Lomography – Bringing the Fun back into Photography

On Monday evening 16th June Dr Gil Pasternak gave us a fascinating and entertaining evening centred around Lomography – the use of cheap (ish) and cheerful plastic cameras to produce “alternative” images using FILM. Gil is a Senior Research Fellow in Photographic History at De Montfort University, Leicester and the subtitle of his talk was “Developing Histories of Marginalised Popular Photographic Practices” – sounds very dry but it was anything but. He started off with a history of the Lomo Kompakt camera. It was a Russian (then USSR) cheap copy of the Cosina No. 1 from Japan made by the Lomo factory, who also made cameras for space missions etc. so they knew what they were doing. Due to how it was made and the plastic lens the pictures were interesting with oversaturated colours and quite a bit of distortion, and it was largely unknown in the west. However two Austrian students brought some back from Russia in the early 90’s and they soon caught on as fun ways to take pictures with no rules. It has now grown into a worldwide movement even producing its own cameras.

Gil explained how our view of what is a good photograph has been determined by criteria throughout during the last century and that affects the shots we take, but who is to say they are right? In fact the history of photography only really considers a tiny percentage of all the photographs taken. It has concentrated on the “artistic” and ignored all other genres of photography until relatively recently. The vast majority of photographs – especially if you include what many would call snapshots – are not artistic but may be just as valuable.

Lomography fits into this alternative view and puts the fun back into photography. Most digital images have a degree of “sameness” about them – good use of focusing, plenty of detail, good planning (not if you look at mine! –webmaster). Users of Lomo-like cameras talk of the “happy accident”. They encourage people to quite literally shoot from the hip and see what happens. They really do want to highlight fun photography and they must be onto something as the Lomographic Society has 1,800,00 members worldwide. It would be interesting to compare that to any other photographic society. Some the photos taken by members can be seen here (http://www.lomography.com/photos ).

Gil showed us examples of Lomo cameras available from the Lomographic society – cameras in all sorts of designs and colours, some that take 9 shots at a time, some that take four shots in rapid succession, some that include the sprocket holes in the shot and now even a Lomo Polaroid camera. All sorts of processes have been tried such as film swaps (one photographer uses a film, rewinds it and sends it to someone else and then they take shots on the same film resulting in double exposures), red scale (the blank film is reloaded backwards so that the images are very orangey red, light leaks (deliberately letting light in to exposed films) and even almost destroying films with cleaning fluids etc.

Gil finished with a film of a Lomo Matrix. This technique is based upon some sequences in the film The Matrix, where the action appears to stop and the camera moves around bodies suspended in mid-air. With Lomo’s a circle of people, each with a Lomo camera, sits in a circle and another person does something in the middle of the circle. They all take a photograph at the same time and then these are put together as a motion film with the end result looking like a crude version of The Matrix but a lot of FUN. You can see an example video here http://vimeo.com/65813932

If you weren’t there you missed a wonderful evening which really made you want to try Lomography out and bring some fun back into your photography. I did a bit of research and did you know you can even buy a kit to make your own camera and it’s just like the old aircraft model kits where you press out parts and stick them together (http://shop.lomography.com/gb/cameras/konstruktor-family?dir=asc&order=price ). I might give it a try.



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