Open Discussion: Why Go Retro?

Nikon D3s PolaroidHey all, Erik here with a quick guest post about a subject that’s raised a lively debate in our studio. Everyone on our crew has long been shooting with Polaroids, rangefinders, micro 4/3 cameras adapted to accept vintage lenses…even processing digital images to look like they came out of an old dusty camera. Surveying the landscape, it’s clear this tide has been rising for a while now and we’re not the only ones attached to this stuff. So the question I present to you is this:

Why is retro or faux-retro photography so popular these days?

Why, when we have such capable and inexpensive cameras at our disposal, are we reverting to old technology and old aesthetics? Is it pure nostalgia? Is it a palette cleanser from the ease and accuracy of said capable and inexpensive cameras?  Is it a passing trend? We have opinions–especially Chase does as you might expect–but we’d like to hear from you.

173 Responses to Open Discussion: Why Go Retro?

  1. Joe Alonzo May 31, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Seems like it is more than just photography that is going in that direction. I do really like the warm/raw feel of vintage photos.

    • caroline May 31, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

      There’s always some sort of backlash to current trends. My background’s in graphic design, and there was a huge shift not too long after design “went digital.” At first, everything was super clean (everyone remember web 2.0 being named as a style?).

      After a while, people sort of rebelled against that, and wanted things to look more hand done. Scanning in textures, and that sort of thing.

      I really think it’s the same thing with photography. Digital has a certain look to it, and now people are playing with old techniques and equipment to make something different.

    • Brian June 1, 2011 at 10:39 am #

      I think it’s because it’s easy way to augment an image that otherwise might not be that interesting. It seems like there are so few ways to differentiate your work that things like vintage processing, HDR, etc. become ways to give it a wow factor. Not saying that these techniques are a negative, but I think that’s a factor.

    • jonny b June 11, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

      it’s like the sweet, warm sound of vinyl vs the cold precision of a CD

  2. Neilson Eney May 31, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    I think it’s the same reason we put distortion effects on guitars. There is something appealing about the play between the expected (chord progression / lines in photo) and the random noise introduced by distortion or grain.

    • Steven Hopkins May 31, 2011 at 10:29 am #

      I totally agree. There’s something about a photograph that turns out looking exactly like what you pointed your camera out that is disappointing.

      Now the question is, is that disappointment inherent in the clean images digital cameras produce so easily, or we so deep in a fad that we aren’t even aware that our expectations for what makes a good image are coming from what’s currently cool?

      • skc May 31, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

        get some flashes?

    • Cory Fossum May 31, 2011 at 10:38 am #

      Love this analogy Neilson!

    • Eric June 2, 2011 at 7:12 am #

      Very interesting point!

  3. Ben May 31, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    I agree – I like the vintage looks, because they can be fun – highly dramatic, and not to mention a great way to disguise weaknesses in composition and lighting. I do think it’s getting to a point where extreme vintage looks are a bit “played out”. But really, the moment you adjust any image in post, you’re applying a look – why not take it to extremes?

  4. Tim May 31, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    Because it’s FUN!

    • Michal Fanta May 31, 2011 at 10:07 am #

      I love your comment and second that!

  5. Michal Fanta May 31, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    I love digital cameras, don’t get me wrong, but I love to take out one of my vintage 35mm film cameras load it with black and white film and get back to my roots, I always learn a lot about photography in general by doing that. Also film / retro photography perfectly separates work and pleasure for me right now.

    I might sound like an old guy, so I would like to say I am in my twenties – just fyi. :)

  6. Eliano May 31, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    «It doesn’t matter if the photos aren’t prefect as long as people are capturing memories I will be happy». [Bruce Dorbowski]

  7. Kate May 31, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Coming form a film background, I appreciate the imperfections, and embrace them. As well the processes behind it all, and am often shooting with older film cameras over my digital for personal and fun projects.

  8. Adam Tilley May 31, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    For me it’s about creating an instant sense of atmosphere. It’s an easy way for the masses to make an aesthetic point without being a professional with resources and knowledge to get it perfect in camera/post

    • Felix June 1, 2011 at 8:48 am #

      You got it!
      It is an easy route to “creativity”
      I predict this fad will end as soon as HDR did.

  9. Jonathan Redman May 31, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Most of my family photos look that way and it strikes a chord deep in my psyche when I see new pictures that have that nostalgic look. It is a way of allowing present images to transcend their otherwise crisp and clean zillion pixel qualities.

    • Juan May 31, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

      This is spot on for me too;)

  10. puckles May 31, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Part nostalgia, part ‘hey, it makes my crappy photo look better’, and part rebellion against cool, crisp perfection.

    Every time I look at my friend’s family snap shots I think two things:
    1. knee jerk: wow, our childhood photos have so much more character – color shifts, borders, light leaks, what have you
    2. what will snap shots look like in 30 years that will make us nostalgic for this?

    with ipads and tablets, cellphones shooting video and photo, and consumer cameras doing the same, we’re that much closer to Harry Potter’s magic moving picture family albums.

    hopefully soon though, people’s eyes will become numb to the effect of the retrocam, the hipstamic, instacam and the photo beneath will again be judged by it’s merit.

    and yes, I use them sometimes too.

  11. joey May 31, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    goes along with the hipster movement… the selling of lomo cameras in urbanoutfitters stores. However it is a nice break from digital and unlimited exposures. The cost and limited frames per roll of film make me take more time and concentrate more on composure and exposure

  12. Aaron May 31, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    One of the best explanations I’ve heard is that it immediately evokes the ‘fond memory’ emotion in our heads when we see ‘aged’ photos, even if it happened last week. I also think people enjoy the artisan-factor that gets added to photos with apparent filters and vignetting. It looks like they actually DID something in addition to hitting the shutter button on the iPhone.

  13. Heather May 31, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Personally I love the natural high you get from film. You don’t get the instant gratification but when you get that one image, you feel it in your gut. Anticipation builds as you wait to hit the dark room to watch the image pop up in developer. BAMMM! You nailed it. Plus I just miss the smell of the darkroom. It’s a mystical place.

    • Dylan Johnston June 1, 2011 at 10:57 am #

      I agree, there is nothing better than stinking of chemicals after a few hours in the darkroom, reminds me of being a kid when my dad would take me to work so I could develop my own prints, the good old times eh.

    • MiaElisabeth June 13, 2011 at 2:30 am #

      Ohh.. yes. well said.

      I so miss that magical darkroom smell aswell!

  14. Greg May 31, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    It’s because that’s the trend we’re in. Early 70’s etc. . .Shaggy Hair, tight clothes blah, blah . . Next will be the new 80’s. As this goes, so does art.

  15. Identity Photography May 31, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    In my case its an aesthetic choice, I love the look of film. I never had a camera that uses film growing up. But when i look at images made on film they stand out, it was images on film that really got me to take notice of photography As for Faux Retro in my case that was down to a fear of fully embracing an analog process although that fear is diminishing as i shoot more film and start to take full advantage of the amazing emulsions available today.

  16. Michael Marks May 31, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Stu over at Prolost said it well. The point of an image is to elicit an emotional response from the viewer. A retro / vintage image can cause a more emotional response than the seemly harsh unemotional digital image.

  17. Darin Clisby May 31, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    I think part of it is that unexpectedness and surprise… giving up some control and introduce the “Happy Accidents” that make a photo intriguing beyond technical perfection. Which can lose some soul in the process.

  18. Mike Padua May 31, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    I think the main reason is that it’s different. “Styles” and “looks” always shift when the crowed wants something new. It will be something else in 5 years.

  19. Rachel Tatem May 31, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    I think like most everything: styles reoccur

  20. Tak May 31, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    1. 36 shots per roll tends to make you a little less snap happy. You tend to think about things a little more before taking a shot. I find the quality of my shots are better when I’m shooting one roll film as compared to 200 digital photos. I miss out on a few lucky shots though since I’m a little conservative with film…

    2. A $2000 dollar camera is over kill when everyone is drinking PBR and you can’t stand up. A Holga, Diana, or Polaroid works great and gives it something a little more personal.

    3. Gotta learn your history!

  21. Allen May 31, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    A couple examples from the music world that may help explain it. We like the music we listened to when we first started getting laid. The same principles apply to photography. We associate certain memories with the time period and the style of the time. We were all younger when film was more popular. Everything is more awesome when you’re younger.

    In the music world analog recording has what we call “even harmonic distortion.” When things are distored, blury, etc. the distortion is in tune with the original recording. Errors in the digital world are completely random. Digital is harsh where analog is smooth even with poor fidelity.

    I think there’s also a lot to be said for the simplicity of all things retro. Fewer controls, fewer details to focus on, more emphasis on composition, subject, message. When we use older cameras or even just process in a way that removes detail, we are simplifying, carving away what is unnecessary. When I think of great artists I think of those that conveyed more with very simple technique.

  22. Dom May 31, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    I think it’s the same debate than CD vs. vinyl. Modern cameras give so HD than it look better than true, but it make it cold, as for vinyl, old camera make images warmer. Even myself, I have all the retro apps on my iphone, lemeleme, hipstomatic….. and retouched some of my pictures, 2 years ago bought my Holga and lately, bought a Yashica and a ser of 2 Canon AE-1. The other week, I meet Bernard Brault (famous Canadian news/sports photographer) while I was picking up a print from a 35mm Tri-X, and this Pro, who’s been shooting for the last 3-4 decades, asked me why do you bother taking vintages while you can do the same with photoshop.!? I answered this: same as when I ski, sometime I take old non parabolic skis: with vintages I have to think at what I’m doing before I shoot, technically, and the subject.

