Hipstamatic and Rebooting a Hobby

As anyone who hasn’t been living in a sack for the last few years will be aware, the iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod) platform has become something of a popular hit, with an App Store that now comprises hundreds of thousands of apps for all purposes (both real and imagined) under the sun. I’ve owned an iPhone for the last two years, and during that time have tried a fair few. Many have been impressive, but none so much as Hipstamatic (iTunes link), which I bought on a whim after seeing some of its output on Twitter. And I’ve found using it to be quite a transformative experience.

In a nutshell, Hipstamatic simulates a vintage film camera, much like the vaunted Instamatic and Holga low-fi cameras of old. The user can swap out the virtual camera lens, film and flash, choosing from a variety of options - some supplied and some available to purchase in-app. Under the hood, taking a photo (through the cute miniature “viewfinder” viewport on-screen) causes various filters and effects to be applied to the photo according to these choices. Photos are then browsable via a superbly designed gallery interface; they’re also saved to the Camera Roll.

The premise, then, is simple enough, but it’s in practice that Hipstamatic really shines. Early observations from myself and friends centred around the fact that just about every photo that comes out of this app is fantastic. The images ooze nostalgia, contrast and character, and in those first few hours many a Facebook profile picture was created.

And then a funny thing happened. A compulsion overtook me that I hadn’t felt for a couple of years - the desire to take lots of photos of everything in sight. A couple of years back, I was a fairly active amateur photographer - it was, more or less, my main hobby. But since then I’ve been occupied by too many other things, and gradually allowed my interest to wane. I’d also always shied away from more candid photos - preferring instead more formal arrangements - not least from a point of practicality (my hulking DSLR isn’t the subtlest thing).

Yet here was an app that produced amazing shots on a device that I always had with me, that could be whipped out in a second to capture the moment. Previously I’d browsed photo collections like Larry Clark’s unforgettable Tulsa, and while it didn’t leave me with the desire to shoot speed, it did leave me wishing that at some point I too would be able to look back on an archive of more personal photographs of my own. Using Hipstamatic felt like a decisive move towards that, and when that weekend was over I did indeed have a collection of snaps on which I could look back and smile.

Using the app for a few days left me with the strong urge to rekindle that old hobby, and I hope that over the next few months I’ll be able to return to photography with the interest and passion I once had.

Hipstamatic is £1.19 on the App Store; in-app kit bundles are £0.59 each.