I was recently the victim of a “cruel” and “brutal” online slaying of my self-worth, my photographic ability, knowledge, dress sense, and the weird shape of my head. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I was even told I was ugly and I smelled. Ok, so I might be projecting a little, and some of that might not have actually taken place.

I won’t direct you to where this interaction occurred and if you do come across it, please DO NOT undermine the sentiment in this article by piling on en masse.

I wrote this response of sorts to share some conclusions and learning points from this situation, and encourage those of you reading this who want to support open-minded learning and sharing of knowledge to share your own thoughts on the same topic.

Let’s get to those conclusions/learning points;

  • The internet can be a horrible place sometimes, though thankfully not always.
  • I am not a big man, I am a relatively short man, and I will not rise above this.

And probably the most important one of all;

  • This isn’t really about me.
  • It’s about gatekeeping joy, pleasure and knowledge sharing in what is effectively a hobby/passion project for 90% of the people taking part in it.
  • It’s about trying to better understand what makes those gatekeepers/trolls tick and how we can push back against them.

Starting with an apology

Unlike most articles on this website, this one is going to be text-heavy and light on visuals. I’m letting you know up front in case you’re expecting more (which you’ll find in spades here: https://emulsive.org/author/ed.worthington).

Why “Analogue Grandpa”?

We probably have plenty of words to describe the kind of person I’m talking about here; “Troll” probably being the most common, “Gatekeeper” being another. But the thing is, some people online revel in these descriptions of themselves, seeing them as some kind of badge of honour they’ve successfully wound up the “Woke’s” and “Owned The Lib’s” etc., etc., so I won’t use that term here, not in a descriptive sense anyway because they don’t deserve that praise or recognition.

Instead, I use the phrase “Grandpa”.

This word does also have a few connotations so I need to cover this off, it’s not meant to disparage all grandfathers or men of a certain age. For example, my Grandpa is a lovely guy, he’s ninety-three years old, and the Canon AE-1 Program that he gifted to me is one of my most treasured possessions.

Give a man a camera, and he’ll take your photograph. Give him a roll of film, a TLR, a Leica, the keys to a darkroom and/or access to an online forum, and he’ll tell you all the way you are “doing photography wrong because it was better in my day blah blah blah.”

I could have used “Dinosaur” instead, but my thought process on that is firstly; Dinosaurs are AWESOME, and second; they’re all long dead and silently standing in museums minding their own business: something that Analogue Grandpas are very much NOT akin to do.

When I lived with a few friends about 10-12 years ago, I worked a job that had a pretty awful shift pattern and one of my housemates was in a similar boat. Often because of working the weekend, we’d find ourselves with a weekday off where we’d play old emulated video games on a Nintendo Wii that we’d hacked for the purpose and watch Children’s TV like the losers we were. One programme in particular from the BBC caught our eye as the main character really annoyed us. It was called Grandpa In My Pocket.

If you’ve never seen the show, it was pretty much the same every episode, the premise being; The main kid’s parents went out to do errands or something, Grandpa puts on his “Shrinking Cap” (excellent use of wordplay there), and then they have a little adventure together. These adventures always revolved around the Grandpa shrinking down to the size of a mouse and all hell breaking loose.

Now as adults (I know, watching Kid’s TV doesn’t make us sound like we were particularly grown up but bear with me here), the Grandpa REALLY made us angry. The kid would practically beg him each time not to put on the shrinking cap because, as my friend eloquently put it, when he did “Grandpa turned into a right C***”. He’d run around knocking over vases, throwing food around, winding up the dog etc., all while the kid chased him trying to get him to stop because the parents were never going to believe that sweet old Grandpa was shrinking down into a tiny version of himself and running amuck causing all this mess when they got home.

Before and after, Grandpa was just a normal, friendly bloke, but that Shrinking Cap was like crack. It sent him bananas and he just couldn’t get enough from causing misfortune for the sheer thrill of it.

Sound familiar?

It should because that’s EXACTLY what happens with Analogue Grandpas.

What exactly is an “Analogue Grandpa”?

Give a man a camera, and he’ll take your photograph. Give him a roll of film, a TLR, a Leica, the keys to a darkroom and/or access to an online forum, and he’ll tell you all the way’s you are “doing photography wrong because it was better in my day blah blah blah.”

Excuse my mutilation of a classic saying there, but I think it goes some way to explaining my point. If you were to imagine the quintessential Analogue Grandpa, they would tell you how old they are, how long they have been shooting film, a long list of all the cameras and emulsions they have used and continue to do so and all of their “achievements” and how these invalidate yours. They’ll probably be an active member, or former, of some kind of photography club full of middle-aged men who heartily slap each other on the back while showing off their mediocre images.

