By Paisley Chace
Many film and TV characters are depicted as lovers of photography. As seen in characters such as Anna in Closer (2004) or Peter Parker in Spiderman (2002), it’s easy for the camera to give characters charm, profundity, or both.
Consequently, photography as a hobby has also become an important medium that many storytellers and directors use to add depth to a film. See our recent discussion on the impact of photography in the now Netflix-streamable Kodachrome. Here, the character Ben bemoans “the end of eras.” His depiction of how billions of photos taken today are only data is true-to-life and this makes Ben’s pain resonate with the audience.
As mentioned above, Kodachrome isn’t the first to use cameras or photography as a vehicle to push its stories or characters forward. Below, here are some more characters that have made a name through their love of cameras.
Robert Kincaid, The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
Robert’s documentation of the bridges at Madison County for National Geographic would roll alongside his short-lived affair with Italian war bride Francesca Johnson.
Among Robert’s work tools, his SLR camera was the most important. This was the black Nikon F with chrome eye-level prism finder, and this detail was specifically mentioned to establish Robert as a man who appreciates quality. This was meant to parallel Francesca herself, who as a woman of quality caught Robert’s eye as well. While the model Robert uses is considered a classic, it is still available today. Contemporary photographers just need to consider that this model is mechanical and can be quite costly.
Jonathan Byers, Stranger Things (2016-2022)
As an outcast high schooler, Jonathan would use photography to document environments he wasn’t a part of. Initially written off by audiences in Season 1 as a creep, he and his camera work would become integral plot points for the Demogorgon hunt and Upside Down investigations.
His camera is commonly mistaken to be the wildly popular K1000 but is actually from the film and specialty cameras category in the form of the higher-end Pentax MX. By using this flagship model, viewers can note Jonathan’s dedication to his craft. After all, the 35mm SLR that was launched in 1976 would be many dollars outside a high school student’s modest budget.
If fans want to recreate Jonathan’s famous shots like the ones he took of Barb, it may be best to initially look at telephoto lenses while saving up for the Pentax MX or lomography cameras.
Tun, Shutter (2004)
Shutter centers on young photographer Tun, who captures a strange apparition with his Polaroid camera. The film banks on the fear that ghosts or spirits can be captured by a camera. More artistically, the film also uses this as a two-way medium to depict the person on the other side of the lens, or Tun, as the real monster or villain.
They also mention that only instant film cameras produce images reliable for spirit photographs, because they are incapable of manipulation. At one point, this contributed to the fall of Polariod’s popularity in the late 1990s. However, as the trend revives, new Polaroid owners can delight in the fact that they can now choose to digitally edit their pictures while retaining the same original quality.
Hudson “Hud” Platt, Cloverfield (2008)
Monster film Cloverfield similarly uses cameras to define the theme of horror, but with the cinematic technique found footage. In the film, the USDOD would recover a personal camcorder that contained multiple sightings of a case designated Cloverfield. This would later be discovered to be the property of Hud Platt, who lost his life in the retrieval of the camera against the monster.
The first camera was invented in 1816 but the found footage technique was developed in 1999. This tells us that, as long as fans continue supporting photography-loving characters, the art form can continue to develop in the camera and film industry for another century.
Since the early days of cameras and photography, both have become popular mediums for storytelling. Given that both audiences and entertainment runners show no signs of outgrowing photography, we can certainly expect to see more shutterbugs in films and TV.