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May 21, 2015 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Lomography is style of pop photography based around the quirky cameras by the Austrian camera manufacturer known as Lomo. There are several camera types that fall under the lomography genre. Among some of the more popular, are the Diana and Holga. These cameras, and (all of them in the Lomo line) are usually poor technical cameras. They are "poorly" built and often have light leaks, poor alignment of their lenses or other defects.

continued - from The Darkroom's piece, "What is Lomography" (2011):
"Lomography is branded as being a spontaneous, candid view on photography. Most of the cameras don’t even feature viewfinders. Instead, the photographer is supposed to just point and shoot. Using these kind of cameras is seen reaction against traditional, formal photography. As an alternative approach to photography, lomography supporters also try to push and pull their film in various ways to achieve some cool creative effects. Film is cross-processed by using slide film and developing it in chemistry that is intended for processing negative film."
Photography Monthly - 20 Years Of Lomography (from 2012)
"So how did it all start? The LC-A, a miniature wide-angle compact, was invented in St. Petersberg circa 1982 as a rip off of the Japanese 35mm Cosina CX-1 for Soviet residents, and went into mass production in 1984. Yet it wasn't until 1991, when the camera was no longer being churned out of factories, that a group of Austrian students perusing an old camera store in Prague were enchanted by its dreamy saturated effects. 'They weren't really sure what was causing the soft focus or vignette, but the more photos were developed, the more people liked it and wanted the cameras,' David says. 'They formed the Lomographic Society out of their student digs in Vienna and it grew as a global community - they are still involved today.' Now the firm produces 700,000 cameras on average per year, 10,000 of them being the Lomo LC-A+."
The Ten Golden Rules of Lomography (short version with no explanation)

What is Lomography? - 1st Web Designer
"Unpredictability This is what makes lomography so fun–and so frustrating. Lomo cameras are highly unpredictable–like it has a life of its own. That’s why most of the beautiful lomo photos are ‘happy accidents’. So if both a professional and a beginner in photography takes up lomography for the first time, both are likely equal in the field of lomography. Coming up with beautiful photos taken by toy cameras require you to understand your camera, develop a friendship with them and this understanding will take some time and practice."
Photography: shoot to thrill – a Lomography course in Brighton, by Anne-Marie Conway, 2012, The Guardian

Controversy

Is The Film Revival Just Another Fad? (2010 piece by Chris Gampat for The Phoblographer). Snippet: "Many people are very simple and total technophobes. The need to keep things simple and not give consumers something extra to worry about is very appealing. Otherwise, they won’t care for the product. I’ve seen this first hand with a client I used to teach photography to: he had an iPhone and didn’t know how to use it. His words were, 'It’s a piece of crap. They say it’s so simple and I can’t even make a call.' Adapting to new technology is something that many people don’t want to do..."

The rip-off that is the Lomo-Diana camera (2012, filmcamera999) - "The one good point about LSI is that they have seduced a lot of people back into film-based photography, which has to be a good thing. What a huge number of people are not happy about is the absolute false aura that surrounds their operation and the insane prices they charge."

Lomography is stupid

Analysis

Vintage Photography; A New Fad or Resurgence of Pictorialism - Visual Fiction, 2011
"In summary - this happened once before, in the late 1800s, when film photography fidelity was increasing, as an artistic backlash to try to find a more expressive / less literal approach. Today we're seeing pretty much the same thing; digital photography has been focused on increasing fidelity, and this vintage fad is a backlash against that which started in serious amateur and artistic circles and has trickled down into the mainstream of iPhone apps and related automated effects."
The Faux-Vintage Photo: Full Essay (Parts I, II and III) - cyborgology blog at The Society Pages (about)
"In this essay, I hope to show how faux-vintage photography, while seemingly banal, helps illustrate larger trends about social media in general. The faux-vintage photo, while getting a lot of attention in this essay, is merely an illustrative example of a larger trend whereby social media increasingly force us to view our present as always a potential documented past. But we have a ways to go before I can elaborate on that point. Some technological background is in order."
Additional links
Lomography.com website, recently revamped
The Comprehensive Guide to Vintage Film and Cameras
//Vintage & Beautiful Cameras (Pinterest)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (55 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
(There were some previous posts that I wanted to link to, but many of the links had died, unfortunately. Tags searched: lomo and lomography.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:18 PM on May 21, 2015


This is strangely reminiscent of 2005. World Toy Camera Day, to be specific.
posted by kadmilos at 7:21 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]




Man, the cynic in me wants to put this down as shallow nostalgia, but the majority of me really likes this and wants to have fun with it on my own. Either this is a sign of how I'm growing and maturing as a human being, or I'm just a bigger hipster than ever.

