By Dewayne Bingham, Assistant Photo Editor–
As camera manufacturers compete to have the most megapixels and best autofocus systems, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a photographer. We’re living in a golden age for visual storytelling.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a desert rock, though, you’ve probably noticed the growing resurgence of analogue photography and idealization of a retro, low-fi artistic style.
You might wonder why modern professionals and artists are waving off the chance to shoot with imaging technology forged by decades of innovation. So let’s explore the nuances of 21st century counterculture and its relationship to artistic media and expression…
Just kidding—I’m saving that for my thesis.
Some theorists argue that it’s a feeling of nostalgia which attracts folks to analogue photography. After all, there’s something about shooting and observing a photo with “the film look” that takes us back in time and gives us the warm and fuzzies.
I would argue it goes beyond that, though. If fond memories and vintage luster were the crux of what modern audiences were searching for, they’d turn to old newspapers and family photo albums. The nostalgia attached to the photos, movies and songs we love is created by our connection to them and the passage of time, not what genre or medium they fall into.
Shooting analogue is not cheap, either. Film and vintage cameras are increasing in price just as quickly as they are in popularity.
You could blow $13 on one roll of Kodak, expose all 36 frames incorrectly and be totally unaware until you receive the scans from a lab. Having a finite number of shots is not always conducive to learning or practicing photography, especially when each mistake costs precious time and money. The immediacy of feedback with digital cameras is invaluable for beginners and even experienced shooters working on important projects with little room for error.
But for those who’ve honed the craft and are comfortable removing the proverbial training wheels of instant feedback, the level of intention and attention that analogue photography demands could separate you as a visual storyteller.
Most artists, journalists, portrait, wedding and street photographers would all agree that a compelling story trumps clinical sharpness and megapixel count every single time. What better way to exercise telling a story than by stripping away the bells and whistles of your tools.
Limitations yield innovations. That’s why we’re seeing so many talented creators making names for themselves today by breaking mainstream conventions and minimizing their toolset.
Kaleb Blair holds his newborn son, Emmett Seth Blair, just hours after he is born. Emmett’s birth went smoothly, despite the fact that he was born during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he went home to be with his family the very next day—a tender birthday gift for his big sister, Alice. Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)
Jerry poses for a photo while awaiting a bus on Market St. in downtown Chattanooga. He said it was nice having a lighthearted conversation with a stranger for a change, and expressed hope that the community would heal from COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown it caused. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)
Lookout Mountain native Walker Robinson tries to stay awake while he and his friends watch “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.” They could not think of a better, more appropriate way to kick off Christmas break. Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)
Spencer poses for a photo outside the Tivoli Theatre in downtown Chattanooga. He asked if I thought he got around pretty well for an 83 year old man—to which I responded, “Absolutely.” Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)
UTC junior Alec Earp and his friends check the radar for incoming rain during an impromptu hike through Suck Creek, Tennessee. While the weather conditions were less than ideal, the group had little choice but to spend the weekend outdoors, as businesses had begun closing due to COVID-19. Friday, March 20, 2020. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)
Julius poses for a photo while awaiting a bus on Market St. in downtown Chattanooga. He was eager to chat and have his portrait made from a safe social distance, despite the fear of public interactions many people struggled with because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday, July 24, 2020. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)
Chattanooga State Community College student and local photographer Caleb McCool snaps a frame of an abandoned building near downtown Chattanooga. McCool’s work focuses primarily on candid portraits of strangers he meets on Chattanooga streets and in surrounding areas. Wednesday, April 22, 2020. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)
Trees curve around the sky at Rainbow Falls. The trail on Signal Mountain leads to a beautiful hidden waterfall. Monday, May 4, 2020. (Photo by Stephanie Swart)
The American flag flies above the Memphis Lorraine Motel sign. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed at the Memphis Lorraine Motel in 1968, which has since been transformed into the National Civil Rights Museum. Saturday, February 1, 2020 (Photo by Stephanie Swart)
People stand on top of Chattanooga’s Walnut Street Bridge to observe the Moon River Music Festival at Coolidge Park. The 2020 festival was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Saturday, September 7, 2019. (Photo by Stephanie Swart)
UTC students Claire Reticker and Ellie Morris pose in the crowd of Chattanooga’s Moon River Music Festival goers. The headlining acts of the 2019 festival at Coolidge Park included Jason Isbell and Moon Taxi. Saturday, September 7, 2019. (Photo by Stephanie Swart)
The Band Camino’s Spencer Stewart jams on his guitar as they perform at Chattanooga’s 2019 Moon River Music Festival. The Band Camino started their music careers in Memphis and relocated to music hub of Nashville within the last two years. Saturday, September 7, 2019. (Photo by Stephanie Swart)
So, why is film making a comeback?
In our oversaturated and fast-paced online environment, it’s easy for artists and storytellers to prioritize volume over quality.
But by slowing down and being more intentional, we create work with greater depth—photos that tell better stories, stand out and make us feel more fulfilled. Analogue photography forces us into those better practices.
It doesn’t do the work, it forces us to.
Again, film isn’t the key to becoming a great photographer. You can practice and develop healthier creative habits no matter what medium you utilize. Making meaningful work begins with slowing down, embracing your limitations, and being mindful of what you’re trying to say.