Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

LOMO freak

Fun is back in Analogue Photography

By: Aina Nott

I am not a photographer nor have I had much passion in photography, but I came across this gorgeous camera, which does not need flash, does not need batteries and is made totally of plastic. It’s called the ‘Diana F+’, a type of lomography camera, which captures soft dreamy images. Lomography is completely new to me, as I have always relied on digital cameras to take photos, but apparently it is quite popular and has a cult following.

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“Lomography is a worldwide art movement about using film and analogue cameras,” according to Mr David Lindstrom from the Ian Potter Centre of the National Gallery of Victoria.

Lomo cameras were originally mass-produced by the Russians as an affordable universal camera for Communist locals in the 1980’s. In the 1990’s a group of Austrian students came across these cameras in Prague, Czech Republic, and started a new style of artistic experimental photography of unorthodox snapshots. From then the cult following began according to the Lomographic Society International, which is an organization formed in response to the immense popularity that the cameras received.

The fun in lomography is built on the most basic foundation of ‘point and shoot’.

There are no preview functions, no automatic flash and no movement receptive button. In fact, it is completely opposite to what we are accustomed to in digital cameras. Its popularity is because of the artistic freedom it gives the photographer, but in an unexpected way. The photos you capture with lomography cameras are totally dependent on the user’s unconscious reaction when they see an image or movement they want to snare. And, in all the excitement of taking the photo, you don’t know what you are going to get! It takes out that over-controlled concept in digital photography. Lomography is an adventure.

Using my Diana F+ has made me think as to why we take photos in the first place. Historically, photography has been utilised to capture momentous events in the world. The paparazzi rely on photos for a living. Professional photographers create beautiful images for exhibitions. Generally, people take photos of someone or something to record and event or image.

Many lomographers, either professional photographers, artists or amateurs are drawn to the concept of experimental photography. Anyone can take a photo of something, but lomography cameras may just make you an artist by giving you an amazing dramatic shot without knowing about it. Certainly, I appreciate a good picture when I see one, but I will not sit there for hours and shoot dozens of pictures of one image to get the right angle, right lighting, right colour, right symmetry, the list goes on. You become the accidental artist in lomography.

The digital revolution has produced an excessive amount of technological advancements available for photography. We have come to a stage where we capture predictable images on digital cameras without spontaneity. The thrill of waiting for the films to be developed and the moments of anticipation of seeing how the photos turn out are almost, if not all, gone.

The unpredictability of my photographs has sparked some kind of excitement. I am obsessed with clicking the little lever! Who knows if the picture I am taking is going to work or if it is even in focus? That is the beauty of it! I don’t know, but each time I get a film developed, a few amazing images always turn out. “Lomography is not about quality, it’s about expression,” says Mr Lindstrom.

“Lomo cameras create an image with a saturated look with high contrasts colours which are appealing to the eye,” says Miss Theresa Harrison, Manager of the Centre of Contemporary Photography in Melbourne.

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The images are affected by vignetting (which are dark corners on the photograph), produces bright and punchy colours, has an old-style effect, soft-focus which people appreciate in comparison to the harder and sharper images in digital photography. Mr Lindstrom says, “The end product in lomography almost always is received with surprising reactions versus that of clean but sterile digital images.”

I am not one to disregard the beauty of technology. Digital cameras allow you to easily transfer photographs into a computer – from where each photo can be subject to modification with softwares such as ‘Photoshop’ or ‘Photostudio’. Then again, this fabrication exercise is dull. With lomography, taking as many photos as possible in sporadic and unusual positions is fun.

Although models vary in complexity, lomography cameras are made of plastic (including its lenses), are all manual and are, “essentially toy cameras which produces distinct beautiful images,” says Miss Harrison.

There are various attachments available (all plastic of course) which give further enhancements to lomo images. There are fish eye lenses, multi-colour flashes – which adds a splash of colour to the picture, a variety of films, wide angled and splitting lenses – which splits the image separating them into pictures that are taken in different angles and times. Lomo cameras weigh about 0.3kg and shoot with standard 35mm films (colour or black and white), which can be developed in a normal process. Lomography cameras are reliable in daylight, but require longer exposures of around sixty seconds in conditions with difficult lighting. There are flashes available as an attachment, which require batteries.

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Lomography may not have been overly publicised in Melbourne, or around Australia, but the National Gallery of Victoria staff have suggested that they have sold a considerable amount of cameras in the past year. The largest range of cameras, with expertise advice available from staff, is available in the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square and the National Gallery of Victoria. The Centre of Contemporary Photography in Fitzroy also has a decent collection of cameras. There are various boutique stores around Melbourne CBD that sell lomography cameras (Fat in QV and Genki in Swanston St).

Despite the digital era, “Lomography has remained popular especially amongst photography hobbyists who want to try everything,” says Miss Harrison.