Anyway, thanks for including the essays about vaux-vintage photography. Really interesting.
posted by teponaztli at 7:38 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had (have? I don't think I got rid of it) a Lomo Colorsplash and it was amazingly fun. I took some good photos with it. But this was right before digital cameras became ubiquitous and I kind of bought into the whole Lomo culture cult in some ways -- this kind of hipster romanticism.

I know a lot of photographers (my mom was one for a while) and I'm a decent one. And while I don't necessarily think digital techniques should be a crutch (a bad photo is a bad photo and putting some bad Photoshop filters doesn't make it good), in the end, I preferred digital in a lot of ways -- even digital editing. Yeah, maybe it's "cheap" and easy to just run some kind of action on a digital photo to make it Lomo-esque, but I liked the control more.

I realize that goes against the whole Lomo aesthetic and I still think film is cool. But I just felt like a lot of the Lomo people were being precious about it all for no reason. But I did like the idea of "just take photos and care less about it and have fun" as the underlying ideal.

I think good photographers can be good with any camera (one of my favorite shots was taken with a disposable 35mm camera). Good photographers will take good photos with their Lomo cameras. Bad photographers will take bad photos. Taking good photos just takes practice. Digital cameras, at least, allow you care less and take more photos.

But I should dig out my Colorsplash again. It was a fun toy.
posted by darksong at 7:43 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


The two links under the "analysis" head are the best.
posted by klangklangston at 7:45 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember back when Holgas were $15. They're fun. I'm not so crazy about toy cameras using 35mm film, however...part of the fun of a Holga is that you get medium format quality...but also Holga "quality". That can lead you to IMHO funner places than just a random 35mm camera.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:57 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Lomo click... Shoot if you want to live!
posted by Artw at 8:02 PM on May 21, 2015


The urge to work directly in nostalgia as a medium is a powerful driver. But then it gets mixed up with coolness and then I am less interested.

From 1991, a fellow film school grad student shot this beautiful short film on a Fisher-Price PXL-2000 camera. It was the perfect medium, but then everyone started crazy buying Fischer-Price pixelvision cameras for stupid money.
posted by frumiousb at 8:17 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I once met a girl in a New Orleans bar who had a Holga, she assured me it was because she despised pretense. It was attached to a $500 Metz potato-masher flash with a $200 battery pack. (In '90s money)

I had the Diana model of this camera in college. It was not much fun. I had a lot more fun with tiny little '70s era fixed-lens 35mm rangefinders from Minolta, and hyuuuuge Koni-Omega 6x7 rangefinder press cameras and beat up old Yaschica-mat TLRs. I still kinda want a Seagull folding rangefinder.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:20 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


This topic and how it's handled interest me a lot. I grew up with the Holga; in a lot of ways, it's my first "real" camera.

My mother was getting her masters in fine art photography in the late '80s, and worked a lot with huge, fussy cameras and elaborate lighting, etc. Through a combination of increased engagement with art theory, the stress of grad school (along with having two kids and a husband whose sales job meant he had to travel a lot), and working in a very technically demanding medium, she had been losing some of what drew her to art in general — she was losing her sense of fun. One of her profs gave her a Holga as an antidote, basically telling her to go out and shot whatever and not to worry so much about getting everything right. So she taped off the light leaks, slapped a rubber band around it and rediscovered her love of immediacy and connected with a lineage of folks like Steichen, Stieglitz and Meatyard — it let her rediscover a lot of fluidity, a lot of spirituality and a lot of freedom in her work. And it handily got her away from the elaborate tampon tableaus that were awkward when her kids' friends came over.

I'd had 35mm cameras around, including a Minolta that I later went back to and ended up abusing to death (and replacing with a succession of Snowball II copies). But shooting a Holga was a way of both hanging out with my mom and getting to a really basic understanding of something that has helped me think about photography and art, a sense of what a photo is going to look like before I take it based on the way the camera sees. It's a different thing, at least for me, than the way that I think is the more traditional photographic approach, that of having an idea first then working to construct that and record it through the lens. (Camera phones with the instant preview are shifting that back, at least for casual photographers.)