  23. Moritz May 31, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    In my opinion it gives a different feel to the picture making it look more surreal rather than the crisp and sharp feel you get from modern cameras which I guess a lot of people are looking for.
    Also there is a beauty in retro look, not just photos but also the old phone ring, old cars or retro looking fridges.

  24. Jana May 31, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I’ve returned almost exclusively to film and I’ll never regret it.

  25. Mark French May 31, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    In my opinion, there’s something about that retro look, washed out greens, gritty lens flare, scratches, low contrast, that creates a mysterious edge within the photo. Some of us are thrown back to our childhood photos and simpler times; some of the treatments remind us of the romantic photos of our parents and grandparents.
    I find the greatest part about being a photographer is the freedom to find, and sometimes create, the mystery and romance in each image I produce. It is my job to see the absolute best in people and magnify that. My goal with each photo is to make an image that someone will look at for more than five minutes and hopefully will look at more than once. That retro look is an easy way to inject that kind of mystery and interest into an otherwise regular photo. But we must always be careful about overusing a treatment just because it works.

  26. Alex DiFiori May 31, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    It’s because that’s what we grew up seeing.
    The high-end/high-quality look has always been around, but only has it become affordable.

    Back when I was growing up, all we had was a Polaroid camera and the disposable 35mm cameras from CVS.

    Now that everyone has 10+ megapixels in their pocket, outputting things that don’t look super clean is one of the more popular ways of standing out from the crowd.

    Basically, it’s because not everyone does it, so it’s cool to do it.

  27. Ethan May 31, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    When you’re tweaking your exposure and focusing manually with your eyeball mk I, you tend to appreciate the results of your photos more than you would with digital.

  28. andy green May 31, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    It is a fashion that is returning, like everything else , fashions move around in circles. This time this fashion has coincided with huge usage of cameras by everyone so more and more avenues to view pics are appearing so it seems we see it more.
    This fashion will die out or evolve like otherstyles, where it is going next is the answer that the clever people know.
    The part that annoys me is that by definition Vintage is pre 1950s – gabbling on about cup cakes and wellies is not vintage! photographing bride and groom stood next to each other with no heads is not vintage. Paolo Roversi is vintage but unfortunalty not many “vintage photographers” will understand the art of shooting 10×8 sheet film or polaroid, they will keep banging on about bunting and percy pigs and will happy they are original.

  29. Jan May 31, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Separate aspects:

    From a visual feel aspect, I think it’s just the desire to see something different than what we’re bombarded with all day long. It’s kind of like being inspired to shoot the city you live in vs. the city you visit on the vacation. The very same spot may have more interest if you don’t see it every day, and vice versa if you swapped places with a person living in the other spot.

    Which is the definition of a fad/trend. Once everyone does it, it will lose its appeal because its ever present, and the leaders will have moved on to what will be the same next trend.

    On the gear side, there is a level of craftsmanship that comes with operating these older cameras, or working with film. It connects you more with the end result and is a more fulfilling process as compared to the cameras that want to make everything super simple.

  30. Renae May 31, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    I love the vintage look because it helps me tell a story. I like the serendipitous aspect of taking an image of any quality, running it through filters and seeing what happy surprise is revealed.

  31. Trudy May 31, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    I like vintage. I feel like the aesthetic connects me to a different time. I look at my dad’s old pictures (he’s in his late 60s) and I like the feeling of “then” being in something now. I do NOT make every image I make vintage but that feeling is nice for some photographs. I think when modern trends became over done, people ran to vintage for rescue. Lol.

  32. J. Michael May 31, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    For me, digital represents a convenience at a sacrifice of quality. Whether it’s a CD/MP3 vs the analog counterpart (vinyl) or in this case a roll of film vs one’s and zero’s, there seems to be a loss in emotional connection when converting digital back to analog.

    I think it’s the ‘imperfections’ in film that truly capture the emotion of the moment, making it ‘real’.

  33. David Clarke May 31, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    For young bucks like me, it’s because I haven’t ever shot with that kind of gear before! To me, there is a certain caché that goes with vintage these days. Muscle cars are back in. 60’s summer dresses are back in. An old 4×5 camera. It evokes nostalgia, back to a time when…all I’ve known of it is movies and photos. I enjoy it, and will continue to ride this tide as you put it–it looks different than today.

  34. Mike Bourgeault May 31, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    I think its different things to different people at different times.

    When I use something like instagram its cause its quick, fun and I can share intuitively. I myself dont get too wrapped up in the effects, and dont have much interest in doing a ton of processing on my mobile device. But some people do and thats cool.

    However, when I shoot with my vintage cameras (I currently use a Conler Jr. from 1913-1920, a Mamiya C330 and a Bush Pressman 5×4 press camera) its about getting into the organic act of photography. I shoot a lot of digital too, as thats what I started on, and had never shot film until last November. Shooting with film makes you slow down. Zack Arias said something about every exposure costing money, so you pay more attention.

    The other thing I really like, as a gadget lover, is how mechanical old cameras are. Gears and springs just feel more real then firmware updates and button combos. All the actions are “decoupled”. With a digital, or even modern film camera, you just hit the shutter, sometimes change your settings, then hit it again. With an old camera, you cock the shutter, compose the shot, focus, close the shutter, set exposure, load your film holder, take out the dark slide, and click. It has helped my digital photography immensley knowing what is happening in my more automatic cameras.

    I dont think its always better, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

    • Becky June 1, 2011 at 8:17 am #

      I’m with you on the feel of old cameras-nothing feels like my medium format in my hands and nothing sounds like that shutter. I’m still a Tri-X shooter, and since Kodachrome is gone I’ve embraced Portra. I still use a darkroom but I like digital output too. I love that people have embraced the Holga and Lomos. It’s liberating when all you think about is responding to what you see in the viewfinder.

  35. DChex May 31, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Old School – The Best School!

  36. Joe T (quicksgots) May 31, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    I am an old guy, still learning i love digital it gives me the flexibility i need, i take field hockey photos, and fast action shots. Altho i have started to take facial shots and some behind the seines shots on the making of music videos, and club and concert shots. So mistakes are easy to fix or delete, i love my digital but need a new one and new glass!!**

  37. Colton May 31, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Legitimate vintage photos taken with legitimate vintage cameras are awesome. I think that with photoshop, “vintage” actions so readily available that it has cheapened the effect a lot. It can be done tastefully, but it is hard to find a photographer that actually does. And I feel like it is a passing trend that many photographers wil regret over time, unless they retain the originals.

  38. Mike May 31, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    I’ll never understand why people buy a D3s/D700/5d Mk2/1d* that has extremely good low-light performance with a small amount of noise, then add a bunch of noise back in. It’s like taking 10 steps forward, then 11 steps back.

  39. Spencer May 31, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    I honestly think it’s an attempt to find originality in a saturated market. With the availability of very capable cameras becoming rampant for all audiences, taking the extra step beyond clicking the shutter release is what allows a photographer to be be different. For some it is attention to detail in composition or large scale pre-production or complex lighting or all of the above. But because vintage effects are more readily available to the masses (inhereted old camera, photoshop “vintage” effects and filters), it is the most commonly adopted extra step. While some photographers are justified in styling a photo to be “retro” or using an old 35mm film camera, others are simply following a trend. And often times, in a less than ideal situation, the client defines the styling of a photograph. Since photographers have to pay bills too, sometimes making it “look like that camera app the iPhone has” is not a negotiation.

  40. Moritz May 31, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    One of the earlier comments asked what we will think about today’s pictures in 30years time…
    One thing I love about real old pictures is to see what an area used to look like, the old classic cars (mainly in one colour) people that look so different from today, horses walking down the road… As much as you try and recreate the retro look, taking a picture now in the city won’t look the same

  41. Pat Douglas May 31, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Personally I like using my Instant camera because its fun to not know exactly what the end result will be when you press the shutter.

    Its almost like leaving it all up to the camera to tell you how it sees what you are shooting.

  42. Anthony Hereld May 31, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Black and white photography will always be “in”…even if they’re just conversions in Lightroom or Photoshop. However, I think the current retro look, which seems especially prevalent with female photographers, is merely a passing trend.

    Everyone is doing it, and it’s very unoriginal. More than that, I think retro processing is a crutch mostly used by amateurs who can’t properly expose a photograph. Most bill themselves as “natural light” photographers. They don’t have lighting or skills to make good photos, so they process the heck out of them and call it art.

  43. Eric Seilo May 31, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    It is exactly because of the ease of access to technology. Anyone now can take a mediocre picture and slap some presets on it and feel like a real artistic photographer. That on top the desire for anything/everything “retro” has created the fad that we are seeing.

  44. Daniel May 31, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    I think it’s partly because what I’m creating is more than one & zero’s— it’s a translation process that’s more than what any camera outputs. It’s about what and how I’m seeing more than what is there. I use retro hardware and software for the same reason I use black and white- because it allows me and my viewers to more accurately see what I’m creating. Visual Palette cleansing is important- it’s why a really good cab tastes better after a really good petite syrah. Retro creates a tasty distinction, a frame of reference in the visual palette that draws a viewer into the subject.

    If I wanted to wax philosophical, I might suggest going retro has the same appeal to a sense of history and culture we get when we head out to look at ‘old’ established/historical buildings/neighborhoods/villages. It gives us a historical frame of reference- some roots for our craft as we are reminded of the Glory days of photography. One might suggest that with a global future that seems so shaky, we are searching for a foundation to lock ourselves into- that’s the blessing of history- it gives us just such a foundation.

