The Resurgence of Film Amongst Gen Z

In recent years, Gen Z has famously been dubbed the “Nostalgic generation“. Holding on to everything and anything from the past that may provide comfort, our generation is known to revel in this feeling of contentment. Why, you may ask? There are a few reasons. Firstly, many attribute it to our collective desire for escapism. It is undeniable that our generation, as a whole, has lived through some incredibly turbulent, troubling times. From incidents that shaped our adolescence, like the 2008 stock market crash, to recent trauma that we are still very much coping with, like the pandemic, we have experienced some truly difficult times. Thus, we find comfort in the familiar, and specifically in the familiar things that help us connect with others. 

Everyone loves a good dose of nostalgic feelings– those warm, happy, “feels-like-home”, “those-were-the-good-old-days” vibes that are so incredibly comforting, especially during trying times, are pretty much priceless. When it comes to the term “nostalgia” (especially in the context of Gen Z), many are quick to relate the concept to anything Y2K (the year two thousand). From the resurgence of Juicy Couture velour tracksuits and colored butterfly clips, to wired headphones and flip phones, everything early-2000s-related is certainly at the heart of how Gen Z defines nostalgia today. However, the nostalgia stretches beyond just the past twenty years or so. We specifically see this exemplified in the renaissance of film photography. 

Whether it be 35 mm film, Polaroid instant film, or whatever other niche film stock people are able to get their hands on nowadays, all film is revered for its ability to emulate the extremely treasured sense of nostalgia.The graininess, the saturated colors, the inexplicable value of the physicality of the image… Everything about film photography feels wonderfully special and oddly familiar. Following the classic “everything old is new again” trope, the use of film and even the movement to replicate the “film aesthetic” has become more and more popular in recent years, being deemed “vintage” by the general Instagram public. This was specifically demonstrated in Instagram’s 2010 launch, where not only was the app icon a vintage camera, but the filters were supposed to mimic that vintage, film-y feel. 

Beyond the aesthetic being appealing, there is something so refreshingly simple about the act of taking a film photograph. In a day and age where we are watching literally every aspect of our life turn digital, the simplicity of (sometimes somewhat blindly) snapping a photo with one button is appealing. While that, of course, only applies to automatic cameras rather than manual cameras, film cameras in general are still multitudes more straightforward than digital cameras. We see a prime example of this yearning for the simplicity of the film photography process when it comes to Huji Cam, a phone app. This app is basically a disposable camera simulator where the user snaps a picture and then has to wait for the image to “develop” before they can view it. The tagline of the app is even, “Just Like the Year 1998”. 

Another key point that explains the resurgence of film photography amongst Gen Z is the fact that it is one of the most affordable ways to practice photography– specifically when using disposable cameras. Though even the cheapest methods of film photography are no bargain, they are far less expensive than digital methods. And, in a world where inflation has become a serious issue, efforts to save money do not go untapped. 

Overall, the comfort, ease, and sense of nostalgia that the act of shooting film photography exudes is more than attractive. Film transports us to a time where not everything was digital, life was simple, and photographs were firstly and fore-mostly physical memories. Seeing as film photography was once declared a dead medium, the resurgence of the practice highlights a renaissance in the way Gen Z individuals capture and document our lives.

Photography By – Jamie Pearl

Jamie Pearl

Jamie Pearl is a 23-year-old photographer and creative from Seattle, Washington. Having recently relocated to NYC, she has focused her efforts on photography, social media marketing, and other various creative pursuits. Jamie has shot imagery for Pinterest, Getty Images, Goldenvoice, and a plethora of musical artists, from Macklemore to Odezsa. Jamie is an avid runner, music and pop culture guru, and lover of anything bright and colorful!