Reject Modernity, Embrace Tradition: The Value of Vintage

Illustration by Zoey Jia

Alyssa Long

Art Director & Creative Director

Millennials and Generation Z are commonly known as generations of digital natives, meaning they grew up consuming media through pixels on a screen. Older generations, as they begrudgingly adopt new technologies, often insist that we are lazy and dependent on instant gratification. So why is it that there are thousands of popular TikTok accounts teaching kids how to shoot on a film camera? And why would a record player be a best-selling item at Urban Outfitters?

While it is true that I am dependent on the internet — and quite lazy at times — I do not always crave speed and efficiency in every facet of my life. Sometimes, I want to take crappy film photos on a camera without a screen and be excited to receive an envelope of grainy memories two weeks later. 

Young adults do, indeed, have far too much screen time, but that is how we do school work, take up remote internships in a pandemic, and stay social. As digital natives, we do not have a choice but to stay up-to-date with the latest digital means of streamlining our lives. It’s all we know, and it can be exhausting. By filling a disposable camera, or by putting a record on, we choose to break up the monotony of our online lives in favor of analog creativity. These actions are outdated, but we return to them as an escape from instant gratification. 

Undergoing a physical process to listen to music, develop photos, read a book, or write a letter forces us to be creative with intention, to actively take up space and use more of our senses to create and consume media. Analog methods of creativity simply feel more like living than using the same digital screens we check our emails and go to Zoom lectures with.

Of course, without our phones and computers, we wouldn’t have the power and privilege of efficient creativity. Our devices save us precious time with apps that can shoot, edit, and share photos in seconds. We have nearly infinite access to digital content and a world of information all at our fingertips. They also allow us to create intangible photos and documents, freeing up physical deskspace.

“Undergoing a physical process to listen to music, develop photos, read a book, or write a letter forces us to be creative with intention…”

Still, the world feels too fast sometimes. Reclaiming antiquated ways of doing things is a way to enjoy the process rather than solely caring about the results, and experiences are valuable in and of themselves. Our devices demand our attention for every type of media we consume — from music streaming services to e-books — but allowing the same screens to hold your attention for every form of media is a choice.

Photography has especially seen a resurging interest in analog formats, not because it is necessary, but because it is a delightful experience. Physical objects store memories. Throwing away a photo feels like more of a loss than deleting a photo from a device, the same way that deleting an email is easier than throwing away a handwritten note.

The process of taking photos on a film camera is also a refreshing way to break from the perfectionistic environment of social media. The format makes it impossible to take hundreds of photos just to post one of them, and it forces you to accept what your camera sees as reality. You cannot Facetune it, just like you cannot Facetune a memory. 

In America, we are taught that time is money and efficiency is the key to happiness. Digital media is the most efficient form of creation and consumption, but that doesn’t mean it is always the best. Next time you feel trapped by your laptop screen, put those capitalistic ideas aside and remember that you can reclaim your hobbies from the digital realm. There is a beautiful, tangible, creative world out there that wants you to slow down and take a deep breath.