The Quality of Our Memories

Digital Photography vs Analog Photography

I love photography. A few years back I decided I wanted to try shooting film and experiment with the medium. I tried different kinds of cameras, film formats and techniques. It got to a point, I’d always carry with me a small plastic camera. And in this process, I’ve discovered how enjoyable film can be in social situations. Moments with friends and a camera, are more enjoyable and relaxed when we using an analog camera instead of a digital one.

Unlike digital, film cameras don’t allow us to check our photos the second we take them. And this is something that disturbs the experience you’re trying to capture. You miss out when you have your head down on your camera, checking if the photo turned out ok, or fiddling with the settings. When several of the participants want to check the photos to make sure their face looks alright, there’s a change in rhythm. And it’s just so easy to delete those photos on the spot, because they have no real value yet. You just took them and you can take new ones again right away, the moment you want to capture is still happening. At this point we run the risk of having the photos themselves become the focus and hijack the experience.

Film is a rather slow process, from shooting to the moment you see the result. You take a photo, you need to finish the roll, so you need to shoot another 35 photos before can take it out of the camera and take it to a photo lab where it’s developed. So it’s no surprise we adhered so fiercely to digital cameras. But what have we lost during this transition?

Somehow, more often than not, we rarely keep bad photos of ourselves when we shoot digitally. But with film, even these not so god photos have some sentimental value to them. Horrible looking faces, we’re ever so fast to delete on a digital camera, can become somewhat nostalgic. This is because they have acquired value. The longer it’s been since a photo was taken and the viewing moment, the more nostalgic it will be. So even the bad photos will carry that with them. And the older they are, the more we appreciate them. The moment you get your developed film back to you, your photos already carry value.

The perfect social camera is not one that can instantly upload your photos to Facebook and whatnot. The perfect social camera is one which gets out of the way, becomes invisible to the experience and insures value. Down the road, when it comes to our everyday lives, do we want a photo where we look perfect yet the day we took it is nothing to remember, no story? Or do we want a photo that captured a moment which we’re happy to cherish it’s memory, despite it’s flaws?

Published: March 04, 2014