Digital cameras are amazing. Almost idiot-proof and perfect imagery is somewhat guaranteed with each shot. That perfect image guarantee can precipitate boredom. Think about it. How many times have you taken photos of something or someone with a digital camera then forgotten about it after pressing the button? There is no element of surprise in it.

Owning a lomography camera is a novelty. “Serious photographers, such as the ones we showcase in our gallery, do not necessarily use lomo cameras,” says Miss Harrison, “as they cannot risk their pieces to rely on chance.” Surely, art is not always about production of images that have been too planned out and organized. Many famous photographs have been those created by pure accident and experimentation.

Lomography has come a long way since its underground beginnings in Europe. Many exhibitions have been held in Western European regions, Northern America, and Asia. The National Gallery of Victoria has not had exhibitions on lomography photos. “The images are displayed much more comprehensively on-line, however this is something curators should take interest in as it is extremely popular with the younger population, especially in Melbourne,” says Mr Lindstrom. The Lomographic Society International’s website, www.lomography.com, was launched as the home base for worldwide Lomographers. It contains information of the various products available, is a form of communication amongst lomographers and is continuously updated to showcase the most recent and breathtaking lomo images. ‘Flickr.com’ also has users that share their photos on-line.

The Lomographic Society International has lived by the following 10 golden rules in logography since the early 1990’s.

1)    Take your camera everywhere you go.

2)    Use it any time – day and night.

3)    Lomography is not an interference in your life, but part of it.

4)    Try the shot from the hip.

5)    Approach the objects of your lomographic desire as close as possible.

6)    Don’t think.

7)    Be fast.

8)    You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film.

9)    Afterwards either.

10) Don’t worry about any rules.

Interests in novelty possessions come and go, but I think my ‘Diana F+’ lomography camera will be around and used for quite some time. Not relying on technology sometimes gives you a sense of being grounded in a fast-paced digitally borderless world. To allow for mistakes, and experiment, to not know how an image is going to turn out and to be oblivious to what is going to happen next is not always so bad. Not every picture has to be planned and as for that one accidental psychedelic fish-eyed frame, spectacular image, or that dreamy, dramatic and vintage-look, picture  – you will cherish it forever.

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Monday, May 17th, 2010

Mr Carney

Somewhat reassuring to hear from an editor (or Associate editor) of a leading newspaper that budding journalists still have HOPE in getting a job despite the ever declining positions available in the newspaper industry. In fact, NOT HOPE but the jobs in the media industry are continually evolving to a more convergent role which includes online, broadcast, radio, print and of course social networking.

Thanks for the pep talk Mr Carney.

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

wk 9 reading

In the article ‘Death By Buffet’, Harley uses a narrative style of feature writing referring to himself in first person. This was effective in his story telling, as it made his readers picture his character in place and in emotion.

The use of words was descriptive and simple allowing for good flow of reading. Harley also used observation of his surroundings to ‘paint a picture’ of the adventures and challenges he faced whilst reporting in an unfamiliar and completely disorganized nation. Harley captures his readers’ attention also by including comical aspects of his experiences. The inclusion of some historical background of India’s socio-economic situation gives the reader a sense of what Harley is seeing and how he is now living.

Supposedly, journalists are not to include opinion, or their voice in a story, however in this particular scenario, Harley successfully uses a narrative technique to deliver his experiences and feelings. However, the article did not really report on a ‘news story’ as such, rather it was a story of the author’s life changing traveling experiences as a journalist – which makes sense as this article was derived from a book. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the read.

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Anzac Day weekend reading

Sean Gardiner’s article on ‘Romona’s Law’ was by far the most engaging out of the 3 articles, which also included Gene Weingarten’s ‘Pearls Before Breakfast’ and Tom Griffiths’ ‘We have still not lived long enough’.

Gardiner used emotion effectively to keep his reader’s attention throughout the whole article. By using quotes from the victim’s mother, Gardiner provided an expressive insight into her frustration and the sadness of the whole situation. In addition, it provided gruesome detailed information of the incident. However, the article at one stage seemed one-sided in that it depicted the NYPD as unhelpful and discriminatory. Isn’t this slightly contradictory being that journalists are supposed to exclude bias opinion from the article.

Gardiner’s article was written in response to a historic court ruling to re-open the case on racial-bias grounds. The provision of evidence, quotes from the mother, the police and some of the subjects involved in the incident showed that Gardiner had researched his content well.

Weingarten’s ‘Pearls Before Breakfast’ was light and entertaining to begin with, unfortunately I lost interest as it progressed. This Pulitzer award-winning article had a wonderful story to tell, although I felt that this could have been done in less than 22 pages!

