Disposable Cameras are the New Polaroids

Disposables are the new Polaroids. The appeal lies in functionality, their analog nature making them the antithesis of the modern digital camera. Disposables embrace limited exposures, the viewfinder and not instantly judging your feigned smile. That’s the beauty. Digital cameras offer no secrets and no surprises, immediately displaying themselves, begging for instant assessment. The disposable makes you wait. The picture is hidden, only the camera knows what it saw.

Disposable cameras capture reality. Equipped with only a flash, they see any moment as it exists purely in that moment. They refuse to zoom, adjust to brightness, remove red-eye or detect your face. The picture captured is as naked and exposed as the individual. With no chance to delete or re-take, the disposable camera captures the truth. The camera achieves its goal – capturing a single vulnerable moment in all its unpolished and ugly glory. Digital cameras create fabrications of reality and memory. By allowing us to get the picture we want they allow us to create the memory we want. Disposable cameras afford no such luxury.

Digital cameras are carefully guarded possessions. The owner eyes its every movement like a hawk eyes a field mouse. Such expensive cameras are not to be lost or forgotten. They never really make the rounds at a party. Disposables, like STDs, get passed from person to person, no one ever quite knowing the journey, but somehow getting stuck with it anyway (usually in the bathroom with your pants down). The very nature of the disposable camera is to be lost and forgotten until the end of the night. The disposable knows when the party is over. It’s 3 AM, it’s spent, it’s ready to go home. Just like a whipped boyfriend it’ll come crawling back into your arms, acting all innocent and adorable.

Disposable cameras are the only cameras that get used and abused by everyone at a party (another characteristic shared with whipped boyfriends). The point of the disposable camera isn’t to take pictures – it’s to get them developed. The experience has nothing to do with being behind the lens or in front of it – the experience lies in flipping through fresh prints, unraveling its secret adventure. TC mark


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  • http://maryblakemore.com/ Mary

    Couldn't agree more. I like ordering doubles. Nothing sadder than a group of chicks spending a night in a bar taking an arm extended group portrait 1000x and spending the second half of the night looking at the photos on the camera.

  • http://tattoosnob.com Julene

    I've been thinking about disposables lately – looks like I may have to skip into a Walgreens and try to remember what the fuss is all about.

  • Brandon

    wait, what? is this real life?

  • ghostguts

    what a waste of an article

  • Oliver Miller

    I have a Polaroid, because I'm such an annoying goddamn hipster like that. #annoyinghipster

  • ricky schitltiiz

    are you fucking kidding me?

    crap article

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carlos-Ortiz/1279921705 Carlos Ortiz

    I think the practice of handing out disposable cameras at weddings shouldn't be limited to that particular social event, it would be cool if more parties had that, so at the end they can all be developed and studied and appreciated.
    Pictures taken by indivudals, friends and guests, seem much more interesting and are rawer like you said.

  • Madamrobot

    I'm going to find something more worthy to be outraged about than the digital vs. disposable camera debate.


      I agree. I used to be outraged by disposables but this article convinced me to take a step back and let it play out, just like the civil war in Libya.

  • xtos

    fucking abject article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    “The owner eyes its every movement like a hawk eyes a field mouse.”

    I don't think so. People with digital cameras take pictures of anything and everything. I think that quote fits more to 35mm camera advocates

  • http://twitter.com/dianasof Diana Z.

    At the NYE party I went to, the hotel handed out disposable cameras that we could return at the end of the night to have developed. They put all of the pictures up on flickr, so it was cool to see some of the pictures you took mixed in with people that might have been standing next to you. Also, as someone who hasn't yet totally figured out how to work my crappy digital camera, it feels nice to just point and shoot without caring about whether it turned out blurry or if somebody closed their eyes.

    • sharksaregreat

      could you post the flickr link?

  • Catt

    Thank you so much for writing this. I can't stand digital cameras for the exact reasons you stated.

  • http://twitter.com/srslydrew Andrew F.

    Except for the title, dope.

  • http://minusmanhattan.tumblr.com/ Minus Manhattan

    Aren't Polaroids the new Polaroids?

  • dip

    “Disposable cameras capture reality.”

    Read some Barthes/Sontag/Anyone and get back to me on that one

  • nina

    this has a lot of good though seemingly obvious things to say, except that “Disposable cameras capture reality.” because they can't zoom. well, unless your vision is fixed at whatever mm the digital's lens is set to, and unless your eyes blast the subject with a flash, not so much. Reality isn't any less real zoomed in or out. Camera-reality i.e. being able to see at 1/15th, 1/60th, or 1/250th of a second is not what we do, it's not “human reality”. Anyway, every kid who ever snuck a disposable into a concert knows they make everything look a little further away than it really is.

    But i'd much rather be someplace with a flock of disposables any day.

    • Nina

      sorry i meant “unless your vision is set to whatever mm the *disposable's* lens is fixed to”.

  • http://chaedria.wordpress.com Chaédria LaBouvier

    Reblogged this on Chaédria LaBouvier and commented:
    If anyone knows me, they know that I love disposable cameras. I’ve even included it in my “About Me” section. For all of those out there that love the disposables, this is for you.

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