Arguably, filters could be credited with Instagram's rise to fame. In the early days, there were no DMs or Stories on the app, and the photos you posted to your profile were all that mattered. When Instagram launched in 2010, smartphone cameras were not even close to the quality they are today — Apple had recently released the iPhone 4 and Samsung the Samsung Focus and for a photo to look post-worthy, it needed a lift: Hudson and Sierra smoothed imperfections and made even the most subpar iPhone photos look like-able.
But over the years, iPhone cameras have drastically improved and filters have gone out of vogue in favour of more natural and "authentic" looking photos. (Apps like Facetune and VSCO Cam get a pass, so long as they can be used without making a photo look fake.) Chalk it up to a reaction against the perceived superficiality of social media.
However, the cyclical nature of trends doesn't just apply to fashion and music tastes — it applies to social media, too. Case in point: Retro filters are currently making a comeback.
This became apparent when an app called Huji Cam was released in September 2017. The app lets you take photos that look as though they were shot with an old school disposable camera — light leaks jut into images and time stamps appear in the corners. In spite of, or, perhaps, because of these noticeable imperfections, Huji Cam has exploded in popularity: It has been downloaded more than 16 million times and counts Selena Gomez and Jasmine Sanders among its fans.
As of yesterday, however, there is a new competitor vying to become the retro filter app of choice: 1888. (The app's name is an homage to the year Kodak was founded.) In the 24 hours since 1888 was released, it has already been downloaded almost 20,000 times, Daniel Greenberg, one of 1888's founders, told Refinery29.
Greenberg, a Product Strategy and Ideation lead at Mschf, created the app with social media consultant Lindsay Demeola. The two met, appropriately, on Instagram after Greenberg slid into Demeola's DMs.
1888 has drawn instant comparisons to Huji Cam: Like its predecessor, 1888 replicates the experience of holding up an instant camera and peering through a tiny viewfinder. After pressing the on-screen shutter button, there are a few seconds of "developing" time before the resulting photo appears with a time stamp and light leaks.
Demeola calls the comparisons to Huji valid: She used the app before creating 1888, but didn't like many of the features. "The blur effect and some of their colour usage just didn't feel authentic to me," Demeola said via email. "As someone who has always loved film photography and started out as a photo major, I felt like app like Huji were selling the art of film short."
With 1888, Demeola and Greenberg hope to provide users with a more true-to-form film photography experience. You might notice that the tones are not quite as warm and the light leaks less jarring (In the images above, the photo on the left was shot with Huji; the photo on the right was shot with 1888).
For her part, Demeola is not immune to the criticism of disposable camera-style apps: "I had spoken to as many friends who shoot film photography as I had, and realised that a disposable camera app is viewed as sucking the art and appreciation out of film photography. While that is entirely true, I was thinking of it in a completely different way. Not only is it becoming harder to get film developed these days, it's also getting more expensive."
1888 is free to download, though you'll need to pay £1.99 to upgrade to the premium version which lets you upload photos from your camera roll and access new filters. As apps go, that price might seem a little annoying, but compared to the cost of a real disposable camera these days, it's definitely a steal: A Fujifilm QuickSnap Flash Camera with 27 exposures will set you back £7.99 from Currys.
For now you can rest assured that the disposable camera, or rather, the "look" of the disposable camera is not fading into obscurity. Instead, it's picking up right where the return of instant cameras left off.