The Hipstamatic camera iPhone app was one of the most well reviewed & most downloaded iPhone apps of 2010.
Becoming the cool app of choice the Hipstamatic lets an iPhone camera create square Polaroid style images soaked in over saturated colours, washes, blurs and other suchlike effects. All producing a treasure trove of photos more akin to an attic shoebox of 1970′s holiday snaps than modern digital images.
A similar retro style has been utilised by bands such as Kings of Leon and The Vaccines. The Hipstamatic received arguably its biggest stamp of approval when the Damon Albarn, used the look for photos that accompanied each individual song on his Gorrillaz iPad recorded album ‘The Fall’ released as a free fan download on Christmas Day.
Even more notably the app was also used by New York Times photographer Damon Winter to document the day-to-day lives of US soldiers in northern Afghanistan. In reaching for his iPhone rather than his full professional kit Winter succeeded in producing a body of work that physically and emotionally illustrated the war in a new way. Classic square format compositions combined with Hipstamatic effects seemed to ¬†portray a conflict and a landscape in limbo between past and present.
On a less serious note, the Hipstamatic app also comes with it’s own retro history myth. Its developers Ryan Dorshorst and Lucas Buick claiming it came about as a tribute to long lost cottage industry camera enthusiasts Bruce and Winston Dorbowski who in the early 1980′s holed up in a Wisconsin cabin developing new cheap plastic cameras with interchangeable lenses. With just 157 prototypes made they were both killed in a road accident, their legacy kept alive by a reclusive younger brother until Dorshorst and Buick came calling.
Like the Hipstamtic images themselves the story is not a little blurry but as a viral marketing ploy it’s added some entertaining hipster hoaxing that Joaquin Phoenix could learn from. The myth then took on a myth of it’s own when it was claimed that Dorshorst and Buick weren’t real either…
Either way the Hipstamatic app fits with both our incessant demand for speed, convenience and novelty with a hankering after something tangible and personal. There has always been a lingering fear amongst some photography enthusiasts that digital would destroy the nostalgia that good film photography inherently carried. If so the Histamtic app is perhaps the perfect resolution.
The Orange Dot Gallery in London brought Hipstamatic photography out of the online world by hosting a full exhibition of Hipstamatic based photos. Showcasing 157 prints (as a nod to the Dorbowski brothers story) at their Bloomsbury space.
Post by Tim Kerr (Head of Photography @ TNR Communications)