    The power and free-spirit of the snapshot is part of that, where the art was made accessible to the masses who had no frame of reference for composition, lighting, exposure, f-stop, bracketing etc. The ease of use of a Polaroid transcends the complexities and distractions of pro photography.

  45. Mike Kang May 31, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    It adds back what I loved about film (warmth, richness, feeling) without what I hated about film (expense, eye strain, toxic chemicals).

    I suppose it’s not anything I wouldn’t try and do normally in post. It’s just even easier to do now. I think its popularity is definitely very high right now and probably getting a bit overused but I just feel like it is part of the normal creative process.

    If there photo is not there though, no amount of analog effects will help though.

  46. photographybyjef May 31, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    1. Because women think it looks neat
    2. Because it’s easy to do with thousands of plugins available for free.
    3. Because you can be an AMWAC and totally screw up your picture and it will look fine.
    4. Because what people find attractive is proportionate to what was popular when they were young. I’m in my 40’s. AMWAC’s are hearkening back to their childhood and polaroids and cross processed images and it makes them feel young again. Black and white was HUGE when I was in my 20’s because those in their late 30’s early 40’s grew up with b&w.

  47. Jeff Sipper May 31, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Soft-focus, white hazy vignettes were the rage once too… in 1985.

    They look kinda dated now, don’t they?

    “Vintage” looks on someone’s photos, especially for wedding and portrait work is a disservice to the client. When they look back in 20 years at their wedding album, they’ll wonder WTF their photographer was thinking.

  48. Philipp Ulrich May 31, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    For me the answer to this is quite simple: Especially because we have those fancy digital cameras and everything that comes with it going back to the roots is so attractive! I know so many people (me included) that have experimented with digital cameras and workflows and came to a point where they asked themselves: “Hey ok, that’s cool, but what would photography be like without all those fancy toys and digital post production?”
    For me that was and is the point I discovered my interest and growing love for Polaroids. For me shooting with a Polaroid is kind of “true” photography. Just shoot, get the picture and nothing else.

    This isn’t to say that all the newer camera technology isn’t interesting or worse (it makes life a whole lot easier and is just as fun, just in a completely different way), but to point out that Retro will always be there – and that’s damn good!

  49. Chris Gibson May 31, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Because people want to remember what they thought was better times way back then (when they were younger) And by taking photos that remind them of their past it takes them to a happier state of mind :) Just my 2cents any way!

  50. Rob May 31, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    FAD pure and simple. Add to the list… Sepia, Selective Colour, White Vins from the 80’s, Flare, Hyper HDR, Tiltshift cityscapes…. and a longer list I left out.

    I must have a different iPhone from most others… cause the images out of mine are cr*p compared to well… any other digital camera I can think of made this side of Y2K. As a camera of last resort… I love it… as a choice to do something not at all feeling the love.

    I used Film & Polaroid the first time around…. I ain’t buying into that again in any serious way and certainly not the effect on a new camera body. However…’s nice now and then for nostalgia purposes for us old codgers BUT most of the people thinking it’s cool are not old enough to have nostalgia :-) I actually miss the hardware of old cameras… there is magic about advancing film with that lever… and then you flip on the scanner and remember why you swore off the previous roll of film.

  51. Jonny May 31, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Photography is (or at least should be) about emotion. I think a warm, vintage-like image conveys emotion in much the same way that post-processing in movies can set the entire mood & theme of the movie. The whole vintage movement is popular (IMHO) purely because it gives people that “I remember times like those” feeling when they see the images.

  52. Brian May 31, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    It’s to turn a boring, uninspired photograph into something that looks artsy. It’s just a way to cover up a bad photo.

  53. Tom Dellinger May 31, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    I’ve been around for a while and I had darkrooms and did all that film processing and printing. And while there are characteristics of that process that I love/miss about those prints, I’m finding that as time moves on the digital realm is able to give me the tools to achieve that look and feel at least as well if not better. For me, it’s the image that really dictates the treatment it should receive. Whether it’s retro or thoroughly modern, I’m grateful we have the tools to easily push the image in many directions in order to more easily evaluate what works. I see no reason why the retro look should die out….it’s just part of our tool bag. And the broader our palette, the better.

  54. Joel May 31, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    It’s a artistic story-telling tool and style that can also be abused.

    I think it’s a fad, but it’s also an artistic tool that is being rediscovered.

    The previous fun fad was hyper-realistic photos that were over-saturated and popped so much you either wanted to skydive, go mountain biking, or bathe your eyes in something soothing like an oatmeal bath.

    Part of my studies a decade ago were in design and how style groups became subcultures and eventually become pop culture. That’s when I noticed a few years ago that…
    – Current fashion fad is vintage.
    – Current music fad is indie.
    – Current business fad is home-made.

    Therefore it didn’t surprise me that we have shops like Etsy rising up to fill a home-business, I-can-do-it-too attitude that is home grown and ranges from Ma & Pa Kettle to DeviantArt emo-grunge and then over to a sort of flower-child-style from the 60’s and 70’s.

    This fun and eclectic interest in vintage styles was inevitable. Everything old is now new again. Every single time we discover something we get bored with it and eventually come back to it again with new eyes. Eventually we’ll probably see a resurgence in gothic styles again… no, not gothic like a goth chick with spiky black hair and the lip ring, goth like the time period and architecture. In some ways it’s already here but not as big as it could be, some of it seen through black and white city photography.

    Art is largely about emotions and communication. It might be either from the artist or the artist trying to draw the emotion or communication from the audience. Vintage photography or any type of stylized art can attempt to do so without trying to appeal to strict realism. Hyper-realism can also tell a story, but a different one. Vintage has a certain flair that in some ways I think has less restraints on it than any of the forms of realism, which is one reason I think it has a competitive edge over other styles as an art-language, though that edge might be heavily feathered ;-)

  55. Framed Photography May 31, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    I think it’s important to remember that a lot of the “digital generation” may not have been exposed to this style prior to picking up a DSLR. So, possibly, during studying and examining other photographers styles have stumbled across the look and just like it.
    I was not really a fan of photography prior to picking up a camera a couple years back. Although, I rarely shoot/process vintage, I find myself drawn to it more and more.
    I normally shoot with very harsh lighting. (contrasty?) and find my personal work getting away from crazy lighting set ups etc..I have been really been feeling the freedom of ambient and some older looking processing.

  56. Simon Banthorpe May 31, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    I think it’s old feeling new again. We haven’t seen this sort of thing for a very long time become so easily accessible and it’s so easy to make something so dull look interesting now. I love Hipstamatic on the iPhone and I’m really enjoying 8mm for video on there too. To get these fx with our everyday cameras or even our slr’s we have to sit in front of photoshop or after effects for an age trying to get it right whilst within seconds, you’ve got what you want in the palm of your hand. All that for no more than £4-£5 (not including phone :S) on your phone that basically almost never leaves your side. Plus those who aren’t very creative or artistic feel satisfied by it because they’re exploring something that otherwise they would never have explored. It’s just easy and fun.

  57. Alexis Stember May 31, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    In an age where everyone is a photographer and most are shooting with dSLR cameras that often produce the same general look and feel, the addition of retro filters may be an attempt to differentiate and separate a photograph from the pack, giving the shot some character and perhaps a more personal (less technological) past.

  58. TzumB May 31, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    I think everything is “bound to go old-skool”.
    For the past few years consumers have been able to produce razor-sharp and high-end images due to affordable prosumer dslr camera’s. Same as the film and music industry things tend to go back to the olden days (e.g. Metallica’s Garage Inc., The Ataris’ Welcome To The Night and movies such as Machete)
    And because film, developing film and retro gear are getting more and more expensive it would be a logical step to produce ‘rare’ images like the feauld-skool we see nowadays.
    At least that is what I think is happening ;)

  59. Sid Ceaser May 31, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    Retro is the new black. It’s a reaction coming specifically from digital I feel.

    I grew up with film, and both my Fiance and I have done large format photography and making Albumen prints, as well as Kallitype, Salt and Platinum/Palladium printing. Using things like lens-less pinhole cameras and printing methods like they did in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s creates an era of history to the images. Using extremely primitive methods of capturing images, photographers of the past were able to create images that had real substance.

    Digital can sometimes have that feel of being too polished; too perfect, too sharp, too exact. I love digital, but there is nothing like taking a 30 second pinhole exposure and printing it on Albumen.

    So much so, that for my wedding this year, I’ve specifically searched out someone who does 16×20″ wet plate and tin type images using a lens made in the 1860’s. Instant timelessness.


  60. Framed Photography May 31, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    To add to that – I predict a “hi tech” backlash shortly. I think commercially you will still see the same old but with more and more people picking up cameras (and not lighting gear) I think that style will deminish.
    Anywhere you look now people are posting their set ups, gear reviews, etc. The information is literally at your fingertips.
    I think we can already see photographers lessening their gear and getting more mobile. Excellent results can be attained with just a speedlight, good ambient and some thoughtful poses.
    Sorry for the rant – the point of this is that when things reach a fever pitch, (tuts, websites,etc) there tends to be a fall off as quick as the ascent. Retro looks/cameras may be the beginning?

    • Joel May 31, 2011 at 11:50 am #

      I fully agree, there will likely be a digital backlash and hopefully the styles will collide in a creation different styles for something new rather than opposite or divisiveness. Humans are the only things that have the capability to create order from chaos — but only if they choose to do so.

