The analog (counter)-revolution is here

Disposable+cameras+have+seen+increased+usage+for+their+accessibility+and+low-cost

Elizabeth Riti

Disposable cameras have seen increased usage for their accessibility and low-cost

When Ben Guenther’s dad gave him a box of 200 Motown and jazz vinyls, he laid the cornerstone of a large collection that grows every time Guenther gets his paycheck from Waterway Carwash. 

For today’s teenagers, taking pictures and listening to music have never been easier. No one in history has been to do such things with the same convenience as Generation Z. Despite this, more youth are turning to analog technology, methods like vinyl music and film photography that allow people to access media without the internet. 

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, in 2020, vinyl record sales in the U.S. reached their highest percentage of overall sales since 1988. This number has been rising since 2005. Additionally, in a survey conducted by Ilford Photo, photographers younger than 44 years-old were more likely to shoot film photos than digital ones. The odd thing about this backlash against modern technology is its perpetrators, the youth we usually deem “screenagers.” 

Ben Guenther, sophomore, said he got into this “inconvenient” medium, even when easier options exist because it feels like time-traveling. Guenther, a person so in love with records that dozens adorn his bedroom walls, said he listens to vinyl because of the experience. 

“The reason I love vinyl so much is that I feel so much closer to the music,” Guenther said. “When you sit down and run your hands around the record, you can feel the grooves. It’s like I’m really feeling the music right now, the music is on this right here. It’s not stuck in my phone.”

I’m really feeling the music right now, the music is on this right here. It’s not stuck in my phone.”

— Ben Guenther

While he loves vinyl music, Guenther still uses Spotify to listen to music on his phone. He said digital music is essential because he needs to have his music on the go. 

“I’ve got to have my music at school,” Guenther said. “I can’t go 30 minutes without music. I would say records are my second resort just [because] I can’t bring them around with me everywhere.”

Olivia Dothage, junior, also uses older technology. When taking pictures with friends, Dothage likes to use “dispo” cameras: single-use cameras loaded with a roll of film that can be developed. She said she and her friends enjoy the anticipation that comes from having to wait for the photos to get developed.

“It’s a nice boost to your day,” Dothage said. “I’ll get the pictures back when we’re at school or something, and then I send them out and everyone’s like ‘ooh!’”

Dothage said she also likes the way disposable cameras look. She said it makes the photos feel older, adding a unique aesthetic to the images.

“I just like the more vintage quality of [disposable cameras,]” Dothage said. “And I like how it captures the moment so much better. It looks so much more natural. On the phone, you can take so many pictures that you can pick your favorite one. But with the dispo, you only get one picture, so make it count.”

With the dispo, you only get one picture, so make it count.”

— Olivia Dothage

But most importantly, Dothage emphasized how taking pictures with film makes photography with her friends more special. She said that film photography makes taking pictures a bonding experience for her friends. 

“I feel like it brings all my friends together,” Dothage said. “It makes us closer because now we don’t even care about what the poses are, or trying to look good. We all just hug each other and get close together. No one gets annoyed when [we take a picture].”

In Downtown Webster Groves, Tobi Weiss works the counter at Euclid Records, checking out customers with a pleasant “This’ll do ya?” She said that young people might be returning to vinyl for the atmosphere of record stores like Euclid. 

 

“It reminds me of a bar because you have regulars and you have [new] people coming in,” Weiss said. “Everyone here has something in common, a love of music. I wonder, for the younger people, is the buying of vinyl [about] going into record stores and the environment? We [Generation X] grew up loving record stores because it was a place to hang out with your people. People that you knew you would have something in common with. Then as [they] all faded away, you lost that special place to go.”

Guenther said that the ritual of putting the record on feels “perfect.” He says he feels the way old people must feel as they perform their own rituals that they’ve been practicing for years, like a grandpa smoking a cigar every Saturday night.

“Something about that feeling where you set the record on,” Guenther said. “The way it perfectly slides down onto the record player, and then the little popping, crackling sound that it makes whenever you put the needle on. It’s a very nostalgic feeling.”