Huji: a photographic case study.

Moving on has been a double-edged sword. The immense feelings of individual achievement sit alongside feelings of separation, and a loss of companionship. I re-downloaded an app called Huji and began looking through the photographs of myself and my friends which I took over my last two years.

Year 2: a photo shoot with Jack (right) and Lucia (left) in Lucia’s room, taken at the height of our Huji use.

Huji is an app which grew in popularity whilst I was in my second year of university. Its interface replicates the single-use cameras I remember from my childhood. Once you take the picture, the photo begins to‘develop’ rather than snapping instantaneously, mimicking the anticipation and excitement involved in the use of disposable cameras. Photographs taken with the app are highly saturated, often featuring characteristic light bleeds and even the option to include the date on the image. According to Huji, the app allows the user to take photos as if it were “just like the year 1998.”

As someone who grew up when disposable film was commonplace,the app was delicious. I took every photograph using it, capturing my university memories in that distinctly noughties gloss.

End of Year 2, summer: we intended to go swimming but arrived at a muddy reservoir. We forgot the BBQ utensils so we had to use sticks to flip the burgers.

Most reviews on the app store mention its distinct ability to imbue a sense of nostalgia into the photographs they take, a feature which has a universal appeal; “A great app for teens/tweens for taking their group photos […] also nice for adults for pictures of their kids to make it seem more old fashioned,” comments one reviewer.

The popularisation of Huji signalled a rejection of the perfect, crisp imaging which features heavily in smartphone adverts. People were downloading an app which essentially reinstated the inaccuracies of nineties photographic technology as an artsy aesthetic. Commentators at the time of its release drew towards its features as evidence for the argument that people are craving ‘authenticity’ in an increasingly inauthentic world. Two years on, Huji photos continue to feature heavily on Instagram timelines.

The World Cup Semi-Finals: Devonshire Green. The calm before it rained beer as England scored the first goal.

Film photographers have been critical of the app. The high contrast, light bleeds and colour depth of film photography is a by-product of a meticulous and imperfect process. They argue that Huji bypasses the skill involved in film photography and reduces the art-form to an aestheticized filter. Nevertheless, Huji interested me as a product of the social media age which seemed to hark back to a time before social media itself.

Year 2, winter: drunk, we had no choice but to walk back from our night out. It’s clear we weren’t the only ones who had to walk home that night.

Despite their similar aesthetic, there is a core difference between a Huji image and the image captured on a disposable camera: audience. Nobody but close family has access to the photo albums stored in the attic at home,yet Huji images are shared every second on Instagram to an innumerable amount of people. Can we really say our memories are our own when they are captured with an audience in mind?

Alongside your Polaroid-style photograph, the app saves an unfiltered copy of the picture. Flicking through these images, I began to compare them in their edited and unedited states. My reflections left me questioning: who are my photos for?


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