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The Revival of Film and Digital Photography


As iPhone camera quality improves, why do we turn back towards digital and film cameras? Gen Z is brushing the dust off boxes in their basements to find their parents’ old digital and film cameras. They’re purchasing old cameras from local thrift stores and eBay. What is the appeal of this older technology? 

The grainy, warm-toned, imperfect look of film and digital cameras reminds us of the 2000s when we were growing up. Our parents carried their cameras around everywhere to document us growing up the same way parents now snap pictures on their iPhones of their children to capture each moment and milestone. The appeal of using older photography tech comes from wanting to experience nostalgia for our childhoods in a time of transition between adolescence and adulthood.

The rise in popularity of analogue and digital cameras these past few years is driven by social media. Katie Glasgow is a young woman making content with old 2000s digital cameras acquired through her family, eBay, and thrift stores. She said in a BBC article that she prefers digital cameras and camcorders over an iPhone because “It looks like memories.” She attributes this to the imperfection and blurry quality of digital cameras.

While these autumnal, early 2000s digital photos make us feel nostalgic for our childhoods, they also make us harken back to a time we didn’t experience but still feel connected and drawn to, the 90s. This resurgence stems from the larger revival of 90s style in general with the 2020s teens. Teenagers are attempting to recreate the style of 90s pictures using film and digital.

As Patti Smith said in her 2022 interview with NPR, “…taking photographs with the Polaroid camera, you go out on your day. You have 10 shots. And so you really think about each shot that you’re taking.” The emotion and intent behind the photograph is what really matters. Especially with film, since there is a limited amount of shots available, the photographer has to be intentional with what they choose to shoot. The photographer has to take out the camera, turn it on (sometimes take the lens cover off or put the roll of film in and turn the film), line up the shot, and play around with different settings just so the photo is good enough quality for the viewer to be able to see what the picture is of. It’s harder to take photos on physical cameras versus taking out your phone which is what makes this type of photography special.


Farrell, By Mike. “Digital Cameras Back in Fashion After Online Revival.” BBC News, 6 Feb. 2023,

Laurent, Olivier. “This Is Why Film Photography Is Making a Comeback.” TIME, 26 Jan. 2017,

Mehta, Jonaki. “Artist Patti Smith on Her Latest Photography Book ‘A Book of Days.’” NPR, 21 Nov. 2022,

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