Now there’s a lomography gallery shop in Manchester – with an already strong following – I decided to address the phenomena that is Lomography.
So film is dead! Long live digital! Kodak is going bust (seriously) and 126 and APS film is no longer available.
But wait – some fine marketing chaps from Austria have decided to repackage film photography and sell it back to us with a different name – lomography. And this time folks, it’s ridiculously expensive. Now I don’t want to be full of hate, lomography is also a very huge international community and the website, and aficionados don’t really go to extremes to stop that community conversing about all the very many short cuts, and economy options, which achieve the same results, so good luck to them.
Here’s my guide to lomography
Lomography (shortened to Lomo) is named after Lomo plc, a Russian camera producers functioning out of St. Petersburg since the war (The Fiat of the camera world you might say). Their cameras couldn’t compete with the super-ace German and Japanese SLR cameras which got crisp, amazing photos so they didn’t try– instead they made super cheap toy/plastic cameras for the masses. They made the Smena range and the LCA, some of the most widely used and accessible cameras in the world. Then one day two chaps in Austria realised you could get some cool effects using these old cameras, that you couldn’t with digital without a lot of Photoshop magic. So they decided to become the agent for Lomo plc, create Lomo AG and market themselves cleverly.
The glitch is Lomo plc made pretty lo-tech cameras. I think the Russian word is ‘rubbish’. They were famous for their flaws, but also for their ease of use and simplicity. So Lomo AG capitalise on the flaws by making the cameras seem really cool, hip, energetic and rad. Only now they’re £100 instead of £5 to pay for the burgeoning marketing bill …So let me get this straight. These products have flaws, but the flaws became popular and now they’re more expensive than the top of the range Japanese film cameras? Yep.
So it’s like this. You get a decent Toshiba DVD player and it plays DVDs really quietly, never jumps and has lots of cool buttons you never really use apart from play, stop and pause. Then you get a smart-price DVD player for less than ten pounds and it grinds and spins and sounds like a plane taking off as the machine tries to search for the DVD inside it. Then someone reckons the smart-price DVD is pretty cool because the grinding and the jumping, and the fact you have to have the TV volume loud because the spinning disc sounds like a chainsaw. They say it’s nostalgic. They triple the price, and then….they triple it again. Now you can have authentic ‘retro’ DVD experiences. This is Lomo.
Next logical question – hey can I go back to ASDA and get the original cheap smart price DVD player?
Answer – of course you can, go on eBay, Lomo PLC is still trading. Buy a Smena, the downside is these cameras are heavy so you’re going to pay £15 postage from the Ukraine. £5 camera plus £15 postage is still better than £100 though I guess.
But let’s say you didn’t have the £20 so you did some thinking and thought hey – the cheaper, crappier the camera the more flawed it will be, the less perfect. If I want nostalgic grinding DVDs and a laser that never finds the film and always says ERROR but I don’t get the smart price one, maybe I can just buy the cheapest nastiest one and get the same results.
So (DVD players aside) you went on eBay and bought the nastiest, plastic 35mm you could find. You got it for £2 including postage? Now you’re saving. Alternatively go in the attic and unpack your granddad’s old camera collection, what’s he got? An OM1, FM2, Yashika Electro? Even better buy battery and film and learn how to use these babies but these are well made so you won’t get any silly effects.
Finally – you join the Lomo community – which in their defence is full of free, easy advice to help you DIY and botch jobs together without buying the expensive gear. And go into the Lomo shop with your plastic toy camera in your pocket. Use their images for inspiration. When the foppish dandy swaggers over looking at your Primark jeans with distain, tell him you’re just browsing. “Why not look at the LCA, he might say, just £200 for retro, vintage, nostalgic brilliance.”
“Erm, no, like I say, I’m just browsing.’ He’ll leave you alone eventually.
Then start your Lomo journey.
You might want to have fun with Redscale film (Lomo price £12) follow the link and make it yourself
You might use expired film, about £1 or £1.50 per roll on eBay. Expired film also gives crappy, flawed effects.
If your £2 camera isn’t giving the light flares and the crazy effects – drop it on a hard floor a few times, maybe break the back off and tape it back on. Stick sweetie wrappers over the lens to colour your pictures. Take the film out of the canister and scratch it, draw pictures on it with a nail, leave it on a radiator, dip it in coca cola, basically experiment.
Also developing is expensive with Lomo - £11 for 35mm (£2.80 in ASDA) and £12 for 120 roll (£8.50 with Fujifilm online)