Back to the roots of photography
I have spent part of 2020 at my parents place in Normandy and took the time to re-open old-school photo albums. I then remembered that I lost my last two smartphones and that part of my souvenirs instantly vanished… I also wondered whether I would leave an USB flash, a cloud link or a smartphone with thousands of photos to my kids… Turning pages, I soon realized how beautiful analog pictures were: not perfect nor instagrammable, they capture authentic moments.
“With the emergence of deepfake, analog photo is a way to find authenticity”
As some millennials, belonging to the Instagram generation and smartphone-fed, I rediscovered the roots effect of film and analog cameras. While my phone has a great 12mp resolution, we still use disposables and analog cameras sometimes for shooting parties or going on holidays. These cameras are making a comeback with a young generation eager for retro and user friendly experiences. Think about how vinyls were brought back to life: the turntable and the particular sound it makes got increasing fans. Elsa Godart, philosopher and psychoanalyst, notes that “against digital images (which we do not look at as we have plenty of photos remaining in our phones), we are witnessing a return of the importance of memory, which results in a revival of the material medium”, decrypts Elsa Godart. “With the emergence of deepfake, analog camera and its photo is a desire to find authenticity”, confirms the philosopher. The physical medium roots the picture in reality against the tyranny of perishable. There are other plenty of good reasons why some love the authentic look and feel of film-generated photographs; there’s also the discipline of having only 24 or 36 photo to work with, and the anticipation of having a roll developed. Then there may be a desire to slow down from the relentless pace of digital technology and instant gratification.
I was quite amazed when I learnt that 2 million disposable cameras were still sold in France in 2018 and that the analog industry was growing +30% annually. Some users keep the analog prints to themselves. Rebuilding a photo intimacy, while keeping its narcissistic outbursts for social networks. Analog pictures being less easy to share on social media, this comeback may be a call for more privacy. I myself spend less time on Facebook, feeling to be the target of digital billboards.
Mark Zuckerberg said last year: “For the next decade, some of the most important social infrastructure will help us reconstruct all kinds of smaller communities to give us that sense of intimacy again. This is one of the areas of innovation I’m most excited about.”. Got it, Mark (2).
Slowing down and enjoying the moment
Quite critical about digital pictures, the philosopher André Rouillé (1) draws a parallel between neo liberalism and digital photos dynamics: instantaneity, acceleration, fluidity, circulation, horizontality, sharing… they circulate globally in uninterrupted flows. This dissemination of the market model blows up the old boundaries between here and elsewhere, nations and the world, private and public. For him, digital photography has opened a new era characterized by the profusion of aberrant images, the emergence of new powers, the rise of a new economy and the making of a neoliberal individual. Rather extreme, this position also questions ourselves on how we want to build memories and share them around us.
Against the tide and constant flows of news and images, let’s chill a bit, sit down on a comfy sofa and open a good old photo album. Turning pages, remember this great birthday party or wedding: is a smile appearing on your face?
(1) in André Rouillé, La Photo numérique, une force néolibérale (French)
(2) Mark Zuckerberg is co-founder of a social-networking website called Facebook