Young people and the obsession with film

If you’re young and have ever been on social media, you’ve probably noticed a bit of a trend lately. It seems like almost everybody has an odd obsession with film cameras, disposable cameras, Polaroids, and normal photos edited to look like film.

I’ll admit it–I’m a sucker for high contrast, low saturation, and a blue-ish green tinge on photos. I think it’s fine for everyone to appreciate the uniqueness of film, but it seems like people justify this desire for objectively low-quality photos with “nostalgia.” Normally, I would find this to be a valid excuse, but with the case of film, the only people I ever hear saying they have nostalgia for it are people who grew up rarely, if ever, having their picture taken on film.

Although I find the obsession with film a little bit extreme, it does have some valid characteristics, the biggest being that you can’t fake film pictures. They’re genuine and authentic. You can’t ask to see the picture and retake it because you didn’t like how your hoodie strings weren’t exactly even.

There is something really captivating about film other than its authenticity. Perhaps it’s the sound on the mechanical shutter and film roll ratcheting back to place. Maybe it’s the ability to actually hold your photos and not just look at them through a screen. Another captivating thing about film is that the people you’re taking pictures of don’t take it seriously. That’s a great thing if you’re the one taking the picture because nobody is going to put in a ton of effort for it and pose like their life depends on it. Small things like a low-key pose can make a picture turn into a memory. Disposable cameras have a really unique ability to take pictures that accurately reflect a specific moment and mood. That is just another reason disposable cameras are so appealing.

There is something really captivating about film other than its authenticity.

— Mason McGonigle

Film is a bit of a waiting game, too: you’re not going to see your photos until they’re developed. If you’re using a disposable camera, usually they’ll come out a blurry mess, but that’s part of the appeal. They’re fun photocopies of memories you’re making with friends. The pictures are chaotic, but also quite controlled as you only have a set number of exposures. You can finally begin to understand how your parents felt when they reminisce on the good ole’ days where they would be lucky if two out of 48 pictures came out good enough to keep.

It’s too soon to say if this is just a quick trend that will be gone next year or if this will continue to stay around just and become the ideal way to have physical copies of photos. With companies like Polaroid making a comeback and playing into the film aesthetic and making film pictures attainable again, it seems like it is a real possibility for printed pictures, and specifically film, to stay around for a while.

Bottom line: printed pictures are becoming a commodity and nothing can provide that like film can. You can print out your photos off your phone, but the disposable camera has a certain aesthetic to it that adds even more to the idea of having printed pictures. As old and obsolete as film is, I think it’s going to stick around for a lot longer than expected.