Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The Lomo Look
I do believe that there can be great value in de-emphasising the tools in many endeavors. Technology has advanced so far that in many fields, it is very easy to get lost in the tools of the trade. In photography, particularly, the number of devices and accoutrement is extraordinary, and many photographers do become obsessed with the gadgetry.
There are numerous cameras in the "toy" camera category which have found favor with members of the photographic community and students. They typically were inexpensive plastic cameras, many produced as novelties, which often produce strange and unpredictable results. Some cameras in this class will even display evidence of light leaks. Many, like the Holga, Diana and Lomo, have developed cult followings, owing to these photographic effects. The Diana was originally produced in the 1960s in Hong Kong and was a predecessor to the Holga, which was made in China (first appearing in Hong Kong in 1982).
In 1991, two Austrian marketing students discovered the LOMO LC-A, a camera introduced in 1984 by a state-run optics company in St. Petersburg, Russia. They became enchanted with the photographic results of the Lomo camera, which will show any combination of bright colors with somewhat garish, contrasty, images, often with blurring and vignetting.
Use of low fidelity toy cameras can be a very useful exercise in learning to focus on the art of photography, training the eye, and playing down the technology. There is no question that good work can be produced using low tech camera equipment and that conversely poor work can be done with top equipment. Some award-winning photos were created using Lomos and other cameras of this class.
However, the bottom line with this type of camera is that you give up a lot of control. Using it becomes an exercise in working with (or around) the camera's "flaws." If you are interested in controlling depth of field for portraiture, shooting in very low light with high ISO, achieving sharpness with high quality lenses, exposure compensation, white balance, etc., these types of cameras will show their limitations. However, the lack of control is not only their weakness but also the appeal of these cameras. The fact there is a very distinctive Holga or Lomo "look" is a result of these cameras' anomalies or limitations.
Lomography is the trademark of Lomographische AG, founded by the two Austrian students, who, in early 1995, negotiated exclusive distribution of the Lomo LC-A. Lomography also distributes a number of low cost analogue cameras, such as the Diana and the Holga.
The photo is from their new shop located at 41 West 8th Street. Lomography has 20 retail store/galleries world wide - the New York City shop is currently the only location in the United States. The shop sells cameras, film, accessories, and books. It will be introducing on-site film processing. They offer classes, workshops, and meetings each month. The store also features North America’s largest LomoWall, with 35,000 Lomographs on display. If you visit, you can see the equipment, as well as examples of the photography, and decide for yourself what you think of The Lomo Look :)