When Instagram first launched in 2010, it changed how we shared photos. With the lower quality of smartphone cameras deemed undesirable, classic filters such as Sierra, Mayfair, and Rise provided a quick and easy artistic veil for new uploads. But as the quality of cameras increased and Instagram achieved mass popularity, a desire for natural, high quality images became apparent. The hashtag #nofilter rose rapidly from 2013, as people sought to strip away the façade of performing their lives – and today is a ubiquitous feature of the Instagram landscape. Now, the most recent iPhones have super-retina displays, algorithmic 12MP dual-cameras, and mimic the features of professional DSLRs.

Studio-quality photos (Source: Apple)

So why are people buying disposables?

Since mid 2017, sales of disposable cameras from makers such as Fujifilm and Kodak have skyrocketed, in a trend completely counter to the professionalisation of photography. Last year, Fujifilm sold over 7 million disposables – almost double compared to a couple of years previously, showing no signs of slowing down. These anachronistic artefacts have become commonplace on any night out or house party. While they are far less convenient than smartphones, disposables are perhaps part of a larger return to analogue: look no further than the boom in vinyl. Many have speculated as to why, and one clear attraction of disposable cameras is their tangibility. The ability to hold something that clicks, and stores its moments on film, is a refreshing alternative to megapixels and algorithms. In reporting on this trend, many journalists cite young women as a driving force – directly reacting against the false perfection and boundless editing of the digital world.

Star of Call Me By Your Name and Beautiful Boy Timothée Chalamet is a fan of Huji’s random light effects (Source: Instagram)  

Seeking to replicate the disposable experience, apps like Huji and 1888 have quickly followed. This summer, Intelligencer reported over 16 million downloads – a number that’s surely much higher today. On Instagram, the hashtags #huji and #hujicam have over 500K and 800K posts respectively, almost doubling in under six months. Copying the (now iconic) packaging design of early-2000s cameras, and taking time to develop photos complete with light defects, the disposable aesthetic can be downloaded for free. And if you’re particularly keen, you can buy the premium version: skip the developing time, and use any photo you like. Kind of like Instagram filters in 2010.

The commodification of analogue aesthetics reveals an uncomfortable truth behind the rise of apps like Huji. Undoubtedly, the intentions of the disposable re-adopters were those of rebellion. Tired of editing thousands of identical photos on iPhone screens, they wanted to capture and hold singular moments – whatever the artistic outcome. But since then, the visual fingerprint of this movement has once more become another filter for Instagram posts.

And as with everything, there’s an app for that.

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