Kendall Jenner isn’t only posing in front of a camera, she’s behind one too.
Jenner sits on the highest court of Instagram influencers, an echelon of elite, beautiful people getting paid doing beautiful things. Her photography can feel intimate, reflective of her taste, artistic vision and personal life.
And it leaves many of her 86 million followers wondering about the camera she is using.
Since appearing on “The Tonight Show” last year, she has become an interesting protagonist in film photography. During the show, she talked about shooting covers for a magazine and her new Contax T2 film camera. Then she got low and leaned back in her pink mini skirt, looking for a good angle to photograph Jimmy Fallon striking a pose.
“I’ll send you one when I develop them,” she said.
“Yeah, let me know, because we can’t Instagram that. We have to develop it first,” Fallon replied.
When the Contax T2 came out in 1990, it was marketed to professionals as a luxury compact camera, a point and shoot that was easy to carry in your pocket but didn’t sacrifice great lenses and features. Made in Japan by a German manufacturer, the Contax T2’s beautiful design and craftsmanship made it a favorite.
These cameras and others like them, once only known by those in the know, are now trendy fashion accessories, made wildly popular by celebrities like Jenner.
And they’re not just making the cameras themselves popular — they’re bringing film photography into the mainstream in the age of social media and smartphones.
Fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu posted his behind-the-scenes photographs of last fall’s highly anticipated Erdem and H&M collection on Instagram with the hashtag #contaxT2.
Kiko Mizuhara, a Tokyo-based model and actress with a cheeky personal style, posed with hers on Instagram too.
“I took this snapshot on the set of ‘The Beguiled,’ with my Contax T2,” Sofia Coppola told W Magazine.
Coppola also has the smaller Contax T3. It’s a favorite of G-Dragon, a huge South Korean pop star and rapper. He uploaded a photo album on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo titled “My T3 Life.”
But Jenner is arguably the most prominent Contax T-series user among them.
“For Kendall Jenner, everything she does — she just breathes — and it’s online,” says Bellamy Hunt, a blogger and camera dealer also known as the Japan Camera Hunter.
“I think it’s a lot more authentic to capture a moment on film,” Jenner said on the “The Tonight Show.”
To no surprise, fans and the fashion industry embrace her. Jenner isn’t just taking pictures for fun. She’s also taking on traditional photography jobs. She shot the latest cover of Love Magazine, featuring younger sister, Kylie Jenner. However, not everyone on Instagram was impressed.
“There’s so many independent photographers that need a job,” said on commenter, criticizing the magazine for going with a “rich girl who doesn’t have any qualification.”
A similar sentiment arose two years ago when Brooklyn Beckham, the teenaged son of David and Victoria, shot a campaign for Burberry. Photographers argued the decision to hire him devalued their skills and experience as professionals.
Some photographers and cameraphiles are annoyed that celebrities have made many cult-favorite film cameras wildly more expensive in recent years. They complain in niche online forums and low-key brag that they bought their Contax T-Series cameras “pre-Kendall.”
“She’s actually made compact cameras a bit of a nightmare because now everyone wants them,” Hunt says.
When Hunt, who championed compact cameras early on, started selling them nearly 10 years ago, they went for $200. Now, they go for $1,000 to $1,500. He no longer sells them except on commission.
“I started getting hundreds of emails asking for them,” he said. “I can’t find that many. There aren’t that many left.”
Ian Wong, the hobbyist photographer behind the YouTube channel “Digital Darkroom” addressed the quibbles people have about Jenner’s passion for photography and applauded her in a video he made about the Contax T2, given its newfound mainstream popularity.
“Out of all the art forms, it probably has the lowest learning curve. You just pick up a camera and shoot.”
In his video, he and a friend wander around the island Ap Lei Chau in Hong Kong, taking pictures of each other in parking garages and on the street like Jenner and her model friends.
“Me and Derrick aren’t exactly models, but we’re going to do a bit of friendly photoshooting,” he said. They make it look easy to get that cool film look.
And these cameras seem tailor-made for the social media aesthetic. A major draw to Instagram early on was its offering of filters that recreated the charming, nostalgic and artsy qualities of film. Now, Instagrammers are always chasing authenticity — what’s more authentic than #nofilter?
When we view so much media digitally, film becomes this tactile treat. We can’t upload it right away. It needs to be developed and then scanned before we can share it.