimicking the film aesthetic. Some apps, like Huji Cam, even enable you to take film-like pictures on your phone.
In a plea to seem more relatable, a growing number of influencers and A-list celebrities have started film-dedicated Instagram accounts, where they share candid moments with their friends and families. Notable ones include David Dobrik’s @davidsdisposable or even Joe Jonas’ @cupofjoe. These accounts are successful because they make you feel part of these people’s lives. Their feeds seem more like one of a close friend’s rather than that of an unattainable celebrity.
It might seem slightly ironic that, in spite of Facetune and Photoshop, film photos exhibiting raw and unedited moments are trendier than ever. One must not forget, however, that film-like pictures might not always be as authentic as they seem. Anything on social media can be seamlessly edited and film pictures are, unfortunately, no exception.