  61. Andrea May 31, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    I think it’s mainly to do with instant likability and wishing we had been born in 1956 rather that 80… Polaroids always have people ooing and aaahing no matter what the subject is as do images that look like they were shot in the seventies on dodgy film. I know that if I want to make a mediocre pic have more impact i can bang on a retro film filter, sprinkle with dust and scratches and violà there it is, the plebs love it. Flickr goes mad…

    The photographer generally being and ego on two legs loves people saying how cool the pics look and delves even more deeply into the retro look, light leeks, fogged film… the works.

    As for the vintage gear, apart from it being truly beautiful, it’s also a statement…. “I know my s**t. I can develop rolls of film in my bathroom with chemicals like a modern day alchemist”, ” I don’t need a screen to preview my work because I know that I’m hot”… and if it doesn’t look fantastic I don’t care… I can burn another roll of film cause I’m rich bitch! ” heh heh

  62. Chip May 31, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    I think in every creative field there’s a ‘pendulum’ that always goes the opposite direction of what the norm seems to be at the time. Over produced music led to the acceptance of ‘lo fi’ sounding albums. Over produced photos led to pseudo vintage and less than perfect imagery popping up. Sooner than later it will become tired and the pendulum will swing back the opposite way.

    A flock of sheep always seem to run the same direction until one of them decides to dart the other way, and the rest always seem to follow!

  63. Thilo May 31, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Actually, I think people have always been interested in the “retro look”.
    The difference between now and before is that it’s much easier to achieve now.
    In my case, I’ve been shooting with Super 8 film for years to achieve a “retro look” in my videos, and it was always well received, but it takes time to develop the film and converted it to video, not to speak of the extra expense.
    Now, all you need is an iPhone and an app for $2!

  64. diala chinedu May 31, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    There are few reasons I feel its “popular” these days among photographers

    1. Some people hate change and have a hard time letting go of the past…we all know a few people around us who are very nostalgic and seem stuck years behind than normal

    2. Personal preference. The same way some people will never post any image without postprocessing it in some insane HDR software is the same reason some people will never leave a photo looking “modern” and will do anything to give it that vintage feel. I’ve seen some photographers dub it as a “style”

    3. Copycats. Some people see someone doing it and think “Oh, this must be cool” and they jump in, head first, and the rest is history…

    Whatever floats ur boat…lets all keep making photographs :-)

  65. Gerhard May 31, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    What am I saying by utilizing vintage technology or applying a vintage look to my message? Is it appropriate to what I’m communicating or done simply for the sake of doing it. Even then I may be saying “hey, look at me! I’m using vintage imaging” maybe it’s a means to stand out from the super “clean” digi images, to be noticed, to be heard…shouting in a crowd…wearing outrageous clothes…etc.

    Yes it’s fun and I love the surprise factor of shooting film and processing “clean” digital images into vintage looking photos. But why? WHY NOT :-)

  66. Patrick O'Gara May 31, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    I think it comes from the desire to add authenticity to our images. As camera technologies progressed, photos represented reality more and more clearly. Now that we can achieve pixel-perfect results with almost no problem, it’s not enough for the image to be “accurate” because it isn’t enough; it’s still just a representation of a brief moment in time. To add a perceived weight to the “realness” of the image, I think people are swinging back to the retro look to impress onto the photo a visual history of sorts. The warm colors and nuances left behind from chemical processes imply a sort of deliberate intention and value of not only making the image, but keeping it and protecting it to be looked at as a cherished memory of someone/something, much like the old Polaroid’s of family members and friends we grew up with.

  67. JD Elliott May 31, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    I like digital photography, but I DO NOT LIKE most digital cameras (or some of the newer film cameras for that matter.) I’ve had a hard time going from digital to film, but I keep trying. Just look at some of those cameras, they are objects to be appreciated in and of themselves. Something to really use and care for. They hold the promise of great quality on the other side of the effort to learn the craft.

    I find the marketing frenzy that’s propelled digital cameras and their design too chaotic and counter to what I think is needed in a camera. I find it hard to focus on learning to see when I’m constantly being bombarded with market speak about gear.

    I find analog photography a great way to step out of the frenzy of digital life and experience something that connects to another way to be.

  68. Michael Walker May 31, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    I think it’s quite simple,

    I had a d700 and recently switched to an M9 and i gotta say for the price of a d3x i get way more_fun_for the money, besides having similar image quality and stuff…

    i think the “retro” kind of camera suits the photographer who shoots manually, as one really doesn’t need all the programs in most of the situations and more and more photographers seem to realize that they can’t think of many situations where light changes dramatically fast without one being able to turn the shutterspeed dial a little bit.
    and manual exposure is more fun to me :)

    the relationship between shutterspeed, iso and aperture is elementary math…and you even have the stops engraved in the lens/shutterspeed dial

    focus is manually and one really has to try many times to get fast lenses right but it doesn’t really take longer than learning all the tweaks to the autofocus which is only faster if the right spot is picked and that takes time too
    and manual focus is more fun for me :)

    i don’t shoot sports ;)

    so you get a small package that delivers equal/smilar results to the big dslr while being less expensive at the same time, excluding M-leica.

    and concerning the high price of leica gear, think about what the pro zoom lenses cost, compared to the excellent voigtlander/zeiss options one has it’s about the same costs.

    and the lenses are small! the body too although a canon A-1 is about the same size.
    you can easily bring the m9 with 4 lenses along without having to exhaust yourself.

    they’re not sealed unfortunately
    crapy display too
    best histogram solution to date though

    well, it’s more fun, i can focus more on the photographic aspect and don’t have to think about the phototechnical stuff, dozens of settings and sub menues…and those things work for others of course.

    and well….everybody has a DSLR already :)


    • Michael Walker May 31, 2011 at 11:51 am #

      so for polaroids and lomo cameras, they are the purest form of focusing on the photographic aspect with an instant result and timeless appeal opposed to the raw data ready to be processed in an often time consuming workflow which just doesn’t suit most people. more fun

  69. christian May 31, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    it’s easier to apply a crappy look
    it’s easier to copy looks
    people like looks
    photo attributes like film grain make it more look like a photo

  70. Spencer Hochstetler May 31, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    The wild popularity is a passing trend of course, but it will always be around. The tide rose high in the mid 90s as well in film, mostly with Holgas, etc. I enjoy the look sometimes. However, it’s look that is based on the characteristics of particular technology at a particular time; i.e. ‘low fi’ is simply another brush in the artist’s bag, no?

  71. Michelle Sibley May 31, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    I like the look of the retro stuff because it brings up the hippie spirit in me. Freedom to Explore. Freedom to Enjoy. Freedom to be…! Digital photography is so easy and accessible. There is no risk. Even the point and shoot cameras feature the ability to turn out predictably amazing and realistic captures at 16 mp. Due to the perpetual advancements in technology, photography in general has lost it’s mystique.

    Even though I know that a great photographer has many hours of study in the art and skill of composition and techniques, a person who has fired off some great snaps with a point and shoot might say, “Seems like anybody can do it. Why pay big bucks to a pro?”

    By experimenting with new “old” techniques and equipment, a photographer has opportunity to bring a uniqueness to his game.

  72. DanielKphoto May 31, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I think not seeing the world exactly as it is adds something, the retro also adds good feelings of course.

  73. Cody Min May 31, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    it’s probably because it gives an instant ‘cool’ look. and because it’s non-mainstream, but it’s becoming so mainstream that it’s starting to phase out. basically, it’s because of hipsters.

  74. Justin Cary May 31, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    I love shooting film, both for still and motion. There’s something about the extra care I take to setup my shot, double check my light meter and hear the the film being exposed. It’s exciting. I shoot a lot of digital. I think it’s awesome that we have a choice, 20 years ago, we had to shoot film… now we get to!

    As far as the retro thing goes… I’ve had this discussion with some of my friends. I’m amazed at how many iPhone apps I have that make images look old. A photo straight from a digital camera can always use some work, it’s killer that we have the ability to do a little work to our images coming our of our phones! Awww, technology.

  75. Cory Fossum May 31, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    Oh geez people. For the love of it all, lighten up a bit. Retro is popular because it’s fun. It’s spontaneous. It’s silly and imperfect and surreal. And because the look of it makes us feel good. Like looking through the box of photo albums from my childhood right next to my desk here. Makes me feel nostalgic and warm and happy. It doesn’t matter if the pictures were taken today or 35 years ago. The fact that anyone can achieve this on an iPhone is no more threatening to your professional status and expert knowledge than GarageBand is to recording engineers. If it gives people access and lets them have fun and express themselves and share through an art form we all love, then all the better.

  76. Hernan Zenteno May 31, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    I wrote about this issue in my blog. I paste here my opinion and you can go the link to see some photos.

    “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” Garry Winogrand.

