As younger generations are pedaled to a virtual life, older forms of technology are coming back. This begs the question, will humans fully stray from their analog roots?
These days, it's common to witness high school and college-aged individuals rummaging through vintage shops or eBay, where they gravitate towards grainy digital point-and-shoots and even Nokia flip phones over relevant iPhones. Likewise, the New York Times highlights The Hottest Gen Z Gadget is a 20 year Old Digital Camera suggesting we may be in with the old and out with the new.
At Overall Murals, my role as the Visuals Manager involves multiple hours on the busy city streets of New York. During the week, you can find me photographing our murals in Brooklyn and Manhattan, where I can't help but notice Gen Z and Millennial-aged New Yorkers taking out old-school cameras to snap a shot of their friends' outfits or capture lo-fi photos of classic SoHo side streets and even our murals.
I’m guilty of packing my old cameras to take with me to photograph our paint team hand painting large-scale ads for our clients. There's more of a connection when I start shooting with my little Pentax camera instead of the latest Canon DSLR. The analog approach slows my photographing process and demands that I pay attention to every detail of the hand painting process that would otherwise get lost when I have unlimited frames to fire off with a 1TB SD card.
The return of older photography methods is a similar life cycle in how hand painted advertising has risen in the last five years.
Many people believe hand painted outdoor advertising is a new concept. But it's an age-old tradition that has reemerged in the last ten years. In fact, my late grandfather made his living as a billboard painter from the late 60s to the early 90s. I don't think he could have ever predicted his grandson would be working in a thriving industry of hand painted mural advertising 30 years after he hung up his brushes in 1993.
It was the rise of vinyl advertising that eventually made his job obsolete.
Today, as Overall Murals goes into its 13th year, we are happy to be part of a movement where a practice we thought was once dead is now alive and thriving. Due to the rise in social media, people see the value in our unique product and process that connects with the audience on a human level over the new-age vinyl and digital billboard. Passerby's witness the ad painted by talented artists and can appreciate and admire the final product with this extra context.
To be clear, this isn't a stand against advanced technologies; both can and should coexist. I couldn't imagine living without our iPhones, the "swiss army knife" of our time. But it is no secret that most society craves a break from our hyper-digitized lives. I believe this same sense of "slowing down" is connected to the trends of old gadgets iGen prefers, a generation who may not remember a time when their lives weren't completely pixelated.
Maybe our future will look more familiar than we think.