So for me, Holgas are those cameras that my mom used to get for her students in cases of 12 at $10 a pop, something that should be cheap and freeing, and something that existed before "lomography." Which is sort of reflected in the Lomographic ethos, but I find the mythology really pretentious and reactionary, especially in the striving for authenticity even if it has to be faked to get there.

Last year, I reviewed the 20th Anniversary lomography books, and they were full of a lot of stuff that I find artistically troubling. I don't like their reflexive dismissal of digital technology; I don't like the way they've jacked up prices on plastic cameras; I don't like the way that while a Holga will last through decades of abuse, every ActionSampler I've shot has ended with having to dig a half-exposed roll out. I don't like the fact that in order to justify the mass manufacturing process that they depend on, they've had to create a fictional opposition within photography between "real" and artificial. I don't like the celebrity editions and the cult of the object — for me, what makes a camera interesting or worthwhile is how it works, its utility, not how it looks. Hasselblads and Leicas shouldn't be fetish objects, they're tools to make art and to communicate. Same thing with Lomos.

And yeah, like every goddamned hipster who was into it first, I do have to tamp down my occasional feelings of resentment toward other hipsters for making me look like a bandwagoneer.

I do like a lot of the pictorial aspects of Holgas — especially that once you get rid of the dumb square guide, the slight warp to the film enhances the vignetting. I do think that the complaints over a soft lens are often misplaced (the idea that you can get the same thing with a slower speed from one of the "stupid" links just makes me think they don't know what they're talking about, but you can get the same effect through photoshop). I like that it's super easy to do double exposures or bulb exposures or panoramas because of the amount of control you have, I do like that the 120mm film gives photos that are easy to print large without excess grain or shitty digital artifacts, and I like that I don't have to worry about dropping them or kicking them or having somebody at a party steal 'em, even if they're way more expensive than they used to be.

And I do like that they're encouraging people to get back into film, which needs more people to keep up with it if I'm going to keep getting the film that I want — I mean, we're already past the time when you can get an infrared worth shooting on the Holga, though 100 ISO BW will probably always be around. I just worry that by fetishizing a lot of the tropes like light leaks (they happen occasionally, but ruin more shots than they help, and you can mostly get rid of them by properly taping off your Holga) or chromatic aberration, that people will get tired of those gimmicks and think that they're part of film photography rather than specific artistic choices that you should consider before firing the shutter. I think this is especially true for folks who only ever get their film scanned and don't print it — where film can really shine is being relatively low buy-in to get amazing images that you can actually touch.

I will say, though, as someone who frequently prints big enough to get the frame numbers in my shots, it does drive me fucking nuts to see people add the fake Kodak borders to their Instagram/Hipstamatic shots.
posted by klangklangston at 8:22 PM on May 21, 2015 [38 favorites]


Do these folks know they can take blurry, accidental photographs from the hip with a carefree, experimental and adventuresome aesthetic with digital cameras and not spend so much goddanm money on wasted film?

Do you want that strange and surprising effects of toy cameras? Use a digital camera, turn off the auto focus, set the ISO speed low so you get lots of motion blur and shallow depth of field, set the color balance randomly, use old busted up lenses, glue bits of broken glass or rhinestones on old filters, smear on vaseline, shoot from the hip, and blast away. Hey, you can have all the fun in the word without blowing your grocery money on $10 rolls of film.

Really - I find it odd people would use film cameras to do spontaneous photography when digital is much more suited to spontaneity and film is much more suited to careful work.
posted by tommyD at 8:27 PM on May 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Back in 2005 I got that one that shoots four tiny sequential images on a single 35mm frame.

I don't think I've ever used it, but, hey, I might! /hoarder
posted by Sys Rq at 8:30 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


@klangklangston, I did my MFA in film a 5-6 later than your mother, and I looked at digital cameras in exactly the same way as you describe the role of Holgas for her.

I like a lot of what I see of the lomography aesthetic, but the way of looking down at digital really really annoys and troubles me. A lot of these hipsters fail to realize how gear-heavy film/photography was for a really really long time and how effectively that excluded people who didn't have access to that kind of very expensive equipment.

The digital revolution opened up films and photography to anyone with a cell phone, and I think that's *amazing*. If the price is some bad pictures, then I can live with that. It's sometimes difficult for me to not hear a lot of the thinking in the lomography movement as a way to move the production of image back to something a lot more exclusive and difficult to access.
posted by frumiousb at 8:31 PM on May 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


(Which is kind of ironic given that it started as a "toy" camera. But whatever.)
posted by frumiousb at 8:33 PM on May 21, 2015


Film is a quaint way of taking pictures. Nasty chemicals are involved, and the process is slow and expensive. But mad props to the Lomo marketing folks for the crazed markup they put on some of these shitbox cameras. I mean, the Lubitel 166 was barely worth the ~$25 you paid for it during the Iron Curtain days.
posted by scruss at 8:42 PM on May 21, 2015


"Back in 2005 I got that one that shoots four tiny sequential images on a single 35mm frame.

