We know we love Retronaut, but can we explain why? It’s not that easy. In the first place, pictures are pictures and words are words. Whoever said that a picture equals a thousand words had obviously never seen a picture. You cannot replicate one medium in another. You cannot say that an audiobook is the same as a book. They can drive totally different emotional responses, even if the words are the same. Perhaps we would find it easier to explain with a specific example? We can try. Here goes.
First of all is the retro nostalgia of the images. They’re not all in colour, but even those that are have that historical hue. Colours don’t look like they used to. Just the colour alone, or lack of it, provokes a response.
Then there are the unlikely topics. 1970s lab technicians is a case in point. Not just any lab technicians, but ‘70s ones. Genius.
There is the historical angle. You feel that you’re observing something important. A snap taken at the time has lived longer than its snapper might have expected, and transports the viewer back in time.
For Gen Xers, many of the images bring back our own life history in some way.
In the specific case of the lab technicians, it is the odd mix of chemistry, computers and the scientists themselves. What are they doing? Splitting the atom? Curing disease?
Above all, we love these pictures for what they do not show. They are an amazing creative engine primer. You start looking at one image, and your mind takes you off on a serendipitous journey that will be different for every one of you. Study them at leisure. The more you look, the more you imagine. Pure genius.