Sorry not sorry, I had to have a little dig there as one thing you will also invariably find is that despite all their bravado and belief’s they either will not show you evidence of their “superiority” or if they do, the images are just, well okay.

They’re never as ground-breaking as their commentary and posturing might suggest.

Oh, and of course, the most crucial part: notice how I said THEY WILL TELL YOU? Yeah, you will never have asked them for any of this rubbish. They love the sound of their own voice, or I assume the sound of the keys clicking as they type furiously away, and it will always be completely unsolicited.

They’ll also make some bold and often very wrong assumptions about the target of their nonsense as well. The first part where they tell you how old and how long they’ve been shooting film, that will always be because they assume ANYONE online who isn’t one of them is part of a massive group they collectively don’t understand. Usually, they’ll make a guess at your age and be decades off, I myself am in my mid-thirties but I can absolutely guarantee that Analogue Grandpas assume I am some sort of early twenties hipster student because anyone who hasn’t been around since Fox-Talbot isn’t worth them knowing and can be swept away in generalisation.

And it’s at this point I’ll get serious.

The Real Problem with “Analogue Grandpas”

Remember when you were told as a kid to respect your elders? Well The Analogue Grandpa lives that as their creed, and just like zealot’s who selectively quote parts of the Bible to justify their horrible worldview, they conveniently forget another important lesson;

Respect works both ways.

Now I’ve chosen to address this situation I found myself in relatively light-heartedly but as I said at the start of this rant (yeah, I’m going to call it that because now I’ve gotten angry).

This Isn’t Really About Me.

I have a thick skin that can take the occasional slight against me and my photography from an anonymous, completely irrelevant person that I am both unlikely to ever meet in real life or have any useful interaction with. I am not that young, I am not really that new to photography, I’m white, I live in a “developed” nation (ugh, I hate that phrase) and I’m a male. I have certain privileges I have been born with, and I am both well aware of these and far from stupid enough not to address them as a fact.

You can come after me all you like, I couldn’t care less.

However, Analogue Grandpa’s don’t just target the likes of me, do they? They target the Newbies, the Young, WOMEN (yeah that’s a big one they don’t like). I’m going to make a bold assumption here; I would bet £100 that the average Analogue Grandpa hate’s term’s like “woke” and “equality”, he probably thinks climate change isn’t real and has views on Homosexuality, Transsexuality, Ethnicity, “Foreigners” or any kind of people who are slightly different from them that would lead them to fit in perfectly in the Dark Ages.

It doesn’t take much scratching below the surface for you to find that the phrase “Not a Negative comment but” is just the opening salvo in the arsenal of bigotry in their back pocket.

So what are we going to do about it?

The whole phrase about “sitting on the fence is the same as collaboration” is true, and I and others like me (i.e. men) need to stand up and call these kinds of people out for what they are. I have been nudged by a guy on a ferry in Greece who made a “joke” about a group of Asian tourists thinking that I would find his derogatory comment amusing because, as a white guy, he thought I would think the same as him. I don’t.


These closed-minded types need to be ridiculed, and they need to be made to feel as small as they want their targets to feel. They should be made to look foolish, pathetic, and exactly like the relics of a bygone age that is nowhere near as rose-tinted as their stupid self-indulgent minds seem to believe it was.

Photography is and should ALWAYS be a safe space for everyone but the ignorance of the Analogue Grandpa has no place in it or any society. Because this is the real problem, it’s not just “Gatekeeping”, it’s not just “Trolling”, it’s not even just “Bullying”, it’s one group trying to marginalise and attack another because they think they’re better than them. I don’t use this lightly at all; In any other part of life that’s Fascism and Photography is a Democratic medium that is open to all, if you’re abusive, you are not allowed to get away with it and you are not welcome.

The fabulous comedian and actress Kathy Burke put it much more eloquently than I ever could;

“I love being ‘Woke’. It’s much nicer than being an ignorant F***ing T**T”

~ Ed

Share your knowledge, story or project

The transfer of knowledge across the film photography community is the heart of EMULSIVE. You can add your support 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 passion project by heading over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page and contributing 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.

About the author

Avatar photo

Ed Worthington

Enthusiast of the analogue photography variety with a mild obsession with Italy, its history, culture and football. I'm also really bad at speaking Italian.

, and please make sure you also check out their website here.

Join the Conversation



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I am sorry that you were on the receiving end of a cruel moment with a fellow photographer. It can happen. Photographers can be a crusty lot at any age. 🙂

    But here are a few ideas:

    : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics

    : prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group and especially the elderly

    Can’t we all just get along? Photography should be fun.

