Resurgence of retro technology and imagery

Woman with vintage camera
Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Nostalgic images focusing on retro styles featured highly in the list of visual trends last year. This is predicted to continue into 2018. The recent resurgence of instant and film technology has encouraged photographers to dust off their old equipment and include old styles in their modern practice.

Some brands are resurrecting or modernising their previously redundant technology to coincide with this trend. Kodak announced this time last year that it would be working on reintroducing their Ektochrome film for both still and motion picture formats after discontinuing the brand in 2012 and this is set for a re-launch sometime through the coming year.

Polaroid has also made a comeback. As we mentioned in our blog in May – after going bankrupt in 2008, the Impossible Project bought much of the manufacturing equipment and started to produce their own instant film and camera. They have since purchased the rights to the Polaroid brand and under their new name of Polaroid Originals have released their first instant camera, the One Step 2, to coincide with the brands’ 80th Anniversary.


Old photo film rolls, cassette and retro camera, selective focus. Vintage stylized.
Natallia Khlapushyna / Alamy Stock Photo

Back to Basics

With these reintroductions comes about the old limitations of the number of frames you can get. In the modern digital era, it’s not unheard of for photographers to shoot thousands of frames per day compared to film where you could be limited to 24 or 36 exposures on a single roll of film.

This forces you as the photographer to take careful consideration when composing your shots and really slow down. Unlike with modern equipment where you can shoot frame after frame until you get the right shot. Unless you have a limited supply of film this might not be practical or affordable.

An unlikely example of this comes from an industry which I have had some experience of in recent years. The fast-paced environment of sports photography and social media’s influence on our lives demands almost real-time reporting on events. You’d therefore think that old techniques and the technology associated with it wouldn’t have a place in this modern world.

Surprisingly it does – Joshua Paul will immediately stand out from the other photographers around him at a Formula 1 grand prix. He doesn’t have the latest DSLR or Mirrorless camera but instead uses a 104-year-old 4×5 camera. This obviously means he cannot capture every moment of the race weekend by ‘machine gunning’ each moment. Limited to 20 images per roll he must take the time to think about what he is going to shoot. The images he does produce provide a stunning contrast between the slick modern machinery and the character that the old photographic media provides.

Whether you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to try something new, or just have a sort out of your equipment, you might want to hold off on throwing out that 35mm camera collecting dust. It may provide an opportunity to experiment with what may have originally started your interest in photography. You might want to try simplifying and slowing down to take a bit more time with each shot you produce. Imagine you still had the limits of 36 exposures. What would you do to make the most of those frames? Let us know if you’ve thought about experimenting with older techniques in the comments.




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