Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
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.
“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.
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.
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.