In Praise of Disposable Cameras

Arts_Photo_10_Amina Khan Photography


In a world full of disposable incomes, plastic bottles and morals, the disposable camera somehow stands for everything against that. The disposable camera, once a convenient shortcut, has become a languorous retreat into the preservation of memories.

Today, moments are lived in precisely what they are: the moment (or the closest we can come to it). Pictures are taken on a phone and instantly we can browse through the gallery, reliving a moment that has barely even passed.

Disposable cameras are liberating: you take pictures, but you can’t see them immediately. When you collect them after they’ve been developed a few weeks after the event, you’re the only one with them in your hands. And in this private moment, you feel a jolt of excitement when dim recollections are brought alive as you rifle through the photos. Only a few people saw these pictures.  The experience was separate from the photo. Now the photo is the experience.

For many, the function of taking photos is no longer to create memories but to somehow prove you had fun, prove you are beautiful – and to prove whoever it is wrong.

It has evolved into an act of defiance rather than one of documentation (which is fine, if a little self-destructive).  Stripping back the art of photography to its origins- film photography- reminds you of the journey that roll of film took. And it reminds you of your own.  How important is the pursuit of the perfect picture in the grand scheme of things? The response ‘not very’ is what springs to mind when I walk past a gaggle of teenage girls who are attempting to strike a flawless pose then looking visibly dismayed whilst surveying the disappointing results. I am not immune to these feelings and I’ve not met anyone who doesn’t have their insecurities, but it saddens me that belittling yourself so unflinchingly is so commonplace in society, especially amongst teenagers.

I realised how badly we are affected by this need for perfect documentation when I couldn’t sit and read a book under the sun dappled shade of a tree without feeling restless and thinking, this is so beautiful – I need a picture of it to show my mum, my friends or my sister.  Every moment has to be captured as if to prove that it existed. We are becoming afraid that we will forget and so we rush to record everything.

At the age of twenty, I have come to realise that it’s our perpetual connection to everything around us that causes so much anxiety. The disposable camera is a beacon of disconnection but it bonds us to our memories in a more meaningful way because it requires some work on our part rather than the high definition, high resolution pixels at the tips of our fingertips when we swipe at a screen. Yes, the pictures may come out a little blurry and a few may be marred by double exposure but life isn’t a series of pristine moments.

For the rest of the summer, try putting away your smartphones and your iPads – and make some memories that no one else knows about.

Photography credits to Amina Khan.

1 thought on “In Praise of Disposable Cameras

  1. Very nicely said. After learning photography as a youth using 35mm cameras (I’m much older than you), I became swept up in the digital revolution, like many others, and I’m still an avid user of digital cameras today. But in the lasts few years, I’ve migrated back to film. I inherited my father’s Pentax Spotmatic, a wonderfully basic, yet very capable, 35mm camera. I’ve since purchased several other old bodies and various lenses. Very recently I’ve started shooting with disposable cameras, which is about as basic as it gets. I love it.

    All this to say, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your entry. Film most certainly is not dead.

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