Counting down five big trends in photography 2011.

From Lana Del Rey’s Video Games music video that used grainy footage of starlets and skateboarders, to VW’s Golf Cabriolet advert, filmed in a sunny, retro home movie style, nostalgia was big in 2011. Nostalgia unites some of the big trends in photography this year; nostalgia for an old film aesthetic (indulged by apps like Hipstamatic, and instant cameras), and nostalgia for the past (Dear Photograph).

So let’s get nostalgic and look back with fondness at the big trends in photography this year. Each entry is accompanied by a choice article from the IMSO archive.


CREDIT: Richard Koci Hernandez

In 2011, more and more people were using their mobile phone as their primary camera – in fact the iPhone has become the most used camera on photography site Flickr.

iPhoneographers, or mobile photographers, use apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic that square the photo and allow the user to apply filters to make the image look like it was taken with an instant camera. These apps are part of a retro trend in photography, with once ‘accidental’ effects like chromatic aberration and vignetting now aesthetically desirable.

The first ever conference dedicated to mobile photography, 1197 (the first camera phone photo was taken on June 11th 1997), was held in San Francisco in October this year. IMSO spoke to Richard Koci Hernandez, an Emmy award winning visual journalist, who presented a workshop at the conference. He explained the appeal of iPhoneography. ‘I can in two ‘clicks’ shoot an image then share it instantaneously. That’s crazy! It’s like having a printing press and an audience in my pocket.’

The Archive: Q&A with Richard Koci Hernandez, iPhoneographer

Photos within photos

CREDIT: a user submitted Dear Photograph by ‘Gina’

A sensation in 2011, the website Dear Photograph asks readers to submit photos of old photos, held up against the original backdrop, and caption them with short letters to the original image. Like a portal or a window in time, the past comes alive.

Chevrolet used a near-identical technique for one of their adverts this year – albeit with a few more bells and whistles – and the founder of Dear Photograph felt he deserved some credit. At IMSO we argued that, although Dear Photograph had undeniably popularised the technique, they were by no means its originator (similar projects, like Sleeveface or Segrey Larenkov’s Ghosts of WWII, pre-date it).

The Archive: Photo Project Controversy Rumbles On (about the Dear Photograph/Chevy controversy)


CREDIT: Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck

Cinemagraphs are still photographs in which a small movement or action repeats endlessly. They are produced by taking a series of photographs or a video recording and, using image editing software, compositing the photographs or the video frames into an animated GIF.

With the best Cinemagraphs, movement or action is subtle, and isolated to just part of the frame – a spinning globe, a flickering candle, hair and grass tossed by a breeze. In a sense the technique recalls pre-cinema technology, like the Victorian Zoetrope, producing the illusion of action from a rapid succession of still images (and of course that is essentially what cinema is – 24 still frames a second).

Invented by photographers Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck in early 2011, Cinemagraphs have been hugely popular this year, with how-to guides popping up and lots of people having a go at their own. Companies and institutions, namely Citroen and University of Stirling, have been jumping on the bandwagon.

The Archive: The Animated GIF’s Cannes Moment (about GIF of Kirsten Dunst squirming next to Lars Von Trier)

Instant Cameras

CREDIT: Image Source

Part of the same retro trend as apps like Hipstamatic, the instant camera continues to make a comeback. In 2011 Fujifilm relaunched its Instax range of instant cameras, and three years after Polaroid discontinued its colour film, company Impossible Project (started with a small team of former Polaroid employees) brought out a new colour film for Polaroid cameras. Because the film was extra sensitive to light the company warned ‘poor shielding will … result in a strong pink or orange haze over the picture’. Pink or orange haze? That’s catnip to Polaroid lovers.

Simone Frignani, an Austrian who opened the Instant Film Shop in Berlin in 2009, sums up the appeal of instant cameras and Polaroids in particular: ‘the typical colours and formats of Polaroid shots (are what) make it special: silk, sepia, blue, charcoal. There’s also that very distinct clicking sound when you take the shot.’ That clicking sound has inspired a cult following. This year, Shutterlog (a collaboration between Mijonju and Cameron Lew) created a remix video from user-submitted footage of people clicking their analogue cameras.

The Archive: Instant Camera Prints on Receipt Paper

Return of realism

CREDIT: Image Source / Cultura RM

Earlier in the year we highlighted the return of realism in photography (in this interactive trend report The Art of the Real). The attributes of the new photographic realism include ‘imperfect’ framing (heads are often cropped out), washed out colours, no eye contact from the photograph’s subject, and extraneous life and detail. A good example of the trend is the documentary-style imagery of supermarket Sainsbury’s recent print campaign, featuring a father and son in seemingly unposed-for scenes. Perhaps realism sits better with consumers in hard times.

The cinematic equivalent of the return to realism is the backlash against CGI, and in advertising the popularity of lo-fi visual effects, like stop motion animation, that betray a human touch.

The Archive: Documentary Style for UK Supermarket

ISM (Image Source Monitor) is an Image Source research unit providing visual intelligence for our Art Directed shoots.

(Correction: the article originally stated that Polaroid brought out a new colour film this year, when in fact it was the Impossible Project. We apologise for the mistake and thank the guys at Impossible for setting us right).


Your download will start shortly, please do not navigate away from this page until the download prompt has appeared. Doing so may cause your download to be interrupted.