This feature story would have involved time, a dedicated team of journalists and money (or some form of arrangement) to pay the famous Joshua Bell for his time and talent, to execute the experiment. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic idea and the end result of the experiment was a little disappointing. Is our world now completely busy, that we run around like robots, stuck in routine with no appreciation of beauty? Or have we forgotten to recognize talent if it is not presented to us by marketers and the media?  The study found only 1 out of 1000 appreciated the beauty of music. As the article asked, “In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?” Apparently, no. I would like to think that if I were one of those people in L’Enfant Plaza, I would at least acknowledge the musician even if I was not aware of his name or popularity.

Last and the least liked, Tom Griffith’s article/essay was testing to read. True to its purpose, being an academic paper, ‘We have still not lived long enough’, was long, long, long enough. Its collection of intellectual words, synchronized sentences and the currency of the news, should have made for an interesting read, but I found it boring. The title was great, had me hooked at the start – thought I might learn something for what to do or why the tragedy occurred. Instead, the article felt heartless and disconnected from those affected.

Griffith provided historical background and quotes from many experts, but the victims were not represented. His approach, although in an academic paper, did not feel educational as intended, it felt like Griffith was saying ‘I told you so’.

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

wk 9 Class exercise: Feature on ourselves

What’s in a name?

Must we follow the clad of celebrities naming their children ridiculous names for the sake of fashion? Apple, Maddox, Moses, Blanket and Bronx. Do we not remember the brutality of the little devils in schoolyards? Must we summon our children to being teased because of their name?

The difficulty of its pronunciation, its meaning, and potential nicknames that can be created from it, should be considered when deciding on a name for a child. But, then why shouldn’t we use names that are different? Not everyone has to conform to the norm, to the usual, to the boring.

My name is Aina. Not a common name at all. I have met only a few people with a similar name but different spelling (usually ‘Ina’) and they have all been elderly. So, I seem to have an old-fashioned name – vintage!

Most of the time I am glad to have this name, but too many times my frustrations of having to explain it and pronounce it (A-y-na) properly have led me to lie. In pure laziness, I have introduced myself as Anna (easy, A-n-a) to avoid the questions…. What does it mean? Where does that come from? And, I hate the disappointment in their faces when I say, “No, it means nothing.” It is not Filipino nor is it of any cultural significance either. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret. My name was a mistake made by a nurse who misspelt it on my hospital ID band. My mother tells me “I wanted to name you Enna, but when I saw Aina on your band, I thought it was something different.”

When googled, Aina means…

In Swedish, it’s a street slang for ‘the police’.

In Indian, it is a ‘mirror’.

In German, it is ‘to look at’.

It is a popular German progressive heavy metal band.

It is a pillow in Ikea.

As an acronym it stands for ‘Assyrian International News Agency’.

In Spanish, it means ‘gracious’.

In African, it is a ‘complicated delivery of a baby’.

In its Celtic origins, it means ‘joy’.

In Scandinavian, it means ‘forever’.

So can a name reflect your personality? How can you predict the personality of your child? Will a name narrate the story to your life?

At the risk of sounding superstitious, from the aforementioned meanings, some of them may have an indirect link to ME. I have shopped in Ikea, and bought that pillow. My birth was ‘a complicated delivery’ that bought ‘joy’ to my parents ‘forever’. Thankfully, I have not been in too much trouble with the police nor do I follow heavy metal music. Sadly, I have had no involvement with the Assyrian News Agency, but this remains to be a possibility one day since I am currently completing my Master of Arts in Media and Communications.

What will Apple’s future hold? What about a name of such biblical significance, Moses? Will Gwyneth Paltrow’s baby boy Moses part the sea and lead humanity to the Promised Land and write a modern day version of the Ten Commandments?

Our identity begins with our name. It distinguishes us from everyone else. Parents choose wisely.

To mum,

Thank you for my name. It is weird, psychedelic but beautiful.

It is definitely original.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Saturday, May 8th, 2010

More Investigative Journalism

NORTH AMERICAN POVERTY

Barbara Ehrenreich’s ‘Serving in Florida’ was fascinating to read. It had a similar idea to Paige William’s award-winning article on ‘Atlanta’, in that they both exposed the poverty suffered by Americans in these states.

Both articles illustrated the divide between the rich and the poor, but in different formats. Admittedly, despite its numerous awards and breakthrough journalistic reporting, William’s article was wearisome to read. It was too numerical, attacking its readers with excessive amounts of information and statistics. Although the impressive statistics were shocking, they were quickly forgotten as the bombardment of numbers kept on coming.

In contrast, Ehrenreich’s article was engaging. It too contained the statistics and data, which are usually included in an investigative journalist’s report, but its presentation in a footnote does not confuse its readers. More importantly, the emotions captivated in the article felt real, as the author sacrificed their own time to know what it is like to live as the subjects did – to suffer their pain and to live their hardships. In addition, tit included humour, which lightened the intensity of the issue.

Both are works of journalists in an investigative format. Both required a great deal of time to research and collect data. The method of presentation distinguishes the success of capturing the readers’ interests, and the one that got my undivided attention was Ehrenreich’s.

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