Analog photography is making a comeback


Long considered obsolete, film photography is experiencing a revival, especially among young people. And #filmisnotdead is also trending on social media.

When Kodak, the world’s largest producer of photographic film, filed for bankruptcy in 2012, it seemed analog photography was a thing of the past.

Until then, American society had dominated the photography world for over a century, much like Google, Facebook, and Amazon dominate the internet today.

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But already with the first iPhone, most people had a high-resolution camera in their pocket with which they could easily capture thousands of photos, and analog photography quickly became obsolete.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, analog photography is experiencing a revival among photo enthusiasts. And the younger generation especially wants to take pictures like they did in the last century.

Not just ones and zeros

“When you shoot, you get a tangible photo on a negative, not just ones and zeros on a memory card,” Jason Kummerfeldt told DW.

The 29-year-old American photographer talks about his love of analog photography with a lot of dry humor on his YouTube channel “grainydays”, where hundreds of thousands of people watch his videos. “I had never had an interest in photography before I started using photographic films. But since then I have become addicted, especially to this special look, ”says Kummerfeldt.

And he is not alone. This broad and renewed interest in analog photography can be seen in particular on social networks. In just a few short years, a large community of millions of subscribers has formed on YouTube, Reddit and Instagram. On the latter, more than 20 million photos are listed under the hashtag #filmisnotdead.

“Social media is very important for discovering analog photography,” says Kummerfeldt. In particular, Instagram helps people navigate analog photography and find inspiration, he explains.

“Digital withdrawal”

Major film makers like Kodak and Fujifilm are noting this trend. In a statement to DW, Kodak Alaris, which distributes Kodak’s photographic film since the insolvency of its parent company, said he was “excited and optimistic about the future of the film.”

Although digital photography continues to lead the market, “since 2016, Kodak Alaris has seen an increase in demand for motion picture products as interest in analog photography continues to grow and reach new generations of photographers,” the company said. He added that industry surveys show that around a third of movie consumers are under 35, he added.

Competitor Fujifilm mainly relies on its Polaroid cameras in addition to photographic film. These have also seen a significant increase over the past 10 years. In 2010, the company sold just under half a million of its “Instax” models worldwide; last year it was 10 million.

The younger generation in particular are turning to photographic film and Polaroid, Andy Ross of Fujifilm Europe told DW. “When you grow up in a digital world, Polaroid and film are ‘new,’ Ross said. For many young people, he added, it is also a form of deceleration, “a kind of digital withdrawal”.

New interest in old cameras

Not surprisingly, the prices of analog cameras and photographic film have skyrocketed in recent years. Camera models like the Contax T2 also owe their sometimes absurd price hikes to Hollywood icons and other social media influencers who have discovered analog photography on their own and are sharing their newfound passion with their followers. .

Photographic film has also seen consistent price increases – with some manufacturers pointing to high prices for raw materials and shipping costs.

So buyers have to dig deeper into their pockets for entry-level models and for cameras that are decades old. The eBay online marketplace confirmed to DW that there has been “high double-digit growth” in analog photography in recent years.

Yet, in the forums devoted to film photography, fans seem oblivious to these price increases, seeing them as a sign that this form of photography has a future.

A German start-up in the mix

The price increase has also attracted new competitors to the market, for example the German start-up Silbersalz.

For the past two years, the Stuttgart-based production company has been offering its own analogue film based on the Kodak cinema film under the name Silbersalz35 – and at relatively low prices. Single films are indeed more expensive than entry-level models from major manufacturers. However, they are also of better quality. Development and high-resolution scans are also included. After all, customers want to distribute the analog product in digital form, mostly on social media.

What started as a small side project is now a huge success, with the company developing hundreds of rolls of film per week. “Our biggest challenge to date is dealing with the rush,” CEO Thomas Bergmann told DW.

This is why the company has recently invested a lot of money in its analog photography division. New machines are expected to make film development and digitization more efficient.

“Cinematic photography is currently experiencing an incredible trend,” Bergmann, adding that half of his clients are under 20 years old. Besides the unique look, they have “a strong urge to be simple, non-volatile,” he says. Additionally, analog photography offers high-quality results at relatively low entry-level prices compared to expensive digital cameras, Bergmann adds.

A passing trend?

So, is this all just a short-lived hype?

Thomas Bergmann is certain that the cinema is here to stay, unlike digital cameras. In fact, this industry has collapsed within a few years as many people prefer to use the camera on their smartphone. According to the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) of Japan, digital camera sales fell nearly 90% between 2010 and 2019, with the COVID crisis making it worse.

In 2020, Cologne-based photokina, the world’s leading trade fair for the photo and video industry to date, declared its intention to cease operations until further notice. He cited weak demand for products and “massively declining” markets around the world.

Even the Photopia photo and video fair, which will be held for the first time this year in Hamburg from 23 to 26 October, will probably not be able to stem this trend.

Perhaps the future of photography will see us using our smartphone cameras for everyday snapshots that we can quickly share with friends and family, while an analog camera with a maximum of 36 shots. view per roll of film is reserved for very special moments.

This article was translated from German.

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