7 Reasons Why This Decade is the 1980’s of Photography

Posted on Jun 12, 2015 in Popular


Being a Kid in the 80’s I Realized I Was Coming of Age in Great Times

In 1982, I turned 16 years old and everything was new.  The world was changing even faster than I was. Music genres like punk, new wave, rockabilly, new romantic, heavy metal and others were exploding on the scene.  Fashion was stranger than ever before.  Technology was just emerging and Media was being presented in ways never before imagined.

The 1980’s were a revolution in music, technology, pop culture, fashion and media and not only that, but those individual revolutions were converging together to create one of the most collectively creative and innovative times in history.

I really believe if you were a teenager in the 80’s you were the lucky because you were living in a time when all the stuff kids love was changing for the better.

Now, Being into Photography I Realize that Once Again There is Something Special Happening Right Now

This decade is to photography, what the 80’s were to Fashion, Music and Culture.  And it’s exciting.


The 80’s were exciting times to grow up and they profoundly changed our world.  The digitization of music, the new media channels like MTV and the introduction of things like the Walkman and the PC changed what was important to us and how we looked a the world around us.   And all this created a buzz that people wanted to be a part of.  In the 80’s everyone was starting a band in their garage.  Everybody wanted to be a part of the great things that were happening.

The 2010’s are shaping to do the same thing for photography.   The same excitement, the same buzz, the same collective creativity that emerged in the 80’s is now emerging in photography this decade. People are picking up cameras. Everyone is a photographer. There are more people taking pictures and learning how to take better pictures by getting inspired by each . And The result of all of this, is that we’re seeing some of the most unique and creative photography that has ever been done.

Everybody’s seemingly a photographer these days.  And that’s not a bad thing.


I realize I might be biased having grown up in the 80’s to make this comparison, but I do think something special has happened in photography over the last 5-8 years that we may never experience again in our lives. I just appreciate it for what it is right now.

Anyway, here are 8 Reasons why I believe this decade is the 80’s of Photography.

#1 Because Mobile  (The WalkMan and The iPhone)

In 1980, people would line up to purchase a Sony Walkman from stores like GoodGuys, Circuit City or Crazy Eddie’s.  The Sony Walkman made music instantly available to people because they could carry it with them at all times by popping their favorite cassette in. The Sony Walkman fundamentally changed people’s listening habits and people always seemed to have their headsets in and listening to music (even when they were jogging in their dolphin shorts).  The walkman made music mobile.

The iPhone did much the same thing for photography. It made photography instantly and always available to people to take pictures on the go.  It  changed the way people viewed photography and got people thinking about it all the time just like the Walkman did in the 1980’s. The iPhone made photography mobile.

These two gadgets changed the way people think of Music and Photography.


#2 –  Because Disruption (Instagram is Doing for Photography What MTV Did for Music in the 80’s)

In 1981 MTV launched, and it changed everything about the way music was shared with the public.  The first video they played was The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star” which seemed to accurately predict what they would do to the industry.  MTV challenged the status quo and what the industry considered the way to market music. MTV changed the way people viewed music. Instead of just listening to music, now they could watch it.  MTV abstracted artist songs to give the listener another perspective or deeper understanding of what the song was about.  MTV helped launch the careers of stars like Madonna, Michael Jackson, U2 and Duran Duran.

Instagram’s launch provided the same type of groundbreaking changes for photography that MTV had in the 80’s. It was highly disruptive. Instagram challenged the status quo of photography by making artistic photography available to everyone with an iPhone.  Some say it debased photography but I believe it actually enhanced photography by making people interested in finding interesting pictures to take and finding inspiration in techniques by others. By providing filters, Instagram changed the way people viewed and participated in photography.  Instagram is doing for photography what MTV did in the 80’s for music.

MTV and Instagram Made Us Appreciate Music and Photography More


 #3-Because Extremism – HDR is Like That Bad Haircut You Thought Made you Look Cool

The 80’s was a decade of some pretty awesome and horrendous styles. Big Hair, Fannie Packs, LegWarmers, Shoulder Pads made us all look oh so cool. We can look back and laugh at our 80’s hair but at the time we knew we were bad ass.  The bigger the hair the better. I like to think that HDR is the photographic version of 80’s big hair.  You think it looks so cool at the time but then you sort of look back and cringe at some of the pictures you took.  We could not get enough big hair in the 80’s or enough HDR in the 2010’s.  I think this type of extremism is just a product of lots of people trying to push the medium to a new level.

