BIG READ: Second hands out! It's analogue v digital
The pressures of the digital age have sparked a huge resurgence in popularity in doing things the old, slow way - from cut-throat razors to film cameras. But is there room for both?
The old ways are best. You’ve heard that before.
Perhaps from a parent or a grandparent – someone seasoned in the art of life-living.
They say they come from a simpler time. A time when pricey household products were for life, free of the now-normal constraints of so-called planned obsolescence. The notion that gadgets, cars and appliances deliberately falter to encourage a repeat purchase.
They’ve probably never swiped right. They’ve likely never settled a tab of cool craft beers with Apple Pay and you could bet your house on the fact they’ve never shot a cheeky Snapchat selfie or thought that a meme was a misprint for a mechanical engineer.
But – even in this brave new world – what if you have more in common with that person than you think? Statistics say you might.
For followers of pop culture of all ages are yearning for a taste of the good old days.
As musicians hailing from the age of high fidelity grow thinner on the ground each day, the world is bending its ear in the direction of a tangible sound.
Figures from the past nine months show that vinyl – a medium most thought was dead and buried thanks to streaming services like Spotify – is now enjoying its highest rate of sales in 25 years.
It’s not all The Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road though. This old dog has had to learn new tricks.
For better or worse (we’ll call it a matter of opinion), the Official Charts Company revealed in July that Ed Sheeran’s Divide is the best-selling vinyl record so far this year.
On top of that, stats from the build-up to Christmas last year miraculously told us that vinyl sales were overtaking digital for the first time – hitting £2.4m a week, compared to £2.1m.
Pie and Vinyl, an independent café-cum-record store in Castle Road, Southsea, has been riding the wave of this resurgence since it opened nearly six years ago.
Employee and lover of the physical format, Ben Hogan, says there is nothing quite like picking a record off the shelf and taking it for a spin.
He says: ‘It’s a bit like a ritual. It focuses your attention on the music and connects you to a wider chain of people and events.
‘From the person who wrote the song, the engineers and producers who recorded it, the artists who designed the sleeve, the people at the pressing plant who manufactured it, right through to us at the other end.’
Weighing up the options of vinyl or digital formats, Ben believes the sensible choice is not one or the other, rather enjoying both – testament to a sweet spot in time where the two mediums can exist and flourish in tandem.
He adds: ‘The vinyl resurrection is here to stay. But streaming music can be a great way to discover new artists and share music quickly.
‘A kid can make a track on their laptop and share it with people on the other side of the world within the same day. So when it comes to discovering new music, digital can be the gateway. But when it comes to listening, vinyl is the drug.’
While vinyl’s return to form is nothing short of remarkable, this analogue renaissance extends much farther than the turntable.
At the start of the decade, consumers were seduced by sleek and space efficient e-readers like the Kindle, scarpering from their local bookshops in favour of digital means.
But statistics from March showed the humble paperback, dwarfed by the e-book in 2011, has enjoyed a recent sales spike of four per cent, overtaking its new-age counterpart.
Writing letters is back in fashion too, says Emma Evans from Fareham, who runs an online service called Kind Regards. Using her website to collect orders, she translates words submitted by clients into handwritten letters and sends them to their the recipient.
Like vinyl, says Emma – whose penmanship has proved a driving force for the pursuit of love itself – there is a special quality to letter-writing that digital means fail to reproduce.
She says: ‘It is a beautiful thing to receive a letter, especially when you think about the time and effort that has gone into writing it.
‘I am so honoured to be able to put together the messages these people send. I’ve received a real mixture of orders – many emotional, many personal. It is lovely.’
Photography has gone back to the future too.
Many shutterbugs, even with £4K cameras in their midst, have turned back to the unmistakable grain and wind of film.
Hillfield Trading in Castle Road – an eclectic emporium for all things retro – buys and sells hundreds of pre-loved film cameras every year.
Owner Clive Padfield said: ‘Just like vinyl has a nicer, warmer sound, film cameras create a richer picture.
‘There will always be digital and mobile cameras, but an old SLR is a thing of beauty and I believe they’re here to stay.
‘Film photography isn’t a cheap hobby, but it’s tangible – and that’s what makes it so rewarding.’
It seems analogue and digital technologies are reaping the spoils of an unwritten pop culture peace treaty.
This union means an audiophile can be pointed towards their next record by a Spotify playlist, while a film enthusiast can still share their shots on Instagram.
Enthusiasts say each of the cogs that keeps this age-spanning cycle whirring will continue to turn, so why not enjoy the best of both worlds?
THE FILM PHOTOGRAPHER
Adam Prosser (pictured) is a professional photographer based in Portsmouth, specialising in the music and entertainment industry.
With a vast clientele – including The Observer’s chief film critic Mark Kermode – he often shoots on film.
Describing his love for the analogue format, Adam says: ‘Film is special to me – it’s what I learned on.
‘With everyone having an iPhone or a digital camera these days, anyone can take a picture, but we don’t often think about why or how we’re taking it.
‘With film you have to take more care. You have a limited number of shots, a lot of buttons and dials to set – it’s a much more thoughtful process.
‘Shooting with film is a lot slower. Something that it affords is getting to know someone a little bit better throughout a shoot, and sometimes that can yield a more personal connection.’
To see Adam’s work, visit adamprosser.com.
THE CUT-THROAT BARBER
The craze for all things retro has also witnessed the resurgence of the cut-throat shave.
Jamie Martin, (above) the captain of The Barbership with branches in Southsea and Gosport, is well-versed in this traditional art.
He says: ‘We do a lot of cut-throat shaves here. It’s a nice process. It’s about taking the time to relax and really enjoy what you’re having done.
‘We use hot towels, cleansers and different scents alongside our service. It’s about invigorating all your senses as well as having a nice shave.
‘A modern razor can give you a close finish, but it doesn’t pamper you, it doesn’t give you that downtime.
‘The important thing about a cut-throat shave or a hot-towel facial is that you’re getting that moment to yourself, which, in today’s society you just don’t find much of.
‘At the same time, modern society has to be embraced to truly use traditional techniques in an innovative way.’
To learn more, visit thebarbership.co.uk.