Trend: Sixties Faded Color Print Look

I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the role of the iPhone in the photographic world, so I am not sure which came first, the “1960’s faded color print” look or the Hipstamatic iPhone application. Did the app respond to the market, or did the market respond to the app?

In any case, it is a very straightforward example of a dull and uninteresting trend becoming wildly popular, so much so that it has crept into areas of photography, like senior pictures and weddings, where it does not belong. I’m not saying that because I dislike the “Hipstamatic” look (which, in fact, I hate), so much as I think it is almost always a mistake to force a current and almost certainly short-lived fad into the recording of an event we hope to preserve for a lifetime or longer. It might be one thing if photographing events in this style were an attempt to record and preserve the culture at the time, but it’s not. We are photographing events that should remain timeless, without imposing our shallow obedience to fads upon those events.

There is no need to run this image of me at my eighth birthday through the Hipstamatic app; it's already faded and analog.
There is no need to run this image of me at my eighth birthday through the Hipstamatic app; it's already faded and analog.

The slogan on the Hipstamatic page is “Never has digital looked so analog,” which is not only awkward and derivative, it implies that somehow we have nowhere to go in a photographic “look” other than backward.

I don’t feel that way. I feel like there must still be new ground to break in photography, and it won’t be broken by copying everyone else’s look or buying apps on the internet. It will be broken, I think, by people who in some ways have no photographic experience at all, and aren’t, like so many of us, captives of our habits.

This entry started, as many of my ideas do, with a distraction. I was going to log on to my WordPress.com account. The WordPress home page displays “Freshly Pressed” item, which are blogs that the editors have chosen as interesting. One that I clicked today, called “Empty Spaces,” was a gallery of images in the faded analog style, and looking at the images reminded me how little I like the style, trendy or not.

Of course, this trend is mostly popular among young people who view faded analog images in the same way my age group must view images from the Roaring ’20s, as a novelty of almost unknown origin. Those in my age group, though, spent much of our photographic lives with analog photography, and have plenty of faded analog images in shoeboxes in the tops of our closets. The look of those images is decidedly the look of amateur photography, from an era in which there was a huge gulf between professional photographers and snapshooters. Maybe that’s what is so interesting to younger people about the Hipstamatic look. So many images from today’s pros and amateurs alike look too polished and too professional, and this look takes us back to an era of amateur snapshooting.

That, of course, maybe brings me back to why I dislike this look. All my life I have struggled to shoot more professionally, creating a more polished look to my images, and this look flies in the face of that.

Food for thought.

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1 Comment

  1. I can assure you that the look came before the app. It’s been somewhat popular on photosharing websites for several years now… Not just that particular look, but quite a few variants of “I like that nostalgic look from my old film photographs; how do I get that look?”

    99 times out 100, the question isn’t referring to high-quality, well-processed film photographs. When pressed for an example, the person will show a digital image that has been overprocessed to look like a poorly processed (or poorly preserved) film photo.

    “Cross processing” is another example of the trend.

    I generally don’t respond to the questions, because my Dad taught me that if I couldn’t say anything nice, I shouldn’t say anything at all. What I want to say is: Your pictures already look bad, why would you want to make them worse?

    Here is a boring image of a car, made even worse by faux cross processing…

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