Scrolling through the posts under the hashtags such as #35mm, #filmisnotdead, and #heylomography on Instagram proves how much film photography has progressed into a lively and proactive community, withstanding the test of time and newer technology. The Lomography Community also grows day by the day, easily becoming one of the largest analogue databases. The compact 35 mm camera and film format easily takes the crown as the mainstream medium. Even the 120 format has its own kin of patient artisans, in which their bulkier and bigger cameras reward these owners the best archival photographs. These mediums have already found their place in contemporary creative photography.
Now, we're asking, "where is 110 film photography?" Join us and a few of our friends from the analogue community as we wonder about the 110.
The Golden Days of the 110
Once upon a time in the 1970s, the pocket-sized format heavily dominated the film photography market. It was easily understandable why: these cameras are small, compact, easy to load, and inexpensive. Amidst all these, the camera could produce decent-to-high quality shots, depending on the camera model. The simple yet mighty 110 camera made photography even more approachable and accessible. Longtime film photographer Eric Mathisen, a.k.a. emathisen has witnessed all of it during the pocket camera's prime.
"Like many of my generation, I got a Kodak Pocket Instamatic as a teenager in the ’70s. It was not my first camera, that was a New York World’s Fair souvenir camera my parents bought for me in 1964! The Instamatic was used then to take snapshots of friends and family, easy to use and convenient."
We could only surmise from this piece of history that many have become photographers thanks to the 110, inspiring more to pick up a camera and learn the ways of a lensman.
As time passed on, its popularity declined once the then-leading film stock makers discontinued production for 110 films. Trends shifted and the beloved 110 film was briefly sent to the analogue archives. Resuscitating the heydays of the 110 format seems like a pipe dream... but maybe it isn't, as some analogue artists have been rediscovering and reliving the format.
The State of Pocket Photography in 2021
To answer the big question -- how does pocket photography fare today? More often than not, the format gets picked up again through rediscoveries from gifts and creative curiosity.
Lomographer Jörg Preuschoff a.k.a. berlin-runner has plenty of experiences with film. His encounter with the pocket camera dates way back when he was just six or seven years old, but it's only been recent since he rekindled with the format. The pandemic gave him more time to get in touch and familiarize himself with his old and new film cameras. He was also gifted two pocket cameras and eventually bought one for himself. Consequently, he read up more about the 110 format and started using them more. He shares his reason:
"Well, it's partly nostalgic – it brings back warm childhood memories. It's also just a lot of fun since the cameras are usually small, practical, and easy to use... So far, the format seems to have received too little attention, which is a shame. I think there's still a lot to discover – it really encourages creativity."
Jorg also adds that the format is very beginner-friendly and that it would also be a nice addition to traveling photographers. It is also a great conversation starter about analogue photography.
Another fellow Lomographer and Argentina-based lab owner Manuel Antela, a.k.a. unaluzquetiembla, began shooting with the 110 when he was gifted a Kodak Star 110. From then on, the camera found its special place in his routine. He lists his reasons: "The size, the grain, how it feels to load the photo... the experience... I believe it's a very versatile format to walk around, and to also hang out with friends."
Right now, the pocket format thrives among experienced analogue artists who seek to enrich their personal, creative pursuits.
Diana Baby, A Tiny Yet Mighty Favorite
Albeit very few, the "newer" 110 cameras have also prompted photographers like Eric to shoot in 110. Eric got back into film photography just a few years ago and started collecting cameras in different formats. After trying the Agfamatic Pocket camera, he eventually moved to the Diana Baby 110, deeming that the latter had more features suited for his style, such as the bulb mode and double exposure capabilities.
"What I like about the Diana Baby is the element of surprise, pictures that sometimes I don’t even remember taking come out as miniature masterpieces because of the combination of soft-focus, interesting contrast, and outrageous grain. Pictures of people more than a few meters away from the camera obscure the features so much that they remind you more of an abstract painting than a photograph."
The Diana Baby camera also has another longtime lover, Monika Mitterdorfer, a.k.a. agrimony. The camera is also responsible for making Monika even more interested with 110.
" I appreciate the possibility to take double or multiple exposures which is an important device for me and my photographic work. The quality of the photos is 'Diana-style' – to express it! Despite of the quality or precisely because of it I think the photos, especially the multiple exposed ones, have a painterly look in an artistic way – an aesthetic property I value in photographs... I recommend the pocket-film format in combination with the Diana Baby camera for people who see photography as a creative tool to express themselves or their artistic view of the world they live in and for those who like to experiment."
Lomography's Role and Forecasting a Future for 110
The next important question is, where is the pocket format heading off to? Monika believes that the first hurdle is the shortage of supplies for 110 format: "I think 110 film is definitely suitable for creative photography. The problem is that it is not very popular nowadays because the pocket format is a niche product. Although analogue photography is rising again at the moment, 110 films and cameras are still hard to find..."
The future of the 110 camera is full of prospects yet to be realized. Although the 110 film easily flies under the radar of many film shooters today, there has been a steady, growing demand for it. Manuel says that many of his clients would stop by his lab to ask for tips on creating vintage aesthetics on film. The 110 film easily comes to mind when achieving these qualities. Interestingly, film folks in Manuel's local area are very expectant for the 110 format.
"The versatility of it made a great film format and (at least here in Argentina) is getting more demand every day. In my laboratory especially, more and more teenagers ask me about it. A lot of them come to my lab looking for some grainy, vintage, and scratchy images... for those people I recommend 110 film, not because it is a 'bad' format (it can be really sharp too, unlike the misconceptions) but since the width of the film is 16 mm, the image is littler and can be distressed or destroyed easily for those who like that effect."
Manuel is also one of the many who have expressed that there are only limited available resources for 110 photography. he recalled that when he first received the Kodak Star 110, it took him quite a while to find film stock that was compatible with his camera. "I looked for cartridges for several months until I found the Lomography Embassy... it was a one-way road!"
Lomography is actively seeking to meet the demands and interests of the 110 format. Pocket photography survives thanks to the reintroduction of 110 films such as the Lomography Peacock and Lomography Orca film stocks. The recently-produced 110 format films for the acclaimed LomoChrome Purple and LomoChrome Metropolis have also helped. Eric, who only uses fresh, unexpired 110 film, singled out the latter for being extremely compatible with the format: "Recently I have started using LomoChrome Metropolis because I think the color palette and grain structure of that film fits well with 110 format and make the images even more interesting."
Though 110 cameras might be easier to acquire as they are available in flea markets and secondhand shops, there's also demand for new 110 cameras to stir up the creative world of analogue. Jorg says: "I think there's still a lot of potential for rediscovering this format. Newly developed cameras on the market would be exciting. This could generate more interest and creativity, as has happened with instant film photography."
The current pocket film photographers are happy and inspired by the status quo, but the desire to further unlock the potential of 110 photography grows stronger. Moreover, there's also the untapped potential for the format to massively resonate with beginner point-and-shoot enthusiasts.
There's so much to think about and consider for this unsung hero in photography history. Where do you think 110 photography is right now, and what do you think the future holds for this medium?