    That sentence has been in my mind for a while because I found that since the beginning of the the digital age of photography I began to see, more and more, the tendency to alter the image. David Burnett, for example, noticed the problem first. We ended working with the same cameras, the same lenses, the same staged scenes by PR people. Almost all news pictures ended the same. Also the photojournalism environment of contests began to show a lot of heavily retouched photos.
    Some people returned to film in order to resist the surgical reality that is portrayed with modern digital cameras. The latest fancy tool is the Polaroid style photos made by an application in the iPhone. I found myself playing with a Holga, a 4×5 camera, old roll cameras and now with a new software that mimics the old square format look of cheap plastic cameras from the 70´s.
    I have always supported the qualities found on film. The most important qualities to me have a direct relationship with the sentence of Winogrand. Diane Arbus referred to this too: “One thing that struck me very early is that you don’t put into a photograph what’s going to come out. Or, vice versa, what comes out is not what you put in”. And: “I never have taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better or worse”.
    I never really can be sure how something photographed with film will look. It depends on the developer, the film, and the process I use to print. And is a matter of the medium in itself, the isolation of the subject, the freeze of a hummingbird flight. Everything is a matter of translation. I like to interpret something and in this process I choose my tools like a musician choose a piano, a violin or a guitar. I am not talking about cut and paste, clone parts of the photo or staged scenes. I like the fun of take photos of the things like they are but at the same time i like the translation that occurs in the process. Now, with the digital cameras, the software is part of that process. Let me show you an experiment i did trying to do a tribute to the fun of taking photos, the old cameras and the film as a way of translating the reality. And to remember that the beach is not a dump.

  77. Sean Mac May 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    I personally am gravitating towards the “nostalgic” reasoning. Something about polaroids unmistakable qualities give us a blast from the past when we could frame an image and have it in our hands within seconds (rather than on an lcd.) Turning an image around from shoot to print can sometimes be a grueling and long process where now we, as photogs, can be much more critical of each others post processing. With polaroids the conceptual qualities that would make a contemporary photo “stunning” are suddenly easily achievable, hence it’s popularity amongst all photogs pro or amateur.

  78. Bruce Weber May 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    It’s exactly because vintage is a trend that I probably won’t shoot/process any of it. While I like the look in small doses, it seems like it is being over done. And I certainly wouldn’t incorporate it into “my style”, whatever that is.

    It’s the same reason I would never own a tilt/shift lens. One, it seems to be all the rage. And two, if I shot enough tilt/shift images to justify owning a lens, I would be worried about becoming a one-trick pony.

    • Bruce Weber May 31, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

      That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t LOVE to rent a tilt/shift on occasion. :)

  79. Mike May 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    It’s a cheap trick. It’s a way to convey an emotion in a photograph without having to actually do the work of putting any real emotion in the image.

    “Wow, this photo makes me think of a hazy summer day!” No kidding — I just sucked the contrast out of it and slapped some orange tinting on the top.

    This, too, shall pass.

  80. Jim Malcolm May 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    I’ll put it this way, “Augmented-Reality”. For many of my client’s photography has become a means of communication vs. emotional documentation. The retro trend seems to overcome the photo-realistic communication of photography by adding emotion, uniqueness and personality back into the art of photography.

  81. YL May 31, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    I think there is a general trend towards appreciating long-process, old-time techniques in art and life in general.
    Note the popularity of Etsy, artisanal crafts, organic food, home cooked meals, etc…
    Do you prefer instant coffee or coffee so fresh you can smell the earth it was grown on? Freshly squeezed juice or canned concentrate? Not only is about quality but it’s about process.
    Sure, digital is convenient and serves a purpose, and if you love it, great!
    I for one, prefer the tangible, soulful quality of film. From the initial loading of the camera to picking my print out of the wash and turning the lights back on…I’ll save my computer for email and internet surfing- my art is done with my hands.

  82. Shawn Hoke May 31, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    I embraced the power and convenience of digital when DSLRs became so cheap and gave consistent good results, but then I realized it was just *too* easy and *too* clean. I admire a lot of photographers who shoot digital and can always appreciate a well composed and naturalistic digital photo, but for my work digital images seem like throwaway images. I always think, “Man, I wish I would have got this on film.”

    I work almost exclusively on film, because I like the process. I think about the shot more and I don’t have to check whether or not I “got the shot” when I shoot film. It just works better for me. And no DSLR matches my Hasselblad and a roll of slide film. :)

    Film is not a fad for me. Film is photography.

    • Jeremy June 1, 2011 at 12:22 am #

      Same for me. My personal projects tend to be done on film. Although when it comes to earning a buck, digital is tough to beat.

  83. Carolina May 31, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    I adore older, to me, things in many aspects. I watch a lot of older movies & read older books over new releases. I have a yearning to leave the USA & travel to – maybe even live in – Europe with all its history and culture. I keep snapshots from my husband and my childhoods on our fridge. And I adore film so much over digital.

    Digital is neat, I really appreciate it. But like so many things in our world it just moves so fast and I feel disconnected when I use it. We so often get instant gratification with fast food, fad diets, online social networking, emails, etc. From my experience and what I see going on around me all these things seem to be separating us from awareness in our humanity. So for me film keeps me connected to the actual world around me. I use a Polaroid finish on my phone camera, because it reminds me to stay grounded to the actual world vs. the tech/cyber world. I really want to delete Facebook and Twitter now. Too bad most the people I know wouldn’t know how to stay in contact anymore if that mode was gone… I’m digressing.

    • Carolina May 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

      One of my friends just told me I like film and old things because I like things that are dead.

      Could be.

  84. James Hancox May 31, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Was speaking to a few friends about this recently as it happens… I raised that it may come down to trust. I.e. do we trust what we are seeing is “real”.

    Plenty of media attention has been given to the gross, over-the-top “Photoshopping” of models in fashion layouts, and I think people now look at images differently now. The more polished and clean it looks, the more “obviously photoshopped” it is, the less we trust that’s it’s based in reality. We perhaps then feel less connected with it, even feel a bit negative toward it.

    Having something a little more flawed, or even seemingly “ruined”, seems to feel more “real”. It appears it’s been taken by a fellow human, who’s not an “arrogant pro” (which is another point actually), so we connect with it more.

    Trust in “reality”, and less negative “obviously a snobby pro” emotional reaction, seems to be driving popularity in stuff like BestCamera/instagram/Hipstamatic. Perhaps too that it fits with fashion trend for more comfortable looking, bohemian, op-shop style clothing.

    • Carolina May 31, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

      Interesting thoughts. I think you are on to something.

  85. Pieter May 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    First of all it is absolutely a trend, and the Iphone added to that trend. It is the same as HDR photography. It has become a means to make any photograph interesting. However, in my opinion photography is all about looking and seeing, story-telling and finding deeper layers within your photography. If you want to create a WOW factor, you don’t need all of the above, you just point and shoot, add your effect and people love it, however it is still an image with little depth. In my opinion it is an easy way of getting a WOW factor and that’s why people love it. Anyone can make a nice picture…
    I can name quite a few photographers who do use it in the right way, but they made a clear choice why a certain technique should be used with a certain project. In their cases it added to what the photographer was / is trying to tell. These are exceptions!

  86. Rich Beaubien May 31, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    I’ve been on this planet longer than most of you have been taking photos and I find this processing fad of hiding poorly executed photos with ‘vintage’ processing to be totally bogus. I’ve got more faded photos in the box than you can imagine. I’d rather scan the neg and re-process it than post that sort of junk.

    As far as I’m concerned it’s just a bunch of folks feeding off one another. It does not make it a good composition, it’s just trendy.

    Get off the lawn.

  87. Filip - Tales on Film May 31, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    It may be a trend, but it’s not that a bad photograph with a retro effect on it becomes a good photo.

    For me a photo has to tell a story and you can certainly do that in digital, but film can just add that bit of extra touch you need to make the photo perfect.

    I actually wrote a whole piece yesterday before I read this post, trying to answer the question is “film photography dead”, a search query that has come up a lot lately in the analytics of my film photography blog.

    A blog I named Tales on Film ( on purpose. As I said before a photo has to tell a story and the technique used is secondary to the result. I would say the goal justifies the means. A good photo tells a story not only of the scene but it also tells us something about the photographer and the choice of film, lens, camera, color/bw is all part of that story.

    Not only does film or an app have us make choices, it also will slow us down and have us think about a photo. Even a snapshot becomes something we make and no longer something we take. When photography came around, people believed photos stole your soul. So we as photographers have an obligation to make the best photograph we can, with whatever tools fit the job the best.

  88. Dawn Camp May 31, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    I fully understand what you’re talking about.

    I do most of my retro processing on my iPhone. With phone photography, it takes the natural limitations of a camera phone photo (grain, lesser quality) and processes it to best advantage by using the retro styling.

    I am partial to vintage Lightroom presets, too, though.

  89. Lenij May 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    I have become somewhat addicted to Hipstamatic. As one person described it to me, after years of training this app allows me to shoot bad. To not control every aspect of the picture taking process. It has an element of freedom that I adore. I still shoot technically correct, accurated images, but every once in a while, I want to shoot incorrectly, with faulty lens that create vignettes and washed out or overly saturated colours. I get to shoot bad and I love it. For me it is a form of freedom. I’m not doing it for any body else myself.

  90. Jeremy May 31, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    The question of why its popular.

    I think for the same reasons that fashions, hairstyles and baby names go in and out then in again.

    To the inferred question of what do I think about it.

    My photography isn’t tied to any particular trend or look. I make photographs based on the context of the project. I can say right now I don’t care for that look. Tomorrow I may get a wild hair up my a** and decide to do retro styled shoot, but not because its popular right now.

  91. Martin Beebee May 31, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    Most of the “retro” look we’re seeing out there today is not from folks using film cameras, but from liberal use of Photoshop actions and their ilk on digital images.

    Call me a curmudgeon, but like others I think it’s largely a fad, destined to burn out in time. I just feel sorry for the folks getting married who are getting all the washed-out sepia-toned pseudo-scratched images. Do you think they’re going to get a nostalgic feeling in 10 years because of it? Or just wish they could relive the day through their photos? (Although, granted: most couples are getting these images on purpose.)

