Modern Photography can still be Nostalgic.

Nostalgia is part of Americana and the history of who we are and where we are going. We have embraced the sense of nostalgia in photographs, film and life itself. Sometimes without even knowing why. We simply know it makes us feel a warmth and seems to create a feeling of euphoria. This feeling of nostalgia is not exclusive to America, it is a global and cultural experience. It is visual and it is emotional. It may be referred to as vintage, old, or retro, however I think nostalgia is something different.

We have witnessed the changes and followed as photographic capture has changed from film photography to digital photos. The art of capturing a photo has changed, however that has only added to the need to capture and love nostalgia even more. And that is only in our lives. People and nostalgia are connected to world events and creation. There seems to be so much more to understand when it comes to how and why nostalgia even exists, let alone how it fits within modern photography.

People may ask, "What camera do you use?", thinking this is some magical tool that will capture something better than the previous technology. This is never the case, as great images are destined to become part of nostalgia and folklore no matter the camera or device. Whether you choose to use a Canon, Nikon or any other brand, does not make a difference with the exception that the brand itself could become part of nostalgia.


To understand the connection of modern photography to nostalgia we must first look at how art itself connects to nostalgia. Our answers for today lay within the rich tapestry of art that connects photography to past create and the evolutions of thought and technique. Why was there ever even a need to create?

There was a time in man's past, the world of art was condensed into knowledge and availability. The artists were influenced by the era and circumstance they were born into. The inquisitive nature of mankind leads artists to an incredible journey of visual discovery and invention. This article is most certainly a very condensed version of art history, however it is more to the point of the evolution of art and its effect on how nostalgia connects with different forms of photography today.

In my opinion, there is not one golden age of art that leads to the beginning of nostalgia or photography. Anything nostalgic is a collective result of the passage of time combined with human creation, culture and the human experience. Generation after generation will continue to appreciate and connect with nostalgia as it is what connects us all.

Even if someone says they do not like anything nostalgic, does not mean they are not connected to it. They may not have memory or knowledge of nostalgia, however is rather inconsequential in the scope of the topic at hand.  The threads run long and deep when speaking in the context of culture, the past, art and nostalgia. It is not as simple as looking at nostalgia as "the good old days" and saying "I just do not get it".

We all feel nostalgia in one way or another and connect to it one way or another depending on how it is perceived and or presented to us. You do not have to think you like or do not like nostalgia to be connected. You are connected whether you like it or not. Nostalgia is our past, all of our past. You cannot opt out of the past. There are deep lessons that lay exposed from our past and nostalgia is there as a reminder and guide to our future. Whether we choose to look, listen or comprehend is up for question.

Our connection to the past and nostalgia itself, could be described as the threads that link images and art created over the span of mankind. It is more than what is vintage, imagined or realistically present at any given time. It is the sum total of all. It is the gestalt of mankind if you will.  This leads us to ask ourselves what was it that rose up to define the steps in time as mankind evolved.


This of the many discoveries that share a glimpse into our past. The vast majority was created by an artist, designer, craftsman, architect. Centuries ago, quite often an engineer or engineering would have been involved when creating systems and buildings. Creativity and creation is at the heart of most discoveries. The role artifacts play is imperative when learning about mankind.

Photography and design both are very influential in the documentation and creation of history. In the process much discovery happens. Both the creations and the discovery are a part of the evolution of nostalgia. When something is either created or documented that brings warmth and happiness. The images that come to people's mind and the emotions they provide would make an individual feel nostalgic.

Think of all of the good things that are part of  your own personal past. If they make you feel warm and happy, you are feeling nostalgic about your past and life. But that does not necessarily mean what you are thinking of is part of the greater nostalgia of the nation or world.


We have concluded that photography and design are both connected and in some cases part of nostalgia on a global scale. They are that global media, if you will, that connects people with one common warm fuzzy feeling. Some items, products or characters stand out in nostalgia.