Everyone wanted this hair, but only a few could achieve this excellence.


 Every photographer has a few ludicrous HDR shots in their portfolio that they thought looked so cool at the time. (like this horrible shot I took)


#4-Because of “That Look” – The Influence of Style and Image (AKA Style over Substance)

To be in a band in the 80’s you had to have the look.  If you had the look, your band was often considered better than it actually was.  It was a time when fashion and music blended together and it was hard to figure where one ended and the other ended.  Did the look make the band, or did the band make the look?   When I used to read wanted ad’s for bands it always had the requirement “must have the look” to even be considered.

In this decade, I see the same phenomenon with photography.  Often times that hipster look is associated with better photography.  If its got a heavy grain, or VSCO filter the photograph is more popular.  I see this not as a bad thing but as a reality that style and image are having a profound impact on photography in this highly creative time.

It’s hard to figure out where the line between photography ends and style and image begin these days.


#5 – Because of Vintage – Looking to the Past to Find Inspiration and Authenticity

The 80’s was the first decade that looked backwards in time for inspiration in design, music and fashion.  As the world got more complicated, they longed for something simpler from another era. There was a large vintage movement where styles from the 50’s and 60’s were adopted with a twist and presented as new.  I think kids at the time wanted to feel like they were part of something authentic and real.  Two examples of that are the Rockabilly and the Mod movements where people would actually adopt the style of those counter-culture groups and start bands.

In the 2010’s we see the same influence of vintage on photography.  As camera’s get more advanced and more digital, people long for the realness and simplicity of film.  Companies like VSCO emerged to emulate the old vintage look for photographers.  Camera companies like Fuji made cameras that looked old.   The inspiration for many photographers comes from looking back in time and adding a twist, just like we did the 80’s.

The Rockabilly and Mod Movements were examples of the Vintage Craze which started in the 80’s


#6  Because Globalization – Mr Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall

In 1987, President Reagan made this statement as a challenge to Gorbachev to extend freedom and open doors.  The 80’s were all about tearing down walls and increasing communication across barriers.   I can think of no better symbol of that than the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Recently, I see websites like 500PX  and SmugMug bringing together photographers from all over the world to share amazing photography.  I am in awe of the talent and techniques used by photographers all over the world and I learn from them.  But more importantly, photography is showing me other cultures.  It teaches me about the beauty of the world and the distinct beauty of different cultures.  Photography this decade is tearing down the walls that divide us geographically.

Globalization Opens Doors and Minds.


 #7 Because Technology (The PC, The Video Game, IPhones and Apps all Changed Things)

IBM released its first popular personal computer in the 80’s.  Apple launched the Mac.  The Atari 2600 brought video games into peoples homes for the first time. The CD was introduced in 1981 and moved music from analog to digital for the first time.  Technology emerged in the 80’s and was brought to the average consumer where it was once only available to technology geeks or huge corporations.  Technology became accessible to everyone in the 80’s and it changed just about everything we did.

In this decade, the Iphone made photography available to everyone at all times and it gave everyone the ability to share their photos anytime.  Apps democratized software and gave everyone a chance to create tools that could be used by millions.  The opportunities created by Apps lead to wildly popular photography apps like Instagram, VSCO, and AfterLight which put powerful tools into the average consumers hands.  Technology has made photography and tools more accessible than ever before.

Technology Enables More Creativity to More People


Because Innovation and Creativity Breeds Innovation and Creativity

Why do times like right now happen?  I believe innovation and creativity spreads and creates a passion within other people to do the same.  As more people started bands and made great music in the 80’s, other people followed.  Great genres of music were created and scenes sprouted up in cities all over the world.

Today photography is experiencing that same innovation and creativity.  People are taking more pictures.  They’re studying other peoples pictures and learning from them.  Sure there are probably more bad pictures being taken today than at any time in history but there is also more good ones and maybe even more great ones because people are out their trying.

We’re living in some special times for photography.  That is for sure.