I’ve been shooting on Lomo cameras since 2000 – around the time I started getting seriously into photography.
I bought my first Lomo camera – a Soviet-era LC-A – from the sadly now defunct Clock and Camera Shop at the Holborn end of Oxford Street. Along with an old East German Praktica MTL 5B I bought around this time, it’s these two cameras that helped me develop – with plenty of mistakes and mishaps along the way – into the photographer I am today.
I bought this Lomo outside of the Lomography network, though in the past decade I’ve had a fair few interactions with them, especially as analogue photography has taken a backseat to digital. As Lomography prepared to mark its 20th anniversary, the BBC News website commissioned to me to write an article asking the question – did the little Lomo camera save film photography from an untimely demise?
Over the last two decades, Lomography has come in for a fair bit of stick, predominantly from film photographers who saw it as little more than a fad, and a way of using the foibles of the LC-A to peddle an increasingly expensive line of cameras with only rudimentary functions.
Some of the cameras Lomography have produced over the last two decades leave me cold – I might appreciate the retro looks of the La Sardina, for instance, but I have absolutely no desire to pick one up and shoot with it. And I’d rather shoot medium format with my Iskra or Kiev 60 than buy a Diana F or a Holga, aswell.
But, Lomography’s experimental ethos and don’t think just shoot ethic has an important place, I think, in the continued existence of film. There are a great many photographers shooting medium and large format on film still – fine art photography, portraiture and landscape especially.
Lomography isn’t in this camp. But then the generations of kids growing up using a smartphone aren’t going to jump straight from on-the-hoof digital pics to slaving over a large format camera to take landscape pics. The irresistible rise of Instagram has shown us a great many people want their pictures to look a little different. And the idea of different seems to be a lo-fi, toy camera look, or akin to the saturated, warped colour shifts snapped by our parents or grandparents in the 1970s or earlier.
If these Instagram addicts are going to try out film, then chances are they will try the style of film photography that matches their idea of what film looks like thanks to Instagram’s filters. For many, that will be Lomography.
I’ve likened Lomography before to punk music. Shooting on an old SLR like a Spotmatic or an OM-2 – is like listening to a classic album from the golden age of rock; ‘Exile on Main St‘ or ‘Blood on the Tracks‘. These have stood the test of time, polished and accomplished. Lomography is more like some of the noisier bands found on my iPod, like The Clean or Wire; not for everyone, but filled with ideas, energy and emotion all the same.
As its share of the market grows, Lomography is bound to release more cameras – but, more importantly, more films aswell. there’s been much speculation that it may take over the rights to some of Kodak’s emulsions – possibly even bringing the Elite Chrome range of slide films out of retirement. That’ll be good news for all film photographers, not just those who shoot from the hip.
My decade of Lomo snappings can be found on Flickr, but below are a few of my favourites since 2000. And, by the way, many happy returns to Lomography…