Point and shoot film cameras are often looked down upon within the film community and you’ll hear more than the occasional accusation of them being an accessory to “make you look trendy”. But, as I discuss in this article, these cameras have a value that is not often spoken about, least of which by those people who believe that going “fully manual” is the only way you can be considered to be a photographer.
Recently, point and shoot cameras have risen both in popularity and price. Their use by celebrities such as Drake and Kendall Jenner are often blamed for the growing hype around these small plastic cameras. Their celebrity association is driving up costs to unprecedented levels while simultaneously ‘cheapening’ the value and use of them to some. However, Kendall and Drake are not the whole story and despite what many think, young people aren’t complete zombies who go out and buy something because their favourite celebrity has it (well not always anyway).
Instead, there are a few reasons why point and shoots have resurged and especially found popularity among young people. The very nature of a point and shoot camera means almost anyone can easily use one. Rather than having to learn about choosing the right exposure level, selecting the right film speed or how to focus properly, point and shoot cameras can do all that and more for you.
They are a kind of democratising tool that has enabled anyone into the now ‘cool’ world of film photography. While the lack of technical ‘skill’ needed to operate these cameras has made film photography more accessible, many film aficionados look down on point and shoot’s and their users for this exact reason.
With this in mind, I was apprehensive to dive into the world of point and shoot cameras. Having used more manual SLR cameras since a young age I had to learn the hard way about not loading or rewinding film correctly and what happens when you choose a slow film speed to shoot in dimly lit conditions (extreme blurriness is what happens). However, as I was about to go on holiday I knew I did not want to carry around my brick of a camera and more importantly, I didn’t want such an obvious signifier hanging around my neck that I was a tourist. And so I purchased a tiny plastic camera and off I set.
Young people aren’t complete zombies who go out and buy something because their favourite celebrity has IT (well not always anyway)
At first, it felt a bit strange to use and its ease almost made me feel guilty. I felt I wasn’t putting in the ‘labour’ of film photography and thus, were not really entitled to its rewards. But this soon wore off as I fell in love with the camera’s practicality and reliability.
While traveling, my point and shoot became the perfect tool and sidekick. Rather than fumbling with nobs and dials, in a second I could grab my camera, slide the lens open and snap something in front of me. Indeed, the camera’s ease and quickness encouraged me to practice a new style of picture taking and one more suited to travel in general. Instead of standing there waiting and moving around to compose the best picture aesthetically I literally just pointed and shot.
The photos you see here were taken on the cameras above using AgfaPhoto Vista 400 Plus, Fujifilm Industrial 100 and Fujifilm SUPERIA Venus 800.
The results meant that many of the photos are unstructured, messy and far from the perfect glossy images posted one after the other on travel Instagram feeds. Importantly though this method forced me to be more present in the moment, to not see and experience things through a lens and to not only explore in order to exploit a place for it’s aesthetic and photographic value (I could hear the voice of Susan Sontag in my head). Instead, I chose to use my camera to capture moments for my own personal documentation and to exacerbate and aid my memories of a time and place.
This anti-photography method proved somewhat liberating, helping me not only be more present in what was happening, but I feel my images are better for it. Even though they are definitely not Pulitzer worthy, their messiness makes them feel less static and more alive. They are images of what was really there in that moment, not what I captured after I waited for everyone to move out of the way.
The less than perfect nature of them not only makes the images more personal, but also helps to situate myself within them. Traveling alone means you rarely have pictures of yourself taken and I soon realised that I felt a kind of disconnect to my more aesthetically ‘good’ photos of buildings and monuments as anyone could have and has taken that image. However, when I see the woman who stepped into the frame of my picture I know I was standing next to her. Her presence helps reaffirm mine, and that’s all I really wanted from these travel photos. Not just pretty pictures of buildings, but documents that reminded me that I was there, and that I did not spend my time with my eye glued to my viewfinder.
Thanks for reading,
Share your knowledge, story or project
At the heart of EMULSIVE is the concept of helping promote the transfer of knowledge across the film photography community. You can support this goal by contributing your thoughts, work, experiences and ideas to inspire the hundreds of thousands of people who read these pages each month. Check out the submission guide here.
If you like what you're reading you can also help this personal passion project by heading on over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page and giving as little as a dollar a month. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.