  2. After reading the article once, I revisited it again about a month later. The author’s tone still resembles that of a gatekeeper, lamenting about other gatekeepers. It’s almost comical to read how they refer to older photographers as “analogue grandpas,” but this supposed humor is actually disrespectful to those who played a significant role in advancing photography to its current state—a more accessible starting point for newcomers. There’s no mention of acknowledging the contributions of analog grandmas either. Instead of disrespecting, why not focus on creating meaningful photographs, kiddo?

  3. Before forums, these were Camera Clubs for enthusiasts. The pro photographers I knew then gently made fun of them as ‘the beards’ (shorthand for ‘usually middle aged bearded guys’) who’d lecture you about ‘the rules of composition’ and shoot brick walls to test lenses and geek our over gear.

    The results they ‘slapped each other on the back over’ then were similarly generic to what the enthusiast film and digital crowds alike produce now.

    Everyboy I know personally who is or was a pro ignores photo critiques from those groups, they always have.

    Without ever joining one myself, I found some great people who were part of those clubs though – being photo enthusiasts/pedants indicated nothing useful about their political or social views. If anything, the people I knew were more, rather than less, progressive in their world views.

    That behaviour you’re upset by is typical of a particular group in society spread well beyond age or individual hobbies and in my experience doesn’t cover all old film guys who try to help when they’re watching somebody else struggle with the same things they had to learn decades ago.

    As far as obnoxious criticism on the internet, if you read comments on Youtube or DP Review it again doesn’t sound like age is relevant to how badly people behave. For every Trump there is a Trump Jr.

    Reading Twitter shows pretty quickly that there’s just a personality type that revels in fighting and attempting to belittle others, mostly from one particular political side but definitely not only that side.

    Maybe you needed a different signifier to ‘analogue grandpa’ because that term sounds like a sweeping generalisation as unsophisticated and insular as the kind of commentary you’re upset by?

  4. Hmmmm… quel surprise, an article about gatekeepers, ends up itself being ‘gatekeepery’. Signe des temps.

    And before you assume, I’m not the malign target of this article, very far from it, in fact. Vivre et laisser vivre.

    I’m not even French, either 😆

      1. ‘They’ll probably be an active member, or former, of some kind of photography club full of middle-aged men who heartily slap each other on the back while showing off their mediocre images. These closed-minded types need to be ridiculed, and they need to be made to feel as small as they want their targets to feel. They should be made to look foolish, pathetic, and exactly like the relics of a bygone age that is nowhere near as rose-tinted as their stupid self-indulgent minds seem to believe it was.’

  5. I find it interesting that my original comment, that was not as harsh as many of the other comments here, was not approved. It was certainly less offensive than the age-ism that was rampant in the author’s work. You just lost me as a reader, Emulsive. Way to go.

  6. Ed. Thanks for the article. I agree with you, it’s bad behavior and shouldn’t be tolerated. Unfortunately, that’s they way it is, now more than ever. Forums rely on non-moderation, controversy, train wrecks and jerky people to drive traffic.

  7. So you are saying I should turn my attention away from my beloved photography so that I can spend our time infiltrating photo forums to fire salvos at people you don’t like? Lighten up bro. You have a problem with a particular demographic? Channel that energy into your work and post that. Words are cheap. I don’t come to this forum to catch up on commentary of your political views. You actually acted as a keyboard warrior just to rail against keyboard warriors. Seriously man, leave that tripe for the clods on twitter and keep this space photography-centric. Much peace to you brother.

  8. In all the comments about boomers and “analogue grandpas” it’s good to know that one “ism” remains socially acceptable – ageism. You pepper your piece with caveats but describing gatekeepers as analog grandpas pretty much defines your view on gatekeeping which actually takes many forms and comes from many generations. If it doesn’t then why use that term ?

    There have always been gatekeepers , there were on Usenet 40 years ago. I shouldn’t need to explain that actually I’m not a gatekeeper even if I did learn photography in an analogue photography era but have to live with labels like yours.

    And yes – if someone is being a jerk – move on.

    And as for describing old farts like me as “analog” grandpas – well that’s really harsh. Most still active grandparents will have been using computers for 30-40 years :and suffered the early era of digital cameras 🙂

  9. Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. – Psalm 37

    Don’t give in to hate… that leads to the dark side. – Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Someone really got under your skin, but you need to let that negativity go and not allow it affect your writing. You have a great site here and readers who love photography and want to hear your perspective, but not vitriol.

    Take your favorite camera and film and go shoot some pictures, connect with nature, or spend some quality time in the darkroom. Bury this article and write something you really want to write about.

  10. The Internet and resulting “social media” developments promise everyone the power to publish without any accountability. Ubiquitous and anonymous. Perhaps this is the sole reason that so many have invested their most precious commodity, time, in this rabbit hole.