  92. Derek May 31, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    I think there’s been quite the push towards that look as a reactionary move away from the hyper technical cameras that inhabit the landscape today. Old photographs, and particularly the family snapshot with crappy exposure and funky coloring, has largely been lost. The simplicity, the frivolity, and the unknown suspense has been sucked out of it by machinegunned perfect exposure photos (and this isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just different). What’s funny is that taking a quality photo has become easier, but the character of these old shots has been replaced by sterility, so people are looking for mistakes in photos, a return to humanity and its flaws, which is now harder to do since most of the process is automated.
    Why did handmade products, with their quirks and eccentricities, lose most of their draw when industrialization took over? I’d move that it wasn’t just cost, and it’s the same pattern that we see in photography, with things coming full circle. Distressed jeans, aged timber for support in homes, all these things are purposefully flawed. They speak to us, they bear that mark of time we all feel upon ourselves. It’s an attempt to humanize the process, to make it warmer and more comforting.

  93. Elal | The Shades of Grey May 31, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    I think I have observed that same thing but shrugged the idea. Reading your post about it, months later, makes me think again. And maybe yes, in some pictures the ‘feel’ of vintage looks great and a touch of such isn’t a bad idea at all!

  94. Craig McDiarmid May 31, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    I think for me personally it’s diving into something unknown. I was too young to really play around with film slr cameras when they were popular the first time, and my parents never owned a Polaroid camera.

    So when I add an effect in instagram or photoshop or whatever, or I pull out my vintage film camera, it’s something new and exciting for me.

    I recently got a whole bunch of film developed from rolls I took months ago, and only about 3 frames turned out. Such an eye opener to me to see how many frames I stuffed up because I didn’t have the electronic metering. But damn it was fun flicking through though pictures.

  95. JLeez May 31, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    Different cameras present different ways of shooting pictures. And besides the final presentation of an image, conceptualizing, framing, and shooting an exposure is half the fun.

    If my Nikon D7000 is a modern Ferrari 458 Italia, loaded to the gills with electronics and engineering designed to produce the fastest and most consistent results possible, then my Nikon FE manual focus film camera is a classic MGB roadster with a wheezy engine and old technology but reminds of how things used to be and is extremely fun in its own right. The old and the new do the same thing (drive on the road or take pictures), but at the same time, they don’t.

    And you’ll find fans in either camp, or as I’ve discovered, in both camps. Most car enthusiasts look for and cherish driving experiences. Lots of photographers look for and cherish photographing experiences.

    I’m on a solo road trip right now and I’ve got a manual focus rangefinder film camera loaded with B/W film, a manual focus SLR film camera loaded with slide film, and my DSLR, and I’m having a blast shooting all three.

  96. Paul Koziorowski May 31, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    I’m starting to like the retro feel in the photographs, but strongly feel that it’s a fad we’re going through. I see it more and more in wedding photography as well. So I try no to over due the images in post, but rather capture the emotions and events as they unfold, naturally.

  97. TimR May 31, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    To some extent “Digital” isn’t really a medium, it just digitizes other mediums–music, typography, drawing, photography, etc, etc. So it really has no other place to go but backwards for inspiration (there are even HDR style paintings from way back). And since digital makes everything both cheaper to make, and cheaper to buy, it’s partly just cannibalistic.

  98. Dennis Ebben June 1, 2011 at 2:04 am #

    I think it’s the fact that all our perfect camera’s, make such perfect images, that they don’t look natural to us anymore. They are too perfect. They miss the warm tones and the imperfectness of the images we know from the past. The images that give the viewer that romantic “oh, remember this”-feeling.

    Just some ideas of me… ;)

  99. Mark June 1, 2011 at 2:07 am #

    I’d say it’s all part of the cyclical nature of fashion and popular culture.
    The Mini, the VW beetle, Fiat 500, Leggings, neon colours, hi-tops, “The Karate Kid”. . . . . I could go on. How many more popular “things” from our youth (past) are going to be remade, rereleased, rehashed, repeated. It seems to be the way our culture works. Perhaps due to a lack of tradition, or perhaps as a shot against our tradition.
    Maybe this is what has pushed us down our “retro” path. Then again maybe it’s the marketing guys who spotted the trend as it sparked into life and jumped upon it with all their tack and savvy. “Hey look market research says people are feeling disconnected in the modern world, give them something which harks back to a simpler happier time” Flump here comes the new Mini, flump here’s a remake of the Goonies, flump here’s a way to make your photographs looks like the ones in your folks photo albums.

  100. Eike June 1, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    I’m a fan of analog, it doesn’t matter if music or photo stuff. And I think a lot of people feel the same.
    But the problem that I have with real analog is that it is in these days expensive and to slow.
    The new lomo is a crazy expensive piece of plastic. The development of film in Germany is already very expensive.
    And I have now time for a darkroom. That’s why I go pseudo retro, x100 and hipstamatic instead of lomo.
    I know it is not the same, but it is the only possipility in my why of life with traveling a lot.

  101. bimal nair June 1, 2011 at 2:37 am #

    I guess its more of a matter of rarity. Humans automatically attract to whatever is rare. Now that hi-fi digital gigs r all around, like even a 4yr old knows to click photos with an iphone, i guess attachment to vintage gear is obvious since they are rare. And for masters like you and many others, who know the charm of such oldies, its going to add a lot of nostalgia quotient too :)

  102. James Bunch June 1, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    I think this hits on a good button here, and that is that our creative sides are rebelling against this uber gear oriented ideology. Gear technology has become so advanced. We can take a picture, go into Photoshop edit the snot out of it and come up with a picture that looks like an old cross-processed photo, or an old poloroid, or even just an old camera that has seen better days. But why not just go buy one of those cameras and take these photos?
    I think it has to do with the idea that it’s not the norm. There is beauty in picking up a camera and taking a picture only to have something so different than the crisp clean images our modern day cameras take. It’s almost as if there is an added (semi uncontrollable) aspect to our images. When we are post-processing an image we are in control, but in many of these vintage pieces, there is an element that we cannot control. That is a beautiful thing when creating art.
    Yes images can be post processed to look like something old, but there is something special about the fact that it can come straight out of the camera.
    Also for me there is a creative aspect to it. I have an old medium format Lubitel, and there is something about going out with 12 frames. I find that my creative vision with that camera is far different than with my DSLR.

  103. David H June 1, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    Back in the day, when a man—or a woman—needed to do a number 2, he or she would clean up with available leaves. There were many types of leaves in the forest, oak, maple, birch, and so on, all of which had distinct characteristics. Many would prefer one leaf over another for its distinct texture, colors, fragrance, use of natural light, or maybe overall sensuality.

    Then along came toilet paper. When first introduced, it seemed a godsend to some, but was not really accepted by all. As toilet paper improved, however, fewer and fewer opted to stick with say, sassafras leaves. Yes, there were the usual retro-grouches who would complain that the newfangled stuff was too cold, too modern, not made like it was back in the good old days. Not natural like oak leaves. Like chemical films, TP was man-made. No real man would but caught wiping with that new stuff. The art, the sensuality of the occasional finger through the leaf experience was mostly missing from heartless toilet paper.

    But time, and evolution, and most people pay little attention to ol’ gramps warning of the end of the world brought on by today’s young ‘uns.

    Not all of the old folks who had actually experienced wiping with leaves back when there was no choice were as nostalgic. They remembered the inefficiency of leaves compared to toilet paper for actually wiping. They remembered grabbing poison oak or poison ivy and the results to them were not quaint little flaws, but a real pain in the ass. Why should we go back to leaves, they wondered, when we can do almost everything we could do with them with toilet paper, and do it better? Toilet paper continued to advance.

    Then something happened. A few folks, curious of the old ways, wandered out in the field to do a number 2 the old fashioned way. They discovered and fell in love with the flaws of rotted leaves for butt-wiping. Nostalgia set in, and they became converts to the romance of leaves for wiping.

    Wiping butt with leaves now set them apart. In fact, they felt a bit superior in some ways, for they were the true artists of butthole wiping. Dealing with the flaws and the inconsistencies of leaves, and the fact that no two leaves were alike, where as a piece of toilet paper could be produced exactly the same forever made leaf wipers more in touch with nature. An enthusiast paid much more attention to each wipe with a leaf as she couldn’t depend on handy a double-layered role of 500 sheets. Can’t just machine gun away. No. And it can be damned hard to gather leaves in the forest in the winter when you have gotta go.

    But still, most people did not give a rats behind about the leaf TP debate. They just wanted to wipe without much thinking about it. They became known as the P&R (Poop and Run) crowd. They were important in the market, but they were not artists of the butt.

    The leaf wipers became small niche markets, artists who dabbled in things like dried almond leaves, or the avante garde hipsters who worked with pine cones. Other experimented with cacti as medium.

    Alas, time marched on, and the world continued to go all to hell with new inventions which were not as good as the old-fashioned stuff they replaced. Indoor plumbing was developed. This was the beginning of the end for the leaf wipers. Yes, some moved out into the mountains where they could persist in the pursuit of their vision by squatting next to a mound of autumn leaves and wipe away till their hearts and butts were content. Some, who could not go to such extremes, nevertheless tried to pursue their hobby by squatting in the fields. This became increasingly difficult as yesterday’s fields became today’s neighbor’s yard. And ol’ Elmer, who had a real field, did not take kindly to folks pooping amongst the corn and often responded with a blast from his rock salt filled 12 gauge.

