Gen Z Likes Old School Photography


iGens or Generation Z (Those less than 21 years old) are starting to act more like the Silent Generation, or their great-grandparents, than their Millennial predecessors. Early trending is showing older iGens are saving more, sharing less online, and preferring to shop brick and mortar over Amazon. They are heading back to the malls in droves. They are playing vinyl records in their rooms. You can read all about it in my new book, Intergenerational Engagement: Understanding the Five Generations in Today’s Economy and How to Use Their Unique Strengths to Increase Productivity, Boost Sales, and Bring Harmony to the Workplace, releasing on January 1st.

I am a passionate photographer. I have been taking pictures since my dad gave me his Pentax K-100 in 1981. I had a darkroom and was responsible for most of the photographs in my high school senior yearbook. Before Photography went digital, it required patience and a lot of thought before snapping a photo. We used rolls of film that gave you 12, 24, or 36 opportunities to capture an image. When you have a limited amount of shots to fill up a pricey roll of film, you have to study the light, background distractions, and check your camera settings before every shot. You also had to wait days to see your results. That took patience and patience is calming.

As a person who battles anxiety, I feel photography has helped me in many ways. The locations can be calming, and the act of chasing the perfect shot stimulates my creativity and makes me happy. These feelings are anxiety killers. Photography is an area where iGen teens are seeking some nostalgia. A new version of the Polaroid camera is one of the top Christmas gift choices for teens. Social sharing apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat provide filters to make your photos look “vintage.”

I am super excited about the popularity of a new 99-cent app called Gudak Cam. It is already being used by over 1.3 million teens in Japan and South Korea and is making some moves in the U.S. What is impressive is that this app mimics an old 1980’s era Kodak disposable camera, remember those? The app allows you to shoot only 24 photos. Once you take those 24 pictures, you have to wait a few hours to add a new roll to your virtual camera, aka, smartphone. Like the old Kodak, you also must wait three days to see the photos you shot. How cool is that? So why in the world would “instant gratification” trained teens use Gudak Cam?

iGens are stressed out. Research has shown that 1 in 5 teens has a diagnosable mental illness. Eighty percent of teens admit to experiencing a mild case of anxiety or depression in the past month. The Gudak Cam app fits squarely into iGen’s craving for calmer, less stressful times. It also goes against the “instant gratification” trends that Millennials demanded. Waiting three days to see a picture you shot is a practice of patience. It creates excitement and can teach teens that some things worth having are worth the wait.

Millennials wanted to grow up fast. As they entered adolescence, they were introduced to the world from the palm of their hands with the internet and the rise of the smartphone. iGens were born into the age of smartphones and 24-7 access to everything. They never knew a time without it. They understand the value of that access, and they are starting to see the dangers of always being “on.” iGens are growing up slower, not faster. They are resisting adulthood and seeking more traditional values. Maybe the Gudak Cam app is a fad, but 1.3 million teens using it may be a sign of something bigger.


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