“Nostalgia is powerful, and it can trigger memories and feelings,” said London-based photographer Jamie Windsor, in his video above. I’m sure we can all agree to that. After all, there are so many poignant photography projects out there that can attest to this. The continuing film photography resurgence also remains a firm evidence.
However, he also warns that it’s “selective with what it remembers, and the response is subjective to the person experiencing it.” I also personally think that it’s easy to fall into the trap of making it all about the retro aesthetic because that’s what’s stylish or popular at the moment, even in photography. I see it all the time both with film photographers and those who give their digital photos the so-called “film look.”
As a film photographer myself, I think that we can all learn from the points Windsor raised in his quick but insightful video. So, if you’re keen on using nostalgia for your next work, here’s a brief recap on how to use it effectively.
Don’t simply emulate iconic photographers’ style.
Regardless of the genre we’re doing, I’m sure that most of us turn to iconic photographers for inspiration. There are probably one or two who have deeply influenced our work, style and mindset as photographers. I can see how we can often be tempted to emulate their style so we can feel happy and proud about our work.
However, don’t fall into the trap of copying an iconic photographer’s shot simply because it’s recognizable, nostalgic or tried and tested. As Windsor noted, “there’s a vast difference between inspiration and imitation.” These photographers rose to legendary status because they were able to craft their own visual and narrative style. Take the time to develop yours.
Embrace the new
As Windsor pointed out, making something new expands our knowledge of what photography can be. This makes new approaches, techniques and perspectives look and feel more authentic.
If you have to absolutely want to explore nostalgia, think about the new ways you can use it to add impact to your work. How can you use the elements that bring about nostalgia to create emotive stories about today? How can you combine it with new or experimental approaches to make a style that is truly yours?
You can also take note at how Fujifilm mirrorless cameras come with the retro designs of vintage cameras but also have all the bells and whistles of tools that meet the technical demands of photographers today.
Create a solid narrative and build on it.
“Style without substance creates work that fades from memory pretty quickly,” Windsor warned in his video. This is true for all styles, themes and genres in photography.
Always make it a point to ask yourself, what is your message? What story are you trying to tell? Work on crafting a solid narrative first, then build it up with nostalgic elements if it serves your story or message well. Don’t just go for retro aesthetics and nostalgia because it’s trendy.
Liked these tips? Don’t forget to check out Jamie Windsor’s YouTube channel for more of his insightful photography tips and tricks.
Screenshot images from the video