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Analog Hiccups

purity as the ultimate digital limitation


   The jury is still out, but it looks like digital might be the death verdict of analog. It is the sleek way to communicate and store data – a smart information signal beaconing 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 signal, the natural sound or light wave we used to etch into real world materials and that we are now mimicking with 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 that clock is actually ticking, in the form of an analog ticktock, 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."



Don’t get me wrong. 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 lab (if you do the processing yourself you’re either crazy or in love or crazy in love), waiting for the negatives to transform into something visible, 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 to answer that 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 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 – from what you shoot to how you shoot it – and that should leave you with fewer and better pictures. 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? Maybe a scanner could have gotten me there, but what a detour. Still, 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 a long time, I did just that. To my surprise, I found a film roll sleeping inside my good old camera, which had been waiting to be developed for ten years.

"[...] the ultimate digital limitation is its bland perfection."