An example of this is Santa Claus. There is a reason why photographers and manufacturers world wide continue to create with Santa. Santa has become embedded in the folklore of people in multiple countries. Whether he is portrayed as vintage, retro or modern, Santa is accepted by all people, young, old, male of female. This is why you will not only see Santa featured in photos, but also in film and live in modern times. Santa has crossed the bridge of culture, people, time, race and geography. That is no easy feat.

Santa is worthy of photography and is more connected in the minds of people than almost all characters. He has all of the qualities of global connection and went viral before there was an internet to do so. Again...this is no easy feat and definitely puts Santa firmly in the Nostalgia zone. Because Santa brings warm memories of love, giving and joy to all ages and genders, he will forever be connected to folklore and nostalgia. 

Images have been made of Santa since his inception. Photographers have created pictures and offered photos of Santa in family photo albums for decades. These are more than just pictures. These photos connect families to folklore in a loving and happy way. It is the same wherever Santa is connected to society. The photographic impact of Santa shows the power of the camera and the deep loving connection Santa and photos of Santa has in the general populous around the globe.

There is a sense of joy that comes with these happy photographs and the memories they leave in their wake. This is not about style as Santa has remained Santa for a very long time. It is about how Santa connects with society and each person personally. The camera and photographer have only cemented the image of Santa in people's minds.

The photography and images created enhance the nostalgic picture in one's mind. These photo memories will live well into our future. You will find future generations gazing at Santa photos of old with a smile on their face and a sense of wonder. Think of all of the cameras used to capture such photos. Santa has advanced through film photos, digital photographs and many other modern media. The future of Santa with respect to nostalgia still looks very bright. I get the sense that Santa, especially with social media such as Facebook and Instagram, will keep the Santa photos flowing.

And you will not find a more loved character to have in your fine art. When done with nostalgia in mind and create a piece that exudes this joy and love, it will be photography worth framing. Or of course Santa could be featured in poetic photo children's books that most certainly will become nostalgia over time. Becoming a family heirloom created through the lens of the camera is a powerful first step on this journey. This step towards nostalgia is part of the book or photographs value. 


All that is nostalgic is part of history. Would there even be nostalgia without images that tell stories from our past. Would they be nostalgia without the collective creative minds working and inventing from century to century? The images we study through the discovery of artifacts become a window to life from the past. The past shares it's shapes, composition, stories, technologies and abilities. It all surfaces to present a story and world from our collective past.

Today, the image we have of nostalgia or all things nostalgic, seem to go back to the 1900's. Further back than that, we tend to stop and think about art or images as history and not nostalgia. We shift into paintings and sculptures and architecture. They are more historic things in our mind.

Make no mistake, a historic painting, object or a sculpted moment in time are still connected to nostalgia and the images from modern society today will become part of history. Even a painting or photography from today created with digital media will one day be a nostalgic part of the past.

The world will collectively select, from culture to culture, what is important and will last the test of time. Will the internet or a website become part of nostalgia? It is possible. What will be important and seen through society's lens? What filters will apply to leaving certain creations or moments from the past behind to disappear?  Each era and age will have a style, or a trend, subject or family that will stand out and define something that connects.

And there will be an artist and photographer there to capture those photographic memories of life from that time and culture. As with all memories, they will become old, but whether they become part of the collective nostalgia, will never be determined by the photographer or artist. All is part of history, but only certain photographic aspects of life and world events will be discussed in the context of nostalgia.


Photography is part of the evolution of art and creation. It is simply another tool for artists to use in the act of creation. Thus, photography is art and art is photography. This also applies to digital and creative software. Although this strangely seems to be a subject of controversy, it is clear that these are all tools made by humans to create art. Cameras fall into this category, just as paint and clay.

The artist creates either a visual image from imagination or a visual image of a moment in time. It is either imaginative or real. From century to century images artists have created have been directly affected by the cultural influence and moments, people and objects that identified particular generations. Sometimes artists would even focus on the capture of everyday life itself.

Mankind is forever inventing. He was given a mind with the ability to question and innovate. Although one may feel the invention of the camera and photography was inevitable, there was much effort, creativity, engineering, design and development that went into even the very first camera.

