My designer friends would probably tell you that the resurfacing of the 70s and 80s aesthetic sensibility is so five years ago, but I am aware of it now, so I’ll just say that it’s “new.” Maybe it’s because I realized my son is closer to the age of 21 than I am (oh, *&%$!) Maybe it’s because I visited a Swatch store on vacation, I don’t know, but I am seeing pieces of my childhood resurface in the oddest of places. Only now, the hipster at American Apparel is telling me it’s ironic, and fresh, fashion-forward, but still, gulp…vintage.
Every generation nods with a wink at a generation or two from before. I wore John Lennon glasses for a while, and for no reason. Maybe it’s fine for the kids who are enjoying it the first time around, but isn’t there some kind of rule preventing me from whole-heartedly embracing dingy bad photos and questionable shoulderpads, because I lived through them already? Maybe.
I am about a year late to the hipstamatic party, but I am completely hooked on taking early 1980’s photos with my smart phone, which I realize is weird on about 7 different levels. I posted some of my work (may I call them “pieces?”) on Facebook, and almost immediately got a snarky remark, from a favorite snarky remark giver – a college freshman currently living across the country.
“Someone just discovered the hipstamatic app,” she wrote.
I was lounging around in quarantine AGAIN with a flu-ridden kid when I downloaded the app to my phone. Hipstamatic takes what would be a perfectly good photo, and subjects it to vintage film, lens and flash effects. The kid with the flu was actually the one subjected – to me taking multiple photos of him sitting on the couch, taking a nap, watching tv, or pretending to take a nap in the vain attempt to get me to perhaps go away.
I showed John my results, and he nodded. After about the 10th oddly lit and grainy shot, he sweetly said, “They’ve made many advancements in photography, you know. On purpose. Pictures are much better now.”
“I know, I know. But look how gritty it is. It looks like the 70’s.”
“But why would you want it to look like the 70’s? The 70’s really didn’t look very good. We knew that while the 70’s were happening. And we were kids.”
When we met up with some old friends at a Starbucks (sure it was a Starbucks in Las Vegas) I showed them my handiwork. Megan was nice enough to play along with me. I’d snap one, and then we’d quickly look at it, critiquing each shot…the flash, the composition, and how our hair looked. Our husbands looked at each other, rolling their eyes the way only grown men and 12-year-old girls can, and went back to talking about basketball.
Other than the photo of a “Tigers Love Pepper” t-shirt, the rest of my Las Vegas photos were taken this way, as were the bowling photos a couple of days later when parents from our church went out for a high-brow night on the town. There is something about Las Vegas and bowling that seem to be the perfect vehicles for gritty, grainy images, and face-distorting lighting.
After 11 grueling minutes of Internet research, the dormant cub reporter in me was intrigued to find out that there is actually a backstory to the hipstamatic craze. (I will call it a craze, because I am currently very interested in it, though I don’t actually have any research to back up its popularity. Apparently, I am currently not that thorough of a cub reporter.) There is even a touch of controversy and a hint of burgeoning urban legend. Suppooooosedly, two brothers manufactured a handful of all-plastic hipstamatic cameras in 1982, that were inspired by Kodak’s instamatic cameras. The brothers were tragically killed in a car accident a short time later, and nearly all of their photos were lost in a housefire in the early 90’s. The story goes that a third surviving brother strives to continue Hipstamatic photography to cement his brothers’ legacies and further the artform that they loved. However, conspiracy theorists boasting more than 11 minutes of Internet research claim that no such story can be substantiated, and that it is a clever marketing ploy designed specifically for suckers like me, and kids being ironic.
Whatever the story, I love these ridiculous pictures. 1980’s flash does wonders for my vintage skin.
Three of the four photos above are from my camera. The other one is legit. (Hint: my mom’s pants are also legit.) The one with the female humans (girls? ladies? moms? women? that’s a whole different issue) is me and my friend Megan (she’s the adorable pixie on the right). We’re waiting for the fountains at the Bellagio entertaining ourselves while our husbands rolled their eyes. Again.