Section 1 of the survey tries to draw a picture of who the Nordic analog photographer is. For the purpose of this article I will mostly be dealing with the Nordic results as a whole. Although the number of responses from the different countries varied greatly, the answers generally show the same patterns. And I believe the varying numbers of replies from different countries have more to do with the distribution of the survey than how many analog photographers there are.
So who are the Nordic analog photographers? Looking at the numbers it quickly becomes clear that you didn’t have to grow up with analog photography to use it today, with about half of the respondents being 34 years or younger. About 10% weren’t even born when digital cameras rushed in to take over in the early 2000s. Even though we can be great photographers from an early age, I think the knowledge and patience required to learn to use analog cameras rules out a lot of children and young people. It might be surprising to some that the vast majority of analog photographers aren’t retired or still in school, they are likely to be students or working (age 21-65). Perhaps this is a result of people with busy lives wanting a slow paced, creative hobby that they can donate as much time to as they wish. At times in my life I have certainly neglected my film cameras for months before picking them up again when I’ve had more time on my hands. There is no expiry date on the gear and film can be frozen, or you just get some when needed. A great hobby and meditative craft for busy people.
We asked people to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how much they identified with 4 different types of analog photographers; the collector, gear head, artist and newcomer. Shown in the pie chart are the proportion of people who identify a lot (4/5) or completely (5/5) with the different groups.
Although the collectors are slightly older and the artists and newcomers (naturally) are a bit younger, there is little difference in average age across the different types of analog photographers out there.
Almost half of all participants consider themselves artists, by far the biggest group. It could be that they are practicing artists or that they have an interest in analog photography for the visually organic and sometimes unpredictable expression it gives them. Although I was surprised by the big proportion of artists, this distribution of incentives that draw us to analog photography fits quite well with my own. Perhaps the combination of nostalgia, meditative rituals and organic visuals is what will always set analog photography apart from digital, and ensure its future. More on this in my article about the future of analog photography.
For a lot of young people buying or inheriting analog cameras it is essential to find and develop a network of people to learn from, share experiences with and to drive each other forward. We asked how many people do you know in real life with a fresh excitement for analog photography. From the results we see that most people know 5 or fewer, with about half knowing 3 or fewer. This casts a light on the paradox of the rise of analog photography in a digital age. With a niche interest like this we are in many cases completely dependent on the internet for knowledge. Especially in the Nordic countries where the population isn’t so large and more spread out, we have to turn to technology to learn how to load film, compensate for bellow extension, put a lens on a cocked Hasselblad and so on.
When asked how many analog cameras they own most people say 5 or less. Even that can sound like a lot, but consider how many cameras have been passed down from older relatives and how cheap a lot of old cameras have become. Also, I would argue that analog cameras have greater individual character and limitations than digital cameras, so you “need” more of them. I have countless cameras that I’ve been given or bought for next to nothing around Europe, but I have 3 that I actually use, all with their different strengths and weaknesses. I’m not lugging 10 kilograms of Sinar P around to shoot quick portraits, but for still life there is nothing like it.
It would be an interesting at a later point to investigate how many photographers actually use analog photography professionally, to make a living. This will also influence the future popularity of analog. Based on results from the survey, and on my personal experience and network, I would say very few. Of all the photographers and artists I know and know of, only a handful use film for work. They are extremely good at their craft and analog photography is a big part of their visual identity.