    Thus ended on of the great periods of human history. All gone due to cold-hearted “progress” of humankind.

    • Joel June 2, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

      Love it. Awesome depiction of the struggle. We’re all just wiping somebody’s butt whether figuratively in this life or as part of a manufactured piece of TP or a leaf that grew from the compost of what was left of our body. :-D

  104. Skip Gue June 1, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    I think we will always have a love affair with things past. It’s like the direction of fashion and it’s an archive of inspiration.
    Nothings more fun then poking around vintage shops,photos and book stores!

  105. MissyG June 1, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    I think there is something beautiful about the imperfect. For some time I’ve found myself getting tired of the “perfect” image. There was so much emphasis put on crystal clear eyes, sharpness etc that it started to become a little boring and sometimes felt not so normal. I don’t see the world around me with crystal clear eyes. I see the world around me and all of its perfections and imperfections as beautiful. A retro photo, in my opinion, makes me feel like I can step right into the image. There is something about it that takes me away and puts a smile on my face. I am a person of balance so retro photo’s give me a nice balance to my photography and is my way to play.

  106. Chris Wheeler June 1, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    My Favorite thing to do is put my 24mm manual Nikkor lens on my old D1x.
    This combination is fun to shoot with and takes me back in time each time I use it. I sometimes even use a 512 flash card in it so it limits my shots I can take. It seems to re-focus my shooters discipline and hone my creativity. It gets pretty hard to follow kids with a manual but you get your eyesight sharp and your focus hand laser fast. The images themselves have a quality much more like that of film. The camera has limited dynamic range compared to all the newer cameras out there, but the short lens and low aperture make for some great pictures that I find myself not post processing the crap out of. Why do we shoot vintage/old camera setups? The same reason there are hot rods. People enjoy nostalgia, they enjoy being transported to a simpler time in their life or if they are young, experiencing the tools of the trade from a yesteryear and the results of those tools. Sure I can drive my Carrera 4 around town and have Air Conditioning, a bumpin’ stereo and nice soft leather seats. But I enjoy taking my 1930 Ford model A out for a spin on Alki, No top, No heat, No A/C, no Stereo, Loud exhaust, Fenderless, sparse interior. We Burn rubber with Manual focus because its cool shit!

  107. Keith Skinner June 1, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    Is a moody, high contrast B&W shot retro? How about one that includes unusual looking people? Lots of reflections? How about a preponderance of night shots?

    Yes and no. We imitate so be can learn and then improve upon that which we love and admire. Recreating an Atget effect for certain subject matter makes sense. It was just much harder to create the look of selenium or salt prints in the physical dark room. Using a washed out saturation or an antique sepia can simplify color in some situations where vivid color can be too distracting.

    People are imitating and exploring what those effects meant and how they fit into the modern milieu of tools in our digital darkroom. Yes, some people disguise poor composition and/or technique but that’s a glass half empty perspective. Broadening the pallette of the artist is always a good thing.

  108. Mike Kalibabky June 1, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    It’s a connection with the past, when automation didn’t exist: no AF, no multi-pattern metering, no program mode, no 11 fps; the photographer was the camera’s “CPU.” I grew up with the old LIFE and LOOK magazines. The B&W photos within were superb. I also had a B&W film darkroom. Does the odor of stop bath ever go away? Gloriously, no.

  109. Mark Salmon June 1, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Like Tim said ‘It’s fun!’ – simple as that….

    Also the aesthetic of a ‘vintage’ film somehow elevates a photograph from a snapshot to ‘art’.

    I love app’s for the iphone which allow this because you can instantly upload them to the internet.

  110. Kev Holloway June 1, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    There are a ton of reasons and I agree strongly with the perfection vs imperfection thing, but one of the main ones that I haven’t seen mentioned is that digital slrs and MF backs aren’t designed to produce RAW images that are good to go.

    You’re looking at the RAW converter’s interpretation of the data, which by design is as flat and malleable as possible. In the most light-handed case you might only adjust contrast, WB, and sharpen, but you always need to adjust.

    The beauty of film-simulated JPEG processing is that you take the shot and bam – you have the final image. But, you’re pretty locked in at that point. To some extent it’s the same deal with film if you’re not going to hand print or scan the neg/print. You pick your film which is designed to give you a specific look, hit the shutter release, and maybe tell the lab to do what you want in development, but then you go home and it’s out of your hands. Next day, chances are you have a final image that looks like a final image.

  111. fas June 1, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Because its something different and not the usual.

  112. Daniel Jenkins June 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Back a few months ago I had my gear stolen. A lesson on the value of insurance. With every adversity carries with it a seed of great value. I purchased a Hasselblad medium format outfit from KEH. I couldn’t believe a $6000+ camera set up all for less than a grand. Shooting film has done so much for my growth. I’ve learned how to make every shot count. Thinking before clicking the shutter. Using a hand held light meter. Being more selective in what and why I shoot.

    I think getting back to the basics and going retro is a great thing. I urge others to fall in love with photography all over again.

    • Matt June 4, 2011 at 9:15 am #

      Couldn’t agree with you more. I recently purchased a Mamiya 645 and have started shooting film for the first time in my life. I love it. I find I think a lot more about composition and getting it right the first time as opposed to iterating like I do with digital.

      I still love my Nikon and shoot it all the time, but I think shooting film is a good exercise.

  113. Neil Binkley June 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    I think that people want to see new looks, no matter the media. This was true 100 years ago when the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt started his Secession movement: to create something that moved beyond the staid look of the Neoclassical tradition that he grew out of. Or something like that…

    People, especially artists, get tired of looking at the same style over and over. Not to mention, if you’re an advertiser trying to figure out how to distinguish yourself from your competitors, you want to try new approaches to be distinctive. And a new visual style is just one approach.

    For example, it’s sometimes refreshing to see an illustration in a magazine (instead of a photograph), and vice-versa. Anything that catches your eye and mixes things up, and tells a story in a new way.

    And from the other comments, it’s obviously a way for photographers to try out a “new” look. Though I agree that it can cover up lighting and compositional flaws. And in the end, I believe that a photographer’s personality, if they let it show in their work, will be unique despite the specific technology.

  114. Joe June 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    From a personal perspective, what I get out of film is the “insecurity” that I don’t get from digital. Let me explain that better. Joe McNally once mentioned that now that he’s gone digital (for work at least – I don’t know if he still flirts with film) he shoots less images on a shoot because he has instant feedback that something has worked as (or better than) he wanted it to.

    In film he’d capture the image way beyond – double, treble cameras, multiple shots, etc in case something had gone wrong (or would go wrong) with something along the way (in between him seeing the image in his mind’s eye and the viewer seeing his interpretation). Now he captures the shot, know’s it’s in the bag and moves on to something else (crudely put, there’s probably more than that, I know).

    Now that’s what I find important about film. The uncertainty and insecurity mean you invest more in the moment. Knowing you can’t delete, that you can’t see what mess-up or miracle you’ve created until it comes out of the tank, and gets printed means there’s an emotional investment with every click of the shutter.

    There’s more of a relationship in that.

    And that relationship, that investment, will rub off on the digital (just as the digital will change your relationship and investment too!).

  115. Eric June 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    A lot of us are newer to photography and with digital making photography so much more available to everyman, maybe there is a bit of attitude with those styles. Along the lines of “well I was into photography when…” attitude perhaps stated by the use of vintage cameras and films, or a better explanation as others have suggested – the vintage stuff makes us feel warm and fuzzy as we remember photos of our youth. Great question.

  116. jason June 1, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    The fun. The randomness. The emotion. The nostalgia. The access to decades of genius, pain, brilliance and struggle via filters that I can put on a picture of what I ate for lunch. It’s all been said so well by those before me, so I’ll try to go where people haven’t. Here it is:

    False history. We’re all adrift here for only so much time. Anchoring ourselves to the past (even if it’s not real) makes us feel one notch more permanent and established before we die and are gone forever.

    (Nailed it.)

  117. Luis Murillo June 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    From my point of view is that everyone is of the digital images that are being produced and want more of that feel that they grew up with, sure kids nowadays find it cool but that’s a different story. When it comes to the professional level I see it as a way to differentiate one’s work from others especially since now it’s easy for anyone to own a high-end camera and get really good photos with little work so some professionals are going back to film to differentiate themselves from others.

    Personally I’ve always loved film and was hesitant to shoot digital but I did anyways and then went back to film once I learned the basics. I still own a digital DSLR but it’s mostly for testing setups, especially when using flash, or techniques and shoot all of my important work on film.

  118. Joseph Fisher June 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    So many great perspectives! My thought relates to when the CD was introduced as the newest form of audio medium. Many purists gave the “digital” sound a resounding thumbs down claiming the “warmth” of the vinyl and the “noise” made the music true. I see now at my local Best Buy that again vinyl is available for purchase on newer albums.
    This goes along with the, fad you say, of making images look as if or even having been shot with film. For those of us who have been down the road of processing our own images and spend countless hours in the dark we have earned the right to relive the past. For those who have not known the hardships of the “red light” I suppose it is ok for them to imitate history as well. After all it is the greatest form of flattery!

  119. Eric June 2, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Imagine if history books and libraries were filled with images that were “aged” or made to look like they came from an earlier time? What effect on history will the work you leave behind have? Are you cheating those in the future out of experiencing nostalgia in an effort to experience it now? Just a few questions I ask myself as I try to figure out how I feel about the vintage “look”..

