“You only have one shot”: how film cameras gained a younger generation

Indi Shields first discovered a film in the drawer of her orphanage. “The first movie camera I picked up was my great-grandfather,” he says. “It seemed so strange to me to keep it and use it the same way he did. Even though I’ve never met him. “

While Shields took analog photos before the pandemic broke out, the way she used them changed during the blockade. Once the camera only appeared at big events like birthday parties, she found herself throwing herself into “everyday things like my friend watching TV on the couch or the tunnel I go through to get to the train – just because these are nice little moments that I want to look back on or remember in five or 10 years. ”

This also brought surprises at a time when there were not many of them. “During the lock-up, I had one happy thing, and that was to send my film away to evoke it. It was something I could look forward to when there was nothing else, even though I had no idea what I was taking because I didn’t do anything, “he says.

Indi Shields in Newtown, Sydney
A recent enthusiast of Indi Shields film photography in Newtown, Sydney. Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian Pictures

With her life locked behind her, Shields has become a regular participant in the Sydney Super8, one of the city’s pillars of modern photographic film.

Owner Nick Vlahadamis, who specializes in old cameras, film accessories and film processing, watched the young people turn back time with their lenses. “In the last two years, film sales have increased 20 times and processing has quadrupled,” he says.

“We opened in 2013 and sold old cameras as decorations. As time went on, more people wanted film cameras that worked, so we quickly grabbed a dead case.

“Until about 2015, we developed about 100 roles [of film] week.”

While Vlahadamis’ relentless film is not as popular as it was in the 1990s, he says the trend will not fade any time soon.

As an example, he points to the recovery of Kodak. While Kodak went bankrupt in 2012, the film giant ended 2020 with a cash balance of $ 196 million – a huge number for a company that has gone back to relevance due to a wave of nostalgia. “Something is happening worldwide with the film,” says Vlahadmis.

Sydney Super8 owner Nick Vlahadamis
Sydney Super8 owner Nick Vlahadamis says film sales have doubled in the last two years. Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian Pictures
Customers outside Sydney Super8
Customers outside Sydney Super8 Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian Pictures

The Kodak issue makes sense in light of rising movie equipment prices. Riana Jayaraj says she bought her Olympus Stylus point-and-shoot second hand a few years ago for $ 30 and now sells online for an average of ten times the price.

For Jayaraj from Melbourne, her love of film is more than just a renewed global pandemic trend. The 25-year-old girl succumbed to vintage technology about five years ago and now wears her camera to important events. It’s her way to enjoy the moment.

“I’ll pull it out.” [events] like my girlfriend’s wedding. I don’t take it everywhere, but if something happens, I’ll do it, because then I can enjoy the experience.

“It helps me capture little things along the way that I can look at later than I take care of taking pictures on my phone.”

Lack of immediate feedback is important to Jayaraj. “When you take pictures on your phone, it’s almost like you’re disconnected from what you’re actually doing – when you’re standing there and pressing a camera button, you can manipulate the scene or the situation you’re in a way. You can repeat it until you are satisfied. “

“You only have one shot for the film – you take it and you just hope it’s good. Because you don’t stop taking 50 million of them, because you only have 35 shots and their development costs money. “

Jayaraj is not the only Gen Z member to use the film as a cure for digital fatigue. Ever since she found the film, she has watched its popularity grow in her own friendly circle.

“It simply came to my notice then. Even a few of my friends have Instagram for their film photos, ”he says.

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

Disposable cameras are also being introduced to a new age, as brands like 35mm Co combine primitive technology with thousands of years of commitment to sustainability.

The Reloader is a modern reusable look at a disposable film camera created by Madi Stefanis, a 21-year-old student from Melbourne. After selling used film cameras online and watching them fly off her digital shelves, she turned to 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,” she said.

More than 11,000 have been sold since The Reloader. Stefanis notes that most of its customer base is women and young people (aged 18 to 34).

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

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

For Shields, it’s a consolation in “staying present” and an uncertain outcome that “feels like magic” to her – as opposed to using her phone.

“I don’t really know where my digital camera is, it’s probably covered in dust and mold under the bed. But my film cameras sit on my mantelpiece and they’re the first thing you’ll see when you walk into my bedroom. “

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

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