Hipstamatic photographs © Amelia Shepherd

Digital Photography Never Looked So Analogue

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There is a massive cult among the young for dead media and outmoded appliances, although it rarely extends beyond displaying the image to actually using the bygone format or device.

One exception is the vogue for digital photography applications like Hipstamatic and Instagram, whose filters simulate the period look of photographs taken by vintage cameras. This creates a pre-faded ersatz-analogue effect of ‘instant nostalgia’.

Simon Reynolds (2011) Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction To Its Own Past London: Faber and Faber p.351

On 9 March 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported that the photo-sharing application Instagram was being valued on the stock market at around 500 million dollars.[1] Founded in 2010 by a pair of graduates from Stanford University, within two years Instagram has accumulated nearly 30 million users – all employing the app to post photographs online via their camera phones.[2] Over 150 million images had already been posted within the app’s first year of existence. In one respect, as with Facebook, Flickr and Twitter (those other online leviathans of the 21st century), Instagram’s success can be explained by its accessibility and ease of operation. Through the app, users take photographs and upload them (often to Facebook itself) as well as view other people’s photographs – which they can comment on, ‘Like’, and share.

However there is another element to the process, which may ultimately be of more significance than the app’s convenience. Before uploading their photographs, users of Instagram are actively encouraged to ‘edit’ their images by applying one of a range of pre-set filters. These filters simulate an array of film-types and print formats, primarily from the golden age of the mass popularity of analogue photography during the second-half of the 20th century, an aspect emphasized by the square format of the images. The resulting filtered photographs include such simulated effects as washed out or faded colours, film damage, and light leaks.

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Published in Photoworks Issue 18, 2012
Commissioned by Photoworks

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