Huji, Calla, and the Return of Film

I’m starting to wonder if I’m getting old. Growing up, I remember my mom telling me that recent trends from her childhood we’re suddenly coming back in style, much to her amusement. And yet, I’ve started to notice the same thing – the white chunky sneakers I was forced to wear for primary school are back in fashion, alongside the slim, color-tinted sunglasses I would rock on field trips.

Film photography is also on the rise – in Adam Grant’s The Originals, I read about the failing business of companies like Polaroid and Fujifilm, and yet I found myself making a trip to NYC’s photo heaven – B&H Photo Video – this past weekend to raid the shelves of disposables.

It goes beyond these physical cameras themselves. Besides the slow return of film cameras and Polaroids, there are now hundreds of apps you get download that reproduce the effect of film. Last year, Huji was taking over everyone’s Instagram feed. My personal favorite, Calla, also reproduces the effect of worn-out film, complete with subtle light distortions and grain (my inner art heaux is screaming).

In the rise of these film-like apps, I think about the strange world of social media and image curation. Supposedly, these apps help recreate a much more naturalistic style, imbuing our photos with the sentimentally that is so strongly tied to the medium of film. The relationship between traditional cameras and these new apps may even be symbiotic, with technology helping revive this style of photography. But in using such apps we are, nonetheless, filtering reality. It’s a strange dichotomy – the familiarity of something from our childhood now being used (exploited, even?) by the modernity of social media. The beauty of film was not knowing how the final image would turn out, and yet these apps introduce an alien sense of control by letting us select the images we want filtered. For me, at least, there is a desire to return to something much more raw and candid by using apps like Calla, but an inability to escape the active social awareness that comes with such platforms.

Just some food for thought.

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