Digital has been the death verdict of analog. It is the sleek way to communicate and store data, a smart information signal pointing towards the future. Analog is the past, rusty and error-prone.
"If digital is the mind, analog is the heart."
Still, digital can only ever be an imitation, a copy, an approximation of the original analog signal, the natural sound or light wave etched into real world materials rather than mimicked by digits. If digital is the mind, analog is the heart.
And so analog might be sitting on death row with the clock ticking, but as long as this clock is actually ticking, in the form of an analog watch, there is time. Analog lives on and makes subcultural comebacks in the face of extinction: crackling vinyl sounds emerging from hipster hideouts, film photography as a counterrevolution to the new digital status quo.
"Digital facilitates an overconsumption that produces a lot of trash, ending up in cluttered hard drive folders."
That sounds dark. I don’t demonize digital. I’ve long succumbed to its comforts. It’s the rational choice. Analog is erratic; the time that goes into it, the inconvenience: dropping my film off at a store, waiting for the negatives to be developed, left in the dark about how my work turned out until pick up day – that all sounds like mild madness from a digital perspective. If I don’t like a photo I took with my digital camera, I take another. After all, I’m still at the scene. And why would I hold on to boxes full of photographs and negatives, if I can store my entire archive on a device as small as my thumbnail?
I guess this would typically be the point where an author answers this rhetorical why-question by making the case for the underdog. I won’t. The digital logic is sound. I will say this though: I am glad that analog is still around and I hope it will be for a long time. And here is the why: digital’s greatest strengths are also its greatest weaknesses, as much as analog's limitations are opportunities when seen from the right angle. Analog photography is selective and premeditated. When every shot counts, you focus on what matters and this can add true artistic value. Digital facilitates an overconsumption that produces a lot of trash, ending up in cluttered hard drive folders.
I went digital when I started traveling the world. How else could I have carried thousands of images in my backpack? But the more I shot away, the more I reminisced about my analog camera and a nostalgic desire arose: to take it back to the streets. So when I visited home for the first time in years, I did just that. To my surprise, I found a film inside my good old camera, which had been waiting to be developed for ten years.
"[...] the ultimate digital limitation is its bland perfection."
It came to me when I picked up these old photos: the ultimate digital limitation is its bland perfection. Digits allow and encourage you to try again and again and again until you get the picture perfect picture, which you present to the world as a glossy representation of the world. But real world beauty thrives on imperfection and the medium to capture that mess accurately is analog. The static caused by a speck of dust on a vinyl record is a manifestation of the chaotic and unpredictable real realm. CDs and mp3 files create artificial and sterile vacuum setting for music, caging sounds in lab conditions.
"[...] digital photography is just a little too pure."
In the same vein, digital photography is just a little too pure. I like that there is no way to rectify my analog mistakes, my own artistic imperfections, in post-production. There is something honest about that.
The ten year old film role became the epitome of analog imperfection to me – time had played with the chemicals to craft something so flawed that it can only be described as unique, and no digital camera can produce the random beauty and surrealism that a film gone rogue creates.