The Selling of Lomography

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.Picture of Old Diana Camera

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.Flipped Lens Kodak Brownie Hawkeye

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.Toy French Fry Camera

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!

5 thoughts on “The Selling of Lomography

  1. Jan Westphal

    Great post ideed, couldn’t agree more. I definitely support the original idea of taking not-so-expensive to toy camera equipment, not taking too much care how old the film is and being surprised by the results a little. Don’t support the marketing of crappy film or lenses at astronomical prizes and strongly believe this will lead to an implosion of the Lomographic Society. If you look at the online store you won’t see many Dianas and almost no Holgas anymore, only funny films, expensive “art” lenses and weird camera inventions like the LC-A 120. It used to be hip shooting a Holga or LC-A, nowadays Hipsters tend to carry a 300-Dollar camera or a Praktica with a 400 Dollar Petzval lens loaded with pink film….
    Take care and thanks a ton for the useful information (just got a Brownie and stumbled upon your sites)!
    Jan

    Reply
  2. David C.

    Marketing clearly doesn’t reflect reality. People who overpay for a simple camera thinking it will instantly make them artistic are as misguided as those who buy expensive dSLRs thinking they will instantly be great photographers.

    Reply
    1. chuck Post author

      I have a friend who will buy something thinking it’s better because it is more expensive. Marketing is a powerful thing…for products, politically, spiritually…and if someone feels as if they are getting their moneys worth then good for them, though personally I think they’re getting ripped off. I’m being my own devils advocate…if those who pay top dollar for cheap plastic are happy, maybe the important thing is that they are trying and doing photography in the first place, or at least giving it a go.

      Reply
  3. Christopher Hosford

    Wow, great post Chuck. I admit that I have been puzzled by the Llomography movement. It seems that the “creativity” of the final product is not the result of the photographer, but rather by the foibles of the instrument. Are we talking Jackson Pollack territory here? Regardless, this is a fascinating topic and I would love to learn more about it, and perhaps even try it out.

    Reply
    1. chuck Post author

      I think the final product is up to the photographer, whether it be image by mistake or by design. Shooting with a plastic or flipped lens camera, while knowing its’ individual characteristics, let’s it be used as a tool with a known outcome, just like any other camera or tool. But the selling of lomography skips this, instead telling the new photographer that it is the inconsistency or surprise that makes it great. That shooting with film using their overpriced plastic will make you a hipster. This seems lazy and misguided to me. I see the similarities with Pollack, though I’m not so sure it’s the same thing…I’ll have to think about that.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *