Back in the early 2000s when I turned 18 and started going clubbing the Kodak disposable camera was king. A proper camera was too bulky for a mini shoulder bag and too expensive to risk breaking or losing after too many WKDs. We had no filter, no image flip, no ability to crop or edit. Just one chance to get something that would capture the feeling of that moment.
Photo- No Filter
To take a picture you’d shout your friends together and ask a stranger on the light-up dancefloor in Flares to take your Kodak and take a picture for you. Just one- there were only 21 on the whole film. The shot would be waist up or full length taken at the angle of however tall your photographer was, as the viewing lens was against their eye. If you had a fancy one it may have a flash that may or may not give the whole place a strange ethereal quality.
If you were a pioneer you may try for a selfie which would involve holding your hand as far away from your head as possible and hoping for the best- which would usually be you and your friend’s foreheads (no wonder they didn’t take off sooner).
Once you’d had your night out you had to wait a couple of weeks until the whole film was used and then take it to a Snappy Snaps for development, which would be another week (no one went same day, far too expensive).
There was an excitement to getting them back, never knowing what would be there or how they’d turned out. And the only people that would see them would be the developer in-store and the few friends you passed them around to on your lunch break. Oh and the other staff members in Snappy Snaps if there was anything juicy I’m sure.
These days this may seem crazy, but these are still probably the most framed and treasured photos people own. The images captured then were whole memories. Whole groups of people to look back on and wonder what they’re doing now. Complete outfits to cringe over. Whole bars to remember that are now closed down (RIP Chicago Rock). And that guy who was always standing on the edge of the dancefloor eyeing up his next victim to stand behind and thrust at- every group had a picture of him.
Now the background isn’t captured, apart from the occasional wall with angel wings on it that you stand in front of. The background won’t be there to look back on. All we’ll have is a million images of our face pulling the same three expressions in various bar lights. So many times now I look at photos and can’t even remember where it was taken, or what I’d been doing. There’s no context anymore.
It’s no wonder that people are struggling with self-image now more than ever- we only ever look at our head and shoulders. If you only see a full-length picture of yourself once a year no wonder we seem shocked that we don’t look the same. There are kids now looking in their mirrors disgusted at themselves and the fact that their eyes aren’t really big like Bambi’s. The filtered images they see in the screen of their phone have become reality to them rather than the mirror. So not only have we filtered everything but us from our photos, we’ve filtered ourselves too. Nothing about our photos holds a memory, it’s all false.
So once in a while get a friend or someone to take a photo of you somewhere that isn’t just of your head. Take a picture of the venue you’re in. Take a photo and don’t apply a filter. Get used to seeing yourself again. Have a memory to look back on. What a sad future it would be to only have fake pictures of your own face to look back on. Start today and you’ll be surprised how quickly you start to feel more at home in yourself again.