I don't think I've ever used it, but, hey, I might! /hoarder
"

That's one of two kinds of Action Samplers. Which I've gotten some great shots with, then inevitably broken because they rely on poorly-molded plastic pegs in their winding and shutter mechanism and they just wear out. Then they want another $50 for it and it's like… nah, I'm a'right.

"@klangklangston, I did my MFA in film a 5-6 later than your mother, and I looked at digital cameras in exactly the same way as you describe the role of Holgas for her.

I like a lot of what I see of the lomography aesthetic, but the way of looking down at digital really really annoys and troubles me. A lot of these hipsters fail to realize how gear-heavy film/photography was for a really really long time and how effectively that excluded people who didn't have access to that kind of very expensive equipment.
"

Yeah, it took a LONG time for her to come around to any digital cameras because she was used to shooting huge negatives and getting really wide tonal ranges and stuff like that. It took a long time for digital to come up to anywhere near her snuff, though she uses a DSLR now for a fair amount of her work. But she's still firmly ensconced in alt process, and that informs a lot of how I look at photography too. Some of her current work involves digital negatives and encaustics, which is a nice old and new.

"The digital revolution opened up films and photography to anyone with a cell phone, and I think that's *amazing*. If the price is some bad pictures, then I can live with that. It's sometimes difficult for me to not hear a lot of the thinking in the lomography movement as a way to move the production of image back to something a lot more exclusive and difficult to access."

Yeah, and honestly I think that's part of the appeal for a lot of hipsters — it's an exclusivity that appears on the surface to come from "authenticity" or notions of "analog" experience, but is really rooted in class and access. I think there are definitely some things that are much harder to learn with digital cameras — like when not to take a picture because it's not going to work — the same way that any artistic limits can provoke great work within those limitations. I know when I took a 4x5 class last fall for shits and giggles at the local rec center, knowing that I got six shots per week made me a lot more conscious of thinking about what exactly I wanted and controlling a lot more of the variables, as opposed to with a Holga or my phone — the Holga, I know what I'm getting and with my phone, I'm willing to take more crappy shots and delete them.

I dunno; I'm writing a review of an experimental photography handbook right now, but I also think that some of the most exciting and interesting photographic work I've seen recently has been people making glitch gifs.

I tend to think that what makes a good photo is the eye behind it, but, for example, with phone cameras they're almost all wide lenses and so have limitations that a lot of the "I do all my photos with the iPhone brah" digi-nerds don't acknowledge, at least for regular people learning to shoot.
posted by klangklangston at 8:49 PM on May 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Film is a quaint way of taking pictures."

A couple weeks ago, I was at an event at USC's IMAX theater and one of the IMAX post-production supervisors was pointing out that there's still absolutely no question in resolution or fidelity — if you can afford it, go film. Not so much quaint as the eternal question of cheap and good enough versus quality — IMAX 3-d can run $125,000 per second of film, which rather quickly put to rest any questions I had about being able to ever play around with it, despite it looking amazing.
posted by klangklangston at 8:54 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not a pro photographer, and while the price of shooting film is kind of off-putting, it's also just the process itself that I find attractive. Not so much the bespoke lenses and whatnot, but the fact that it all functions in this tangible way. I know, "analog" for hipsters, etc. But there's something nice in knowing that it's not some app you bought for 99c. You know, light and chemicals. Even if I were to shoot awful photos, it's the process itself that's the hobby for some people.

This whole aesthetic reflects a lot of things, including maybe some romanticized ideas about quaint nostalgia. I mean, on the one hand, yes, people are embracing something that smacks of exclusivity and class privilege. On the other hand, it's not like Hipstamatic and other things that approximate this look are free of similar associations (not everyone has an iPhone). Chalking it up to hipster attitudes about authenticity and analog cheapens what people (like me, maybe) actually think of this sort of thing. I mean, what, I can't think it's neat to play around with photo chemicals?

