by Chuck Baker
Lomography means different things to different people. I won’t go through the complete history of how the word came to be, you can read about it here, however the meaning of Lomography has changed since the Viennese art students using the Russian-made LOMO LC-A founded The Lomographic Society International.
Lomography, for me, has come to include cameras and a style with roots established well before Lomography was in vogue. It use to be just “shooting with goofy cameras” for a certain effect that was attainable only from these cameras, before scanning and Photoshop existed. This discipline, if you will, included cheap and sometimes crappy toy cameras along with old Brownies, Agfa’s, pinhole cameras…you get the picture. The emphasis being on “cheap” crappy cameras, many with plastic lenses and light leaks producing heavily vignetted images with dream-like qualities. Each camera producing it’s own unique effect.
I love it when people get interested in photography. That they are helped along by the hipster appeal of the Lomography phenomenon is unimportant and I certainly enjoy the results by both beginners and experienced artists. I have many cheapo-plastic-flipped-lens-analog-digital cameras in my arsenal that are used for those subjects calling for them.
What does bother the grumpy side of me is the “club” mentality associated with Lomography, somehow being more important than what is being produced with the camera. Maybe it’s that I find the Lomography company’s advertising campaign irritating…”it’s cool to shoot with plastic” or “use crappy film and be surprised by the results”. With that said, I actually have a great respect for the selling of Lomography, it is brilliant marketing. That cameras worth $5 can be sold for $50 or more and inconsistent films are sold at high prices makes that evident.
I have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I like the fact that more people are experimenting with photography, for whatever reason. On the other hand, the selling of Lomography can blind new film photographers from seeing that cool or hip is basically a waste of time and energy. I’m not so sure that someone wanting or needing to label themselves as a photographer should be concerned about how cool their camera is.
I hope that those who have been swept up by lomography as an expressive tool take the time to find a camera at a flea market or accept that old box Brownie camera given to them by a family member. Think about where that camera has been and what images it has produced…clean it up, load it with film, and do photography with it…that is cool!