Instant nostalgia – why we love the look and feel of lo-fi images

Adelphi Hotel, Melbourneimage ⓒ SWS

I absolutely love the look and feel of lo-fi images. And given the popularity of smartphone photography apps and the photo sharing program Instagram, it’s obvious I’m not alone…

There’s a plethora of both free and affordable smartphone photo apps out there, so if you’re keen to give them a go, you’ll have plenty to choose from!

In fact, I suspect I just might be addicted to downloading photography apps! They’re lots of fun and certainly help to bring out your creative side, with a wide choice of funky filters to transform your straight images into an almost countless range of potential new looks.

Some of the apps I enjoy using include Camera+, PhotoStudio, Hipstamatic, Lo-Mob, PhotoToaster, and Instagram.

The above image is one of my recent iPhone shots – below are some more images which incorporate a range of different app effects

No more cake

Eureka Tower Bee, Melbourne

Midlands sky

Cumulus, Melbourne

Theatre Royal, Hobart

Shoebox Cafe, Hobart

Bass Strait

Pigeon Hole Cafe

Melbourne skyscape

Last light

Macquarie Street Foodstore


Henry Jones IXL

Post-snooze napall images ⓒ SWS

What do you think – any of these happen to capture your fancy?

Ian Crouch makes some interesting observations about our love for instant nostalgia in this excerpt from his recent New Yorker article…

“Much has been made of the connection between Instagram and the generalized hipster sensibility, which places a premium value on the old, the artisanal, and the idiosyncratic. But Instagram taps a fetishization of the past that is more universal. In “On Photography,” Susan Sontag writes,

It is a nostalgic time right now, and photographs actively promote nostalgia. Photography is an elegiac art, a twilight art. Most subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched with pathos. An ugly or grotesque subject may be moving because it has been dignified by the attention of the photographer. A beautiful subject can be the object of rueful feelings, because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists. All photographs are momento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.

Instagram’s “most popular” feed is filled with sunsets, over cities and beaches and points in between. It might be said, though, that all Instagrammed photos emphasize photography as an elegiac or twilight art, one that rushes and fakes the emotion of old photographs by cutting out the wait for history entirely, and giving something just a few seconds old the texture of time. We are creating a kind of instant nostalgia for moments that never quite were.”

You can read more of Ian’s article here.

Are you into images that create a kind of instant nostalgia for moments that never quite were? Do tell – share your thoughts!

4 thoughts on “Instant nostalgia – why we love the look and feel of lo-fi images

  1. I can appreciate the appeal of nostalgiaesque photography though. Elieve them to be ‘instant’ lies. If everythng has a time then its value is in the time in whi h it lived. Photography imprisons those moments like an ient flies in resin. Altering perception of a things time in the place of things is to devalue the objects or events of that actual time. They say “ never lies”,but that too ihas become nostalgic for modern cameras are felonious perjurers, speakers of mistruths, duplicitous conspirators in our self -deceptions. Those times we crave will never return. We must surrender to our own reality as grey and. Har terless as it is and record it as truthfully as we are able.

    • Thank you for your considered response, Phil. As I suspect you’d agree, it can be said that cameras have *always* been speakers of mistruths. Ultimately all photographic images – past and present – are constructions, results of a wide range of authorial choices by the photographer, including what features within and what is left out of the frame.

      Postmodernism has been characterised by a strong preoccupation with the past, and I think we can see this reflected today in the current fascination and enthusiasm for lo-fi nostalgic effects in photography. I for one am really drawn to them – probably in no small part due to the fact that I find the relationship between photography and memory really intriguing. Nonetheless, I can see your point and thank you once again for taking the time to read my post and provide your impressions!


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