Personally, I can't afford a smartphone (so that's out). Maybe I don't get what this is all supposed to be about, but what attracts me is that it's (ostensibly) a cheap, fun approach to film photography. But I don't know how much processing costs these days, and so for all I know it's way outside my price range anyway.
posted by teponaztli at 9:57 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I mean, I'm not saying you're wrong, I just wonder if maybe you're not being fair to people who want to get into this.
posted by teponaztli at 9:59 PM on May 21, 2015


I started shooting film a couple years ago, and a lot of my interest came from being able to afford the high end film gear I coveted when I was a high school newspaper photographer in the early 90s. I also like the aesthetic of it. Film looks a way. It lacks some of the plasticity of digital images, and I find that appealing.
posted by chrchr at 10:11 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes, and it's super neat to play with photo chemicals.
posted by chrchr at 10:16 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's absolutely neat to play around with photo chemicals. I like it too. I still shoot 16mm when I can (I've got an old Russian camera) and if I could cut it myself, I surely would.

What I object to is the reflexive snobbery against digital cameras and cheap apps. You like real film, fine! (I like it better for certain things, and not for others.) No need to try to make other work less valid because of the medium you like to employ. And I find that in a lot of the folks who work in these "real film" worlds, the exclusivity is part of the point. I don't like exclusivity.

And that attitude has a history. When I was a grad student in film, women of color were shooting in video since that was what they could afford-- and then when their work would get shown, these gearheads would sit around and sneer about the production value and bemoan that ugly video was now so widely available. It wasn't too long ago when nobody wanted to shoot anything in video because it was just too nasty home video (old 8mm home movies being suitably hip).
posted by frumiousb at 10:19 PM on May 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Quirky toy lenses for lomo-esque fun are definitely part of why I went for a mirrorless digital camera, since you can adapt darn near any lens to them and there's a lot of cheap weird glass out there, but I wasn't expecting to totally fall in love with the character of a cheap janky CCTV lens that I bought thinking it would just be a silly toy lens. It gets major flare in pretty much every possible lighting condition, and only the center of the image ever really gets in focus, but damn I love this thing.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:36 PM on May 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


frumiousb, that's an interesting point.

From my perspective, a lot of this frustration with cheap apps comes down to more generalized frustration with the way everything is a cheap app nowadays. There's an overall fad of tangible/handcrafted/wood/metal things, and I do see the appeal as an alternative to the disposable tech wave of the future. Plus, since film has been so threatened (motion picture film anyway - I don't know about still photography), I would wonder how much of the reflexive snobbery is at least partly frustration with film dying out.

On the other hand, now that you mention it, I also know people who work exclusively with film and have er, very strong opinions about it. I've heard the phrase "video shit" too many times to count.
posted by teponaztli at 11:04 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


lomography is very appealing; wish I could afford to pursue it.

klangklangston: "I tend to think that what makes a good photo is the eye behind it, but, for example, with phone cameras they're almost all wide lenses and so have limitations that a lot of the "I do all my photos with the iPhone brah" digi-nerds don't acknowledge, at least for regular people learning to shoot."

IMO phones are shitty photography platforms. They only thing they have going for them is their access (the shitty camera you have without is infinitely better than the primo camera you don't). I wonder if in 20 years old iPhones are going to be commanding crazy money on the used market because people are after a 201x photo esthetic.
posted by Mitheral at 11:16 PM on May 21, 2015


Back during the first Lomo whatever wave I bought five different crap cameras -- a Russian one, a Holga, a Squantz, and the Romanian Pearkin, whatever ... and they all just ate film and produced nothing. Zero images. Then computers were invented and I bought one that was a camera as well the end.
posted by user92371 at 11:26 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Back during the first Lomo whatever wave I bought five different crap cameras -- a Russian one, a Holga, a Squantz, and the Romanian Pearkin, whatever ... and they all just ate film and produced nothing. Zero images. Then computers were invented and I bought one that was a camera as well the end.

Meh. Not to get all brags on ya, but I think you can do some decent things with a Holga if you want.

"IMO phones are shitty photography platforms. They only thing they have going for them is their access (the shitty camera you have without is infinitely better than the primo camera you don't). I wonder if in 20 years old iPhones are going to be commanding crazy money on the used market because people are after a 201x photo esthetic."

So, a lot of my aesthetic preferences are informed by DIY, punk and hip hop. A lot of the early drum machines and samplers were kind of shitty music platforms, but people managed to make amazing stuff with them that played to the strengths of the media, and their accessibility helped people be more experimental with them. I think that can happen with phone cameras, its just that too many of their boosters pretend that they don't have any limitations at all compared to actual camera-primary devices. The flipside of that is people fetishizing the flaws of toy and film cameras instead of using the flaws as things to work around that occasionally add a bit of serendipity to an image.