    I happen to be an “analogue grandpa” (although I’m not a grandfather) based upon my age and gender. This said, I think that the future of film photography depends upon a constant influx of new, younger talent and the investment in film, cameras, etc., that this entails. I have a difficult time as it is criticizing and editing my own work without the need to do the same for others.

    The “arguments” I hear from “analogue grandpas” (who look at me and figure that I’m a fellow-traveler) are often self-defeating, if not outright nonsensical. Why go on about film stocks or papers, etc., that no longer exist? What putative value(s) can any of these things bring to the task of making photographs? Why are you comparing your work to Gary Winogrand, or when you are NOT that person … and that should be the point.

    I say to any young(er) person who has the interest and the patience to pick up a camera, load the film, and get away from the computer DO IT now, and ignore critical feedback from anyone not specifically qualified (such as your editor) to offer their opinions about your work.

    One reason that I still use film is that every negative “surprises” me. And, this is perhaps the ultimate reason that we need a continuous flow of new people and ideas in this “niche” area.

  11. You must feel pretty insecure about your work if any of the above bothers you so much that you have to decide to write this pretty embarrassing rant. I usually enjoy a humorous tirade but this sounds like whining through and through.

  12. Thanks for writing this. As a part-time, voluntary moderator on a well known photography website, I can only agree. I would however, add a request. If there is moderation on the site where you experience this, it is a great idea to report it. Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between innate grumpiness – which is a human characteristic that one can’t really exclude from human discourse – and the sort of corrosive behavior that is to be discourage at all costs!

  13. I’ve read your posting three times trying to figure what the point of the rant is. As far as I can tell, you were criticized by a loud-mouth “expert” of a particular age. It also seems you have the unfortunate habit of encountering these types. Here up in grumpy New England, we have a phrase that describes these “experts”: They will tell you how to sell chicken manure at $10 a pound. What to do? What to do?
    1. Don’t visit blogs that have a host of experts that are legends in their own minds. They
    will only piss you off.
    2. Adapt an attitude of “I don’t give a sh*t.”
    3. Pull up your big boy pants and get on with creating work you love and if you’re criticized, refer to #2.
    4. Don’t let these people live in your head rent free. You can be sure they don’t care about what you think of them.
    5.Start your own blog and freeze them out.
    6. Avoid ranting too much because you will eventually begin to sound like them.
    I’ll post my filckr account for you so you can see what this proud son of poor Irish/Italian immigrants, 71 year-old, non-grandpa, Leica user, darkroom keeper, fan of thin crust pizza and occasional grumpy New Englander shoots. flickr.com/photos/dcastelli9574
    [p.s.- read my self-bio.]

  14. Well that sure picked up steam as it went along lol. I enjoyed the read, and agreed with most of it.

  15. I am an Analogue Grandpa, Great Grandpa in fact. Yes I tick most of your boxes. I don’t know what I have done to deserve that intolerable and angry tirade. What would you like me to do Ed? If this is what Emulsive has become I might as well leave.

    1. If you don’t do the things described in the article (bullying newcomers and women, etc.) you are not the kind of “Analogue Grandpa” he is talking about. If you do, well then you kind of do deserve that tirade.

  16. Hello and sorry, I have forgotten your name.
    I am a Granpapa, who has learned so much from the young people who are now into film photography-your enthusisam, your drive…you guys are the ones who keep film photography alive.
    I enjoy comparing what is important to you regarding film, cameras,lenses; and how you have incorporated digital into the mix…not my cuppa, but it’s wonderful.
    I have been using a canon f1 since I bought it new in ’76, and it has never let me down. I have also bought a couple of backups in an FTB and an Ef.
    I do analogue darkroom Printing ..
    All black and white film.
    Sorry to go on…don’t the elderly pontficate!!!
    Fuck social media! Do what is right for each one of you…
    But buy Ilford, been using their film since the mid 70s.

    Pax Tibi.
    Bill Mesa

  17. I am a grandfather, and I have been shooting film since I jumped off of my dinosaur. The fact that I have been doing this so long has not resulted in my photography being particularly noteworthy. I can generally nail the exposure and focus, but I seem to be lacking in artistic talent. I am generally speaking, what is considered “libertarian ” here in the States, which generally means do your own thing, as long as you’re not infringing on my ability to do mine. I think we would all get along better if we would stop with the labeling and have an honest conversation.

  18. I fear photography forums had always been like that. Even knowledgeable people were bullying each other, wanting to show off and comparing d..ks. I do not know enough about anythng to give anyone any good (or bad) advice so I let people make their own mistakes and spare them a “I could have told you”. Photography is something to enjoy for old and young. Treat others like you want to be treated – It’s as easy as that.
    Have fun taking photos or making photographs, enjoy your hobby and don’t be so serious! Them youngsters will have their time when you need something on the phone done.
    Thanks for the opinion, Ed.