“You Only Have One Hit”: How Film Cameras Won a Younger Generation

Indi Shields first discovered the film in the drawer of his childhood home. “The first movie camera I picked up was my great-grandfather’s,” he says. “I found it so special to take it and use it in the same way as before. Even though I never knew it.”

While Shields was already taking analog photographs before the pandemic began, his use of it changed during the blockades. Where before the camera only came out at big events like birthday parties, he found himself doing “mundane things like my friend watching TV on the couch or the tunnel I go through to get to the train, just because they’re little sweets.” moments I want to look back on or remember in five or ten years’ time. “

This also came as a surprise, at a time when there weren’t many. “During the confinement, one happy thing I had was to send my film to develop it. That was something to look forward to when there was nothing else, even if I had no idea what I had taken pictures of. because he hadn’t been doing anything, “he says.

Indi Shields, a recent film photography enthusiast, in Newtown, Sydney. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

With confinement life behind it, Shields has become a regular in the Sydney Super8, one of the mainstays of the city’s modern photographic film.

Specializing in vintage cameras, film accessories, and film processing, owner Nick Vlahadamis has seen young people use their lenses to go back in time. “In the last two years, film sales have multiplied by 20 and processing has quadrupled,” he says.

“We opened in 2013, selling old cameras as an ornament. As time went on, more and more people wanted film cameras to work, so we quickly took on the cause of death.

“Around 2015, we were developing about 100 rolls [of film] one week.”

While Vlahadamis is adamant that the film is not as popular as it was in the 1990s, he says the trend will not go away any time soon.

He points to the rebirth of Kodak as an example. While Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012, the film giant ended 2020 with a cash balance of $ 196 million, a huge figure for a company that has regained relevance with a wave of nostalgia. “There’s something going on globally with cinema,” says Vlahadmis.

Sydney Super8 owner Nick Vlahadamis says film sales have multiplied by 20 in the last two years. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The GuardianClients outside Sydney Super8 Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

Kodak’s figure makes sense in light of rising film paraphernalia prices. Riana Jayaraj says she bought her second-hand Olympus Stylus point-and-shoot a few years ago for $ 30, and today it sells online for an average of ten times that price.

For Melay-based Jayaraj, his love of cinema is more than a resurgent pandemic trend. The 25-year-old fell in love with vintage technology about five years ago, and now brings her camera to major events. It’s their way of savoring the moment.

“I will remove it for [events] like my girlfriend’s wedding. I don’t take it everywhere, but if there’s something I’ll do it so I can enjoy the experience.

“It helps me capture little things along the way that I can look back on later, instead of worrying about taking pictures on my phone.”

The lack of instant feedback is important to Jayaraj. “When you take pictures on your phone, it’s almost like you’re disconnected from what you’re really doing; when you’re standing there pressing the camera button, you can manipulate the scene or situation you’re in. resuming it until you are satisfied with it “.

“With the film, you only have one photo: you take it and just hope it’s good. Because you don’t keep making 50 million because you only have 35 shots in the roll and it costs money to develop it. “

Jayaraj is not the only member of Generation Z to use the film as an antidote to digital fatigue. Ever since he found the film, he has seen it grow in popularity within his own circle of friends.

“I feel like everyone uses movies now. Even some of my friends have Instagrams for their movie photos,” he says.

Vlahadamis explains a film camera to a customer. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The GuardianChris Tiffany, co-owner of Sydney Super8. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

Disposable cameras are also entering the new era, as brands like 35mm Co combine primitive technology with millennial devotion to sustainability.

The Reloader is a modern reusable version of the disposable film camera, created by Madi Stefanis, a 21-year-old student from Melbourne. After selling second-hand film cameras online and watching them come off their digital shelves, he delved into product design.

“I wanted to launch a product that would be suitable for all ages and skill levels, and reduce the need for disposable film cameras,” he said.

Since the release of The Reloader, more than 11,000 have been sold. Stefanis points out that the majority of his client base is women and young people (between 18 and 34 years old).

But why look at physical copies of grainy memories when we can capture the moment with a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens?

Film cameras for sale in Sydney Super8. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

For Shields, it’s the consolation of “staying present” and an uncertain outcome, which for her “feels like magic,” unlike when she uses her phone.

“I really have no idea where my digital camera is, it’s probably under my bed covered in dust and mold. But my film cameras are sitting in my fireplace and they’re the first to you see when you enter my bedroom “.

“I feel a lot more attracted to film because it’s so much more exciting,” he says. “There is an element of surprise, ignorance and creativity.”

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