Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Lifestyle / People

A digital mindset still nurtures analog longings

By Owen Fishwick | China Daily | Updated: 2022-06-28 06:30
Share - WeChat

Most of us are familiar with the facets and foibles of the generations and the basic differences among them, from the self-centered, social media obsessed Gen Z and their gift for being able to take offense at everything, to the baby boomers-the last generation able to purchase property without having to chop off a limb or two to cover the deposit.

Owen Fishwick [Photo/China Daily]

But unlike those labored stereotypes, I'm unique. Aren't we all? I'm a "xennial". What, you ask? Indeed. A "xennial" is a cross over or micro-generation. "Xennials", born between the late 1970s and early 1980s grew up with an analog childhood and a digital young adulthood.

And being labeled among this group, forever split between the old world and the new, I am a walking dichotomy.

I enjoy the wearing of a smart watch from time to time, but I'll be damned if I will allow it to suggest to me mid-jog: "It appears you've gone for a run, would you like me to record it for you?" No, I would not, thank you. I'm sure when I trundle out of bed the following morning and make my way to the bathroom as if I were auditioning for the hunchback of Notre Dame, I'll remember.

I am always fitted with the latest smart phone, but I'll also be damned if I'll use all the high-tech bells and whistles and glitter and baubles that it comes stuffed with. I'd be perfectly happy with a nice chunk of Nokia 3210, and the snake mini-game as my only luxury. That is, until I need to hire a taxi, order some food or pay for literally anything, anywhere.

And I'm the same with regard to photography. To some extent. When I started university studying journalism and photomedia everything was film. The students could be seen snapping away with their Ricoh KR-5s and Nikon F80s, all while stinking of developing fluid. A few short years later the stink was gone, sadly, and the students were running around with USBs in their hands instead of lightmeters and talking about something called "mega pixies"?

After digital came in I fell out of love with photography. I loved the labor required to produce a photograph with film. The taking of the light reading, the setting of the aperture and shutter speed, the choice of film speed and stock.


Is it a good photo?

Who knows, but the process has only just begun. Next you need to take the film out, thread it onto a spindle and load that spindle into a developing canister.

Can I see it yet?


Then you need to make decisions about at what temperature you want your developer to be and how long and vigorous you want to agitate the canister. Then stop bath, then fixer.

Surely we are done now?

Not quite.

After the film is developed then we need to take the negatives and head to the enlarging room.

OK, stop. If this had been digital, we'd have taken and previewed, deleted and retaken a million photos by now.

And that is the point. Digital photography removes the suspense, the anticipation, the danger from the entire process. You can always just preview, delete and retake a photo at the scene. I want the risk of ruined family holiday snaps, damn it!

And now I return to the "xennial "in me. I recently bought a camera. A modern camera. A modern digital camera that crucially also can be operated as if it were just one of those old Ricoh KR-5s, with the clicking aperture ring, the shutter wheel, the manual focus.

The camera has a display on the back, but I choose not to use it. I can preview my images, but I don't. It has rekindled my passion for photography and reawakened a joy of an analog childhood.

And after all, what is a photograph but a document of the past.

I descend on a moonlit hutong. A thin shaft of incandescent light falls to the floor at my feet.


Scene captured. I'm on a case. Slow tumbling jazz begins to flow from some dive bar in the distance.

Most Popular
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349