My life as a Polaroid
Why, in this age of digital perfection, are we harking back to photographs with softer edges and sepia tones? Graham Jones gets his head around vintage photo apps
Mention the word “Polaroid” and you’ll get one of two reactions these days. Some people will say “What?” because they have never heard of instant picture cameras. And others will start reminiscing about “the good old days” when you could take a picture and watch it develop in the palm of your hand.
These days, pictures are instant and you can share them with your friends on the other side of the world the moment you take them. Long gone are the days where you had to wait, nervous with excitement, to see what joys your camera had brought you.
People are increasingly using apps that help them be more creative, often making those instant images look like an old Polaroid, or even creating old-fashioned “sepia” versions.
The photographs we might take with a mobile phone can help us record the “moment” but that is often not enough, it seems. In the days when we stuck actual pictures in actual albums, we would carefully consider their arrangement, displaying them at different angles, in a specific order, even writing funny captions on them. With instant, screen-based images that you share in a blink of an eye, that creative fun disappears. So it is no surprise that apps that help us play with the pictures are popular.
Instagram, by far the most popular of these apps, lets you take pictures and apply any one of several different “nostalgia” effects to the images. Similarly, there is the Nostalgia Effects pack you can add to the Aviary picture editor on Android phones to make your images look like old-fashioned prints. On an iPhone you can get the Italiano app, which lets you make your pictures look just like one of those old instant Polaroids.
Recent research shows that we use nostalgia as a way of focusing on positive aspects of ourselves and to help us feel loved and cared for by others. It appears that nostalgia could well be a natural part of our psyche, helping us think about the past and putting our lives into context.
So, combined with our natural desire to be creative, is it any wonder that nostalgia photography apps are so popular? It looks like these little programs can be doing much more than just creating a Polaroid of you on the beach; they could actually be helping your psychological health too.