I think some of that tension is because for a great many artists, the process is often more important than the results, and that lends itself easily to fetishizing the tools rather than what you can do with them.
posted by klangklangston at 12:06 AM on May 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


klangklangston, music is a great analogy and fetishizing the tools is the best possible description.

I was involved with Riot Grrrl at the same time I was in film school, and you got a lot of the equivalent crappiness in music. "Why don't they learn to play their instruments? Why are they using a drum machine?" There's some amazing electronic music out there, but some of my age peers will sneer at it and ask why they don't learn to play "real instruments" , dumping it into the same aesthetic class as ringtones.
posted by frumiousb at 12:58 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


This whole thread makes me feel old, by the way-- a drunken auntie waving her digital cane at those lomo whippersnappers in her yard. Oh well.
posted by frumiousb at 1:00 AM on May 22, 2015


I thing the single best thing about these plastic cameras is that they can be used and abused and it doesn't really matter. I have a lot of fancy analogue cameras, including a Yashika 44 and my much-loved pre-70s Nikon that used to belong to my dad and went to Vietnam, but it was my Diana that I went back to time and again. When I was hiking in the Pyrenees a few years ago I tripped and fell while I had the Diana in my hand, and snapped the lens clean off the body. Even though I had scraped a patch of skin off my knee the size of my fist and couldn't put any weight on that leg, I kept thinking, "Thank god it was the Diana". No biggie, buy a new one.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:02 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Didn't the irony-as-a-lifestyle crowd go through their Holga period ten or so years ago? Is that the time-frame for nostalgia now?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:12 AM on May 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I bought a plastic Holga lens for my Olympus OM-D :-) It's kind of fun, as a toy. I've got some other "vintage" lenses which are fun too, in a less plastic way. The Olympus lenses are so amazing you feel like you're getting in their way. Maybe it helps with some inspiration to look through a lens which needs your help more ...

But at the end of the day sufficiently crummy technology is indistinguishable from photoshop filters ...
posted by nickzoic at 5:02 AM on May 22, 2015


I would like to recommend the Dirkon pinhole camera of 1970s Czechoslovakia for anyone interested in extreme lo-fi photography, as it is free, because you make it yourself, out of paper. Communism!
posted by velebita at 7:18 AM on May 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is strangely reminiscent of 2005. World Toy Camera Day, to be specific.

World Toy Camera Day (Oct 22, 2005) was covered on MetaFilter. Almost a decade ago? Arglebargle.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:42 AM on May 22, 2015


IMO phones are shitty photography platforms. They only thing they have going for them is their access (the shitty camera you have without is infinitely better than the primo camera you don't). I wonder if in 20 years old iPhones are going to be commanding crazy money on the used market because people are after a 201x photo esthetic.

Except there is a HUGE range in camera quality in cellphones, with iPhones ranking pretty highly. From personal experience, they're leagues better than the other phone cameras I've used, but that doesn't mean an inferior camera can't take really interesting/ fun/ stunning photos. If you're concerned about photo quality when buying a phone, Phone Arena has a comparison of photos by phones with a really great tool to actively see what the different cameras produce for a range of photos and settings.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:52 AM on May 22, 2015


And the crazy money for old, crappy gear is totally fetishization of those tools. Otherwise, people would realize they could 1) find equally crappy cameras with out the same brand recognition as Lomos, or 2) make do with what they have, as jason_steakums mentioned.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:56 AM on May 22, 2015


I think some of that tension is because for a great many artists, the process is often more important than the results, and that lends itself easily to fetishizing the tools rather than what you can do with them.

For someone like me, I'm not a fantastic photographer, so it's all about the process. It's something I make for myself. I know that's obviously not what everyone is about, but I'd wonder if the snapshot nature of this lends itself to more fun. It's like making bread - I'm not going to open a bakery, I just want to bake things.

Or maybe I don't really get what lomography as an aesthetic is about. I certainly didn't realize how expensive those lenses can be. Maybe I just want to take pictures with a cheap camera?
posted by teponaztli at 10:27 AM on May 22, 2015


Or maybe I don't really get what lomography as an aesthetic is about.

It's often more fruitful to do creative work within limitations than to work with unlimited options. However, the analog aesthetic for many hobbyists is really just repackaged nostalgia- although I