  120. Daf June 2, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    I think there’s been a significant revival of many things 70/80s recently – not just photography.

    Personally, and I know I’m going to be an outsider here, I’m really not keen on it.
    If done well and adding to the mood or feel of the photo – sure it can be good and I appreciate those – but on the whole it’s over done and usually just as a fad / means to cover up technically lacking picture.

    A quote that I love takes makes this point:
    “One photo out of focus is a mistake, ten photo’s out of focus are an experiment, 100 photo’s out of focus is a style.”

  121. James Wear June 2, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    Retro is great as a style and artistic choice, but I think people are using it too often right now. Especially for personal photos, and especially on their phones.

    There is going to be a whole generation of parents who have no good pictures of their kids because they are all trapped on their phone (or lost when they switch phones) or saved in some kind of cheesy “Retro Camera” format.

  122. Dwayne D.C. Tucker II June 2, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    For me, it’s because when I look at images from that time period I love the in the moment-ness of it, yet calm, so real. The retro images give the feel of real photography. Out modern DSLR gives that computer-y look (especially canon cameras) all shiney etc. Everything that glitters aint gold.

    Mind you there are certain times you need what’s given and I do love the power of the new gear with better iso etc. I think the power of the new gear (example having less grain etc.) mixed with the look and feel of the older images makes the photograph a bit sexy…

    My input,

  123. Anthony Perez June 2, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Because its different and unique! even my grandma has a digital camera these days, its so much more organic, life like and aesthetically pleasing it gives photography character and adventurous feeling as you arent too sure of the results. Also creatives dont like the mainstream we want DIFERENTIATION! love the last few videos, would have liked ot seen the developed polaroids from the video

  124. Erin June 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    Who likes knowing exactly what the final product will be? That’s not fun art! That’s not fun to make, there’s no adventure! And I also have a sense that we’re kind of feeding off of others nostalgia a little bit, this generation that’s driven by technology has such little ‘real’ people inspiration.. makes everything far too… clean.. mechanized even.

  125. Jean-Pierre June 3, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    I like the filmic look because that’s what I grew up using. We used polaroid, disposable 35mm, and 120 exclusively. I didn’t start taking digital photos until we got a webcam when I was about 16. And it wasn’t until more very recently that I got an actual digital camera (aside from camera phone). I don’t know.. film has a certain look to it; Like looking at a memory. Digital has an awesome look and can be easier to use (at times), but not always the look that I want to have in my photography.

  126. Jean-Pierre June 3, 2011 at 3:45 am #

    110* film, not 120.

  127. mirko June 5, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    Wow… there are too many opinions to read them all at once…

    I believe that it’s finally a matter of fashion and differentiation. Indeed not everyone makes photos for a living but all of us here are connected to photography and the universal language that has it.

    However, it’s strage to notice that as a counterpart of the “gearheads” there are also the “vintageheads”, people whose lack of technology in the act of photography seems to have a different value, in the different feel of what it is to hear the old shutter and the winding film of it.

    As technology advances, the limitations are merely on the skill of the user rather than the instrument. Vintage gives the real “vintage” look just by being what it is, although i find the vintage term a bit overused, quite trendy and therefore, more likely to disappear soon.

    Why do we have to always label everything that we do instead of just doing it?

  128. Robert June 6, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    For me retro styles help simplify any image that has too much information.

  129. Tristanography June 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    i just think people are fed up with stuff thats all clean and sharp and want a bit of dirty and blurred, making photos look “old skool” also probably takes us to a nicer nostalgic place so makes us warm to a photograph quicker

  130. Matt Stevens June 12, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    I use vintage effects frequently on my mobile devices because:
    -Mobile cameras generally suck compared to Dslr
    -My tendency when I have a bad photo is to photoshop the heck out of it or add effects
    -I like the creative feel that it gives to a photo

  131. Patrick Prothe June 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    So many have said it, but it’s the notion of future primitive. The more technology distances us from the tactile qualities of life whether in the process or in the end product (i.e. ‘perfectly’ exposed, cold, etc.) we yearn for the warmth of our past. At least the warmth we remember in our minds. It’s all about creating a feeling and grounding ourselves in what it means to be human.

  132. Dan June 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    I think the retro nostalgia pulls at something emotional and very deep within us. We are pulled to feel connected to the past and to the future, and the nostalgic look of old photographs reminds us of that need to be connected, both in the craft and the viewing.

    As to the craft, I think many of us long to work with our hands, in a physical way. And that old analog retro feel reminds us of that.

    As to the viewing, we have a lifetime of exposure to that “retro” look, in old family photographs, historical documentaries, museums – anyone who has gone in their familie’s attic or through their old things knows that faded crumply look and feel. We know retro instantly. And it instantly stirs our memories. Powerful photographs stir memories, which is partly why that retro look is so powerful. It’s like a smell like apple pie, it stirs our memories and reminds us that some things are timeless, even if the look is a cliche, or perhaps precisely because it is a cliche.

  133. jesteron June 21, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    There’s a lot of great posts here. I’ve been pondering this same question for some time (not just in photography but in design as well), here are some of my theories on the return to vintage (re-vintage?)…

    – Adds character.
    Elevating what would’ve been a simple capture into something that is personalized and artistic. It gets better when you add great composition. If the composition is crappy, it will elevate that capture as well… to a certain extent.

    – Boredom.
    With basic point and shoot cameras becoming easier to use and more accessible there has been an increase in the amount of standard, unedited looking photographs out there. Same goes for the generic industrial design of most of these cameras. Eager creative types are always looking to stand out from the crowd whether its in their prints or the cameras that they use (even if its unwieldy). I have a heavy Pentax 67 with a wood grip and sometimes I wonder if it had a discount coupon for a gym membership in its original box.

    – Cheaper and easier to use tools.
    A search for photography apps in the iTunes app store will yield lots of search results for apps that cost less than a 10th of Photoshop and 100 times easier to use.

    – Accessibilty.
    For the braver souls (and wallets) out there vintage cameras and gear are fairly inexpensive to purchase if you know where to look. A lot of pro studio and wedding photographers have been selling their gear to upgrade to digital or sadly have decided to close up shop. Of course, there is also eBay and the numerous classic camera sellers on there. I managed to find some great cameras using both methods.

    – Warm Fuzzy Feelings.
    It just feels good to look back. Anyone taking a look at the stack of old photos of their grand parents or parents is guaranteed to get the warm and fuzzies. There’s a certain feel to old photos, or anything old and analog really, that feels comforting and authentic. Even though your relatives may not be in the photos, the look is there and may trigger those same feelings.

    For example vinyl vs mp3s, there’s a warmth and fullness to the sounds of vinyl vs mp3s. Furthermore, there is a process to playing my vinyl and a tactile feel to it that cannot be replicated by my iPod (not even by the “classic” ones with the click wheel). This process probably feeds into those feelings too Same goes for photography, the vintage look gives us those same feelings visually. Now take that to the next level, try using a vintage camera and you spread those feeling to your other senses… the sound of the shutter on a medium format film camera and feeling the vibrations from the mirror “slap”… the old camera smell from the leather bellows and case on an old Voigtlander Bessa camera (can’t forget those darkroom “smells” either)… getting cut from handling film or photo paper… ummm, that last one not so great.

    – A Fad?
    The return to vintage may just be a reply to the clean and technical design that was popular a few years ago. I work in the web and graphic design field and have noticed a lot of co-opting of nostalgia in either the personal work of my peers or on projects for small businesses. The clean and technical look is still alive and well with the corporate set although I have been seeing a few reaching back into the archives for inspiration (car companies). Everything goes in cycles, as fun as this vintage phase is, I’m excited about what new things will come out from all these tools and experimentations in vintage.

    Thanks for making it this far into my post… I did warn ya that I have been pondering this for some time! lol :-D

  134. Matthew September 13, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    I’ve always like old things (so i’m probably not the typical retro user), I love the way things were built properly, they feel heavy and solid. It was made by hand, by someone who knew what they were doing, not by a machine which is doing what it’s told. Modern things can’t compete at a sensible price with old cars, high end hifi, cameras and the list goes on. Yes you can buy something equal or better but for my money I would rather have old and amazing.

    In photography I like film because of the mystery of whether you go the shot or not (of if you loaded the film right to begin with). I like negative film as it’s almost impossible to lose the highlights, and slide because it looks amazing through a projector. The fact that they will never be made again adds to the appeal, the fact that I have a 100 year old camera that still works and probably will for the foreseeable future is amazing.

  135. Luke September 16, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    I like the theory that it’s a response to our times, maybe a symptom of a subconscious yearning. Global recession, difficulties, disasters – analogue and retro is a way of harking back. But it is refreshing, too, in the crisp and clear digital age to see or hear something a bit more…organic. Anyone think we’ll ever get nostalgic for cheap, shitty digital photos, stuff that looks like it was taken on your first camera phone?

  136. Ryan Pastircak September 16, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    It seems that we as humans have been so infected with photoshoped, doctrined images, that we are starting to yearn for something more real. We want to see life exactly as we experience it. Though most of us may not notice it, we want to see images that represent life as it really is. Not glitzy and full of perfection, but raw, ugly, hard, and sometimes unexpectedly beautiful. This is what vintage images can provide for us. It is a way to make a direct window to life. No air brushing or age reversal. The bullshit gets cut out and we are faced with the true outcome of that split second which has been forever saved by our camera.

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