Vanessa Berry says writing on a typewriter is far more physical than using a computer. (ABC RN: Teresa Tan)
Searching through old vinyls and tattered first editions has long been a tradition for the savvy bargain hunter and discerning obscurist.
Now it’s more popular than ever. Record sales are at a two-decade high, typewriters have a growing fanbase and classic film cameras are being reissued.
So why, in this age of widely accessible and user friendly digital production, do some artists elect to make or release their work on analog platforms?
While the trend is often characterised as “hipster” and reactionary, the regrowth of analog art is read by some as a deeper consideration of how we, as human beings, might more successfully integrate with the quickly digitising world around us.
A nurturing experience
Vanessa Berry, a nonfiction writer, memoirist and sometime-zine maker based in Sydney, considers the analog revival a natural response to the screen-lit lives we lead.
“People are attracted to analog things because they spend so much time on computers, on their phones, looking at screens,” she says.
“To actually have a break from that feels like something that is special and nurturing.”
Berry has always been an advocate of the analog, the manual and the vintage.
“I was a teenager in the 1990s, and that was sort of the bridge time between the analog way and the more digital way,” she says.
“I’ve always retained that analog part of me, I think, because I like doing things with my hands and I like making things and working with physical materials.”
Berry describes typewriters as having a window into their own machinery. (ABC RN: Teresa Tan)
Berry collects typewriters, and integrates typewriting into her work, along with handwriting and digital word processing.
“They’re so compact but they have a lot of moving parts inside … I do writing workshops sometimes and I’ll take a typewriter along and often people are quite fascinated by it,” she says.
“The typewriter has that window into its own machinery … you can conceive of how they work easier than you can conceive of how an iPhone or a laptop works, for example.”
For some artists, analog production is not just about connecting with a particular audience, its also a kind of creative fulfilment in and of itself.
Luke de Zilva is a musician who has just released his first solo EP on cassette, under the stage name LIGHT.
“I’ve never considered not producing a physical copy of an album or an EP,” he says.
“You spend all this time creating something and then at the end you want to be able to put it in your hand and think to yourself: ‘Here, I created this thing that I’m holding.'”
Musician Luke de Zilva releases his music under the stage name LIGHT. (Supplied: Luke de Zilva)
De Zilva says the shared medium makes him feel connected to a historical musical community.
“From the design to the music itself, it’s a sort of closure,” he says.
“You’ve created something that you can put on a shelf beside other albums you love, and feel like you’re a part of this thing that you’ve been discovering and collecting your whole life.”
Picking and choosing
Creatives like Berry and de Zilva are motivated by more than just run-of-the-mill nostalgia, and neither choose to eschew digital production altogether.
“I do them all … I don’t really see a division between formats. I think, whatever project it is, what would be the best form for it?” Berry says.
“They don’t seem totally separate to me. And the keyboard that we use [on a computer] is the same as on a typewriter.
“There’s been an evolution — vestiges and forms of analog media still remain within digital media.”
And as de Zilva points out, never before have all the various formats been so compatible.
“We’re at a point where you can really do whatever you want — you can take the best of any format, and it’s a seamless process if you have the know-how,” he says.