Lomo LC-A in New Zealand

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Diving off Paremata bridge into the deep channel below

The Lomo LC-A became an unlikely cult in the early 1990s. There’s not many global movements that have been spawned by a bunch of Austrian art students poking about in a Prague junk shop. But this is definitely one of them.

I got my first Lomo LC-A back in 2000, and amid all the many other cameras I’ve bought over the last decade-and-a-half, the LC-A has remained. There’s a few extra scuffs and scrapes. The frame counter no longer works. But I’ll never sell it. Along with the £50 Praktica I bought the same month, this is one of the cameras that fuelled a lifelong love of analogue.

My old LC-A’s been joined by a bunch of other Lomo-esque compacts, and last year I found an LC-A being sold from Russia with a few quirks – notably a tiny badge of the old Soviet battlecruiser Aurora glued on the front. It’s this Lomo that travelled with me back to my native NZ over Christmas – all the way from moody Moscow to the bright, hard sunlight Down Under.

I spent five weeks back in NZ over December and January. December is the lead-up to summertime in NZ – if you’re lucky, Christmas Day can be hot enough for a picnic and a game of cricket on the nearest beach – and the hard summer sunshine and blue skies have drawn photographers from all over the world.

These conditions are great for Lomography. Lomos really sing when you use cross-processed slide, and this style works best when there’s plenty of light. A sunny summer’s day in NZ has plenty of that.

My blinged LC-A is a standard late model from the USSR era, made for export – it has Western ISO film settings instead of the Soviet GOST system, but other than that (and its Bolshevik-themed badge) it’s pretty much identical to the clunky, chunky Cyrillic model I’ve used since 2000.

Lomos – and the wider Lomography movement – certainly have their detractors. I can understand why. If your kind of film photography is painstaking detail, fine grain and careful composition, Lomo-style must look like a car crash. But there’s charm to it, I think, and loading a Lomo with a roll of old film has been the best way to beat creative block I’ve come across. It’s also been a great way to see the country I grew up in through a different set of eyes.

New Zealand is a country full of green and open spaces – and on a cloudless day the sky is of such a deep, enormous blue you very rarely see in the Northern Hemisphere. That blue means the kind of old slide films I look to cross process – Kodak Elite Chrome 100 and the unbeatable Agfa CT100 Precisa – are even more eye-popping.

I shot a roll of Kodak Elite Chrome near where my mum lives, Paremata, a small town and suburbs clustered around a channel which divides two arms of an inlet, not far north of Wellington. The waters are often millpond calm, and to the north there’s a track alongside the water, behind a row of old boatsheds. The green foliage, bright sheds, blue sky and shimmering water can look dazzling on cross processing’s saturated palette.

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At the start of the trip I spent a day in Piha, on the west coast of New Zealand’s main city, Auckland. It’s only 40 minutes drive from the centre of the city but feels like a world away. Bush-cloaked hills tumble down to black sand beaches pounded by roaring surf; Piha’s one of NZ’s most challenging surfing sits, with a vicious rip that has pulled many unsuspecting swimmers to their death. It’s a moody, dramatic place. Along this coast Crowded House made their best album, ‘Together Alone’, and much of the Oscar-winning film ‘The Piano’ was filmed.

It’s always been seen as a place for people who don’t quite fit in in Auckland’s more manicured, regimented suburbs. I joined a friend who was playing at the local bowls club – Piha’s social hub – for a leaving party. Everyone seemed to know each other, and their dogs too; a place full of friends, however many the legs.

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These shots are taken on Lomography 100, the standard sunny weather print film sold by Lomography. It has a golden tint to it which is fantastic in bright light; there’s a pleasing, old school holiday photo vibe to it, like you imagine faded prints might have looked like when they were fresh from the chemist a few decades ago.

The Lomo’s always been a staple travel camera, but it’s been nice to use somewhere I know so well. Sometimes, a slightly different perspective can make the most familiar of places feel like somewhere new.

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See more pics on my Flickr set.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great stuff, and text-book Lomography.
    LC-As seem to be one of those cameras that you need to get ‘a good one’ for the best results. Mine came from my wife’s family in Poland and I’ve never had decent results from it. That said, I’ve never had light like you had here.

  2. That final shot is simply stunning! Also, amazing depth of field (or lack thereof)in the dog portrait; it must’ve been bright in NZ, were you using super slow film?

    The best results I got from my three(!) LC-A’s was with cross-processing Elitechrome. Mad colours, amazing punch.

    The real beauty of the LC-A, though, for me, was that it removed so much of the traditionally techy parts to photography. Aside from focus, the only control you had was in framing and composition. I found that these constraints, ironically, made me get more creative and adventurous in terms of how I shot things.

    Really, the LC-As have been the most rewarding cameras I’ve ever owned.

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