As with the invention of most things, there was a great history from the past that led to the discovery. In many cases necessity is the mother of invention. This saying stands the test of time. In some respects, artists and painters paved the way for the creation of the camera and film. I have read many articles about how painters despised the invention and felt it as cheating artistic world. The reality is that photography is and was in the past, a continuation and extension of creativity.


To have such a creative tool as a camera, required a beautiful blend of technology and creativity. Few times in the history of mankind was there ever a greater technological connection from a genres past that with photography.

The moment in time when the camera was invented, was the moment when the photographer and photography was born. There was a time that cameras were looked at as a magic box. The photographer held a prestige within a community as much as a doctor or lawyer. Photographers captured family moments and style. They defined an era through their knowledge of their cameras.

Cameras of old were complex and required deep understanding of light and technical functionality before a photograph could come to life. Sometimes the good old days are not as good as one might think. Cameras were expensive, large and heavy. Just the film to create a photo was large. They were so unusual and so shrouded in mystery the camera itself became part of nostalgia.

The past was not really the wild west of photography as it is today. Then the creation of photography required study, knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge at precisely the correct time. The photographer needed knowledge of posing, lighting and composition. Each image was very exacting. The cameras were large and intimidating to the public. They were not anything like digital cameras of today. But they did produce beautiful photography and the photos were appreciated. The photographs were actually marveled at by all.  


Images of people, young and old, became fashionable. Prior to photography a family could not record a personal image of themselves. They could not capture their style and tell their story. It would have been lost over the span of time. It was not that long ago, when a family could not be photographed. Each generation from that point forward could be recorded.

The photographs produced by early cameras may not last long, however these pictures were real. You could hold the photo in your hand or hang a family photo on the wall. To have a photograph created where you could see an image of you and your family must have been magical. The image would have been a miracle. When I see pictures from that era, I connect to nostalgia, style, people and life.

As important as the individual photographs were and are to a family, it is the sum total of all the photographs that assist in the creation of all things nostalgic. Digital photographs and social media in modern times will only enhance nostalgia. Many think nostalgic things are going away. The reality is quite the opposite as more and more photographs will be created. Photos are the fuel for nostalgia and now with Facebook and Instagram the fire that is nostalgia will grow even more. 

A picture is much more than just a picture in the eyes of the global community. When a picture depicts something, someone or an event that connects with all, the seed to nostalgia is planted. Picture the things in your memory that when mentioned, others immediately connect too. Try it...just ask someone to tell you their favorite vintage Santa story. They will feel nostalgic in a heartbeat and picture a moment from their childhood or family photo albums.


There would have been no way folks from that generation could have seen the path that photographers would embark upon. How could they have predicted the future of photography and how photos would impact the world and nostalgia? And who would have predicted social media and the effect of a photograph on that media? Photography and a camera would be in everyone's pocket.

Film becoming a thing of the past would have been thought absurd. Would they have known the power of a photograph when connecting with all things nostalgic? Understanding how photography would impact families and the global populous via social media would also have been unfathomable. At that point in time, the photograph itself was magic and film was something that only the photographer understood. The image was simply put, pure magic. A picture from the past might as well have been gold.

In some cases, the picture did become gold. Film may have gone away but image making only got stronger. Where photography would go in just a short years would have been unimaginable. For past generations, having a portrait image created by a photographer was considered a luxury. A photographer was part creator, part technician and part wizard. Photography was misunderstood by the masses, disliked by the creative community and loved by those who could afford it.  

The photographers at the time did not fully understand the importance of their images. Photographers created with their cameras to preserve people's memories. The photographic trade was noble and exciting. It was a revolution and set wheels into motion that would lead to the development of the internet. This started with the innovation of photography and the telephone. The importance of photography cannot be understated.

When you look at photography in the context of nostalgia, it is obvious that the photographs and images created provide a visual reference to culture and the world. These pictures are a look into our past and lessons for our future. When they say a picture speaks a thousand words, they are accurate. The photograph will speak to us. It tells a story and stories have emotion. These are core threads when describing nostalgia.

In the past, photographers and their cameras must have seemed like something from the future, however it was a new beginning for a future filled with the ability to create. Photography would change the future of creation. The images created one photograph at a time by photographers would change the world we live in today. The future via photography would slowly unveil not only the memory of the people, but nostalgia itself.


