Authenticity – the Analogue photography difference

Authenticity – the Analogue photography difference

Analogue photographs deliver an authenticity that digital photographs just can’t.

It’s hard to pin down the attributes of authenticity - but you know it when you see it. When an actor feigns emotion, even when it is performed perfectly, it is tinged with the exaggeration and theatrical nuance necessary for an audience in a theatrical setting. It’s skilled, it’s appropriate and it works. But the tears or the temper would never be mistaken for authentic emotion.

No one would suggest that genuine distress was in anyway “better” than an expertly staged performance. It’s just that one is authentic, the other is not 

Which of these is better? A digital recording of a musician played on a digital device? An analogue recording reproduced on vinyl? Or a live concert? And which is the most authentic musical experience?

35 mm film

I’m in no doubt. Despite the imperfect acoustics of the venue, despite the crowd noise that renders the acoustics irrelevant. Despite the fact that the instruments are a touch out of tune and despite there being no opportunity for a second take, the live music is the most authentic.

You could refine the experience – have the performance in an acoustically optimised environment, remove the crowd, autotune the music using software. The more you refine it the closer to perfect it becomes and the more you degrade its authenticity.

It doesn’t follow that because modern digital cameras are more advanced that analogue cameras, they are better. They can certainly get you closer to perfection, but they can also lose you authenticity when authenticity counts.

A whisky bottle illuminated with an array of expensive studio lights with a shiny gold card propped up and hidden behind it to give the lighting a final finesse produces a stunning image suitable for the back page of a glossy magazine. It’s perfect but no one would say that it has any authenticity. It’s not meant to have any. It’s meant to sell whisky.

There’s nothing about an analogue picture that cannot be reproduced faithfully with a digital camera some will tell you. And technically, they’re right. But that doesn’t make the two equivalent. A polaroid snap captures a moment in time that can never be reproduced. One is not better than the other – they are different – but the polaroid is somehow more authentic than a digital image that has been selected as the best one from the dozens that were taken of the same event and tweaked in post with a stock filter.

Back to blog