It’s another nail in the coffin for traditional print photography.
For years now I’ve faithfully toted along various obsolete cameras, taking chances with old box cameras and thrift store finds, purchasing expired Polaroid film online. My first Holga was given to me as a gift by a friend who noted that I could take risks with it since it could be cheaply replaced at around $20. I excitedly read the first of the helpful “toy camera” handbooks that began coming out a few years ago, noted with interest when an entire line of these cameras went on display at the purist Glazer’s Camera, and surely knew a trend was here when colorful Holgas joined the merchandise of Urban Outfitters.
I long since gave up on 35mm, knowing the tactile perks of shooting film were not enough to compete with the waste and disappointment of bad photos, the clutter of storing all the negatives and prints, not to mention just how much better digital cameras handled photos you didn’t want to mess up, like vacation landscapes and family gatherings. There was a time for digital, a time for Holga.
It didn’t surprise me that other people enjoyed the photos that came from these cameras. They were curiously imperfect, full of lens flare, messy focus, spookiness, nostalgia. But it’s an expensive taste, as many of the shots on the roll of just 12 were duds.
So I suppose I should not be surprised to see the new iPhone’s “Hipstamatic” app. I should even be happy. These iPhone users are producing some cool images, and can even capture the coveted indoor, low light shot, without the expense and worry of coming home empty handed.
But I’m not. I can’t help but be disappointed and defensive, like I am when I see movies shot on video with the iMovie film grain effect to make it appear like Super 8 (a look yet to be as well imitated on digital). The unexpected imperfections and artifacts created by the Holga was the last argument for shooting on film, where you had to leave a little bit to luck and fate, but could be rewarded with a real printed image that could not have been created with a PhotoShop filter. Already these images are everywhere on the internet, making my less impressive (but real) 120mm shots obsolete, again. After all, who cares that they were actually shot on film? How can you compete, and why bother?
I wonder, is the end at hand at last for the Holga? Undoubtedly a Polaroid app must be in the works. Will there be any reason left to shoot on film? And ugh, am I going to have to get an iPhone?
Here are some Hipstamatic images I found (with a link to the author’s Picasa page in lieu of a credit), as well as a few of my “real” 120mm shots. (Hint: the overproduced border is a dead giveaway.)