The sheer volume of photographers grew and the volume of images created also grew exponentially. Memories could be preserved and would live on for decades if not centuries. This created a new modern society. The family photo and all things photographic became and still are priceless. Photo albums grace most homes now and will continue to in the future. What was old is still new and very personal even in today's modern society.

To look back upon our photographic past and see the photography industry explosion that was going to happen could not be foreseen. It was recognized that the invention of the camera was going to be an amazing new addition to communities, however with the negative view of an artist, it would take time before it really gained status as an industry.

The photographic industry was and is alive and well today. The future of photography is bright and ever changing. Photography is still a media darling and the more images are seen on social media the more nostalgia will carry forward with it.

The modern way of viewing images may be convenient however there will never be anything like a printed and beautifully displayed image. Film or digital, the printed image is grand. The photography becomes a tangible piece. It now goes from nostalgia to nostalgic. We have been blessed with photography and all it has done for society. Photography the memory of our past is safe in these modern times and nostalgia will continue its journey whether we like it or not.


The industry moved forward with innovations in film and camera equipment. The caliber of photographs was improving and there were more photographers being trained. All the while, millions of images were being created. Pictures were showing up everywhere. The photograph had become commonplace, however quality of any kind could only be created by a photographer.

This innovation in camera equipment and film quality only proved to capture more of the emotion and essence of that present moment in time. Photographers, through their photographs, captured the sense and feel of an era. It was not about the future to the photographer, it was about capturing the present. They were preserving memories and photography was providing food for nostalgia.

The photos themselves may not in some cases be seen as nostalgia. Moreover photographs are like the advertising of what is to become nostalgic. Photos play a vital role in getting cultural details to the general public to make a "herd decision" of what is important from their time. These old photos of long ago, shot at a specific moment, tell the stories of styles, trends and humanity of the time.  

Whether a commercial or portrait photographer, an object or objects from that time frame would be captured within the photo. This provided style and technology reference to the world as well.  This collective marketing could be referred to as the information highway of the past.

The search for information is not owned by the era of the internet and photographs provided that sharing of what others did not know or had seen. Think of a National Geographic magazine from years ago. The pictures led the viewer on a journey of discovery.


The process of something or someone becoming part of folklore or nostalgia is a matter of what is known and loved by many. Perhaps this is why nostalgia is loved by so many even today. Nostalgia cannot be created by any one person, rich or poor. One cannot deem something to be nostalgic. This would actually tend to push it away from nostalgia.

Society creates nostalgia. It is a fond or happy feeling that one gets by looking at or experiencing something. In short, nostalgia creates happiness. Great photography sticks in the minds of people. The subject matter and the importance of the image depends on how it touches the viewer. Photography only needs to touch a person's memory from the past and make they feel good for it to also touch nostalgia. Few things can do this better than a good film or image.


Centuries ago, images and designs would be lost due to time and poor quality tools, means or quality materials. The choice of medium is not as prolific as it is in today's course of creation. Cultural influence from century to century also played a huge role in nostalgia. It was almost as though there was a predestined course of action that is leading to the birth of photography so it could take its place in art.


Years ago, there was an artist who looked for a better or different way to convey their ideas or story. It may have been a cultural message or a story about their family. They tried many objects during their search to create their visual interpretation of the images within their mind. Artists must get those images out, or they go mad.

These people did not have a camera or film to work with. They could not simply go to the store for perfect paint or brushes. They could not just point a camera and capture a photograph. The photographer was far from being even within human comprehension. Yet the creation of images by artists not only happened, it flourished. 

The image in my mind of the artist from centuries ago, discovering a way to create an image that had vibrancy and permanence, fascinates me. Can you imagine having the ability to go back in time with a camera and create photographs of the beginning of image creation?

But how does this connect to nostalgia today? It does in such a huge way. Social media will tell many tales over the coming decades. As it shifts and changes, so will the use of the image from a camera. The past is surely to still connect to all people and nostalgia will forever warm people's hearts. The things and people that connect all people will be shown more through image making, no matter what form it takes.


Time will continually march on and the images we make may or may not gain a vast importance. It is and will continue to be the people of the world who make decisions on such matters as nostalgia. This is unknowingly and subconsciously done as a human collective. It is part of evolution and the human experience. It is more than interesting, it is mankind at their finest subconscious connection. This is the birthplace of nostalgia.

The digital world many have raced by film, however photography and image making will be ever present in the future. Their connection to nostalgia will be unmistakable in the future as it is now. If my memory serves me correctly, film had the same connection. The past and present of photography and nostalgia will forever be connected. Social media will prove this out and whether from past or present, images will tell the story of emotions.


Think of how images, photographs and art that has been created in the scope of mankind. The past of this world is full of creators and creation, the bulk of which is not part of nostalgia. Nor does it even conger a single nostalgic memory. Does that mean these photographs, paintings or images of the time have or had no meaning to the past or present? Is a century or centuries of amateur and professional creation just gone?

The reality is much deeper and connects more in a human sense. All of the images from the past and present, whether digital of film all have meaning and connection. It takes the sum total of the connection of all for the few to rise. One without the other is not possible. The connection of the past and the history of photography is the garden for future creation. And this creation will be the seeds for a new generation of nostalgia.

The few characters, such as Santa Claus, will continue as nostalgia and the digital age will enhance those characters as well. The good old days and now. We are living them to the fullest, and it will be the next great memory. A Facebook or Instagram post will one day become old and part of the past. But for now images on Facebook and Instagram are a wonderful way to share nostalgia with friends, family and clients.


Pictures are created by the millions daily now and this will only increase in the future. Think about Facebook and Instagram alone and how many images are there just from photography. Will any of this become part of our nostalgic past? Will they even be in a family photo or be featured in photo albums. Or will they disappear into digital space? The truth is, it does not matter.

The collective sum of all photography and social media will lead to more innovation and more nostalgia will be created and promoted.


How do the good old days become part of the future, when each generation wants to have their own thing. They want to make their mark with their own style and fashion statement.

The good old days change from generation to generation and few things connect all generations. The camera helps link those unique and interesting things from our past and our culture via photos. The camera captures those interesting moments, images and memories that become part of our collection of vintage memories of an era.

Vintage memories are more than family photos, it is the collection of all photographs. What stands the test of time? What personal objects are documented that matter and why so few see them at the time? The photographers who impact our memories, become part of the cultural process. 

Style and fashion change continuously and will also continue to be touched by technology. Technology and designers love to work hand in hand. These creations also become part of nostalgia and will be continually photographed. The camera will continue to be worked hard in this field. They have and will continue to capture from traditional to retro to modern designs. All adding to nostalgia.


One does not have to search far to find the answer to this question. Nostalgia "is" modern already, for it connects to all people. The reality is this, nostalgic photography must only be presented in a modern way. It may be in tone and color or it may be how it is framed on not framed. It may be the substrate that the nostalgic artwork is printed on. It is the style of the display of nostalgia that must change from generation to generation.

If modern means contemporary, then present nostalgic photography or art in a contemporary way. Perhaps a transitional method of presentation will bridge the gap between contemporary and traditional. And modern does not automatically mean contemporary. A modern frame on a nostalgic image may lead it far away from contemporary, yet fit with the styles of today.



When someone loves your nostalgic art and tells you they prefer a contemporary look, talk to them. Discover how they see the art. Ask about the surroundings in their home and you will find a modern way and sometime a happy medium to provide the perfect presentation.

At the end of the day, it will not be technology that will make your work modern. It will not be your Canon nor a strong social media post that will bring focus to your nostalgic art in a client's home.

Focus comes from a presentation that fits your clients eye from day to day. Perhaps the technology of great lighting will be a good suggestion. Do not let the fact that the art is nostalgic become the object that stops your client from their purchase. Search for the answer, find that happy medium, go the extra mile, find the perfect frame that works in their modern home...these are all ways you can match modern with nostalgic photography and still produce an exquisite and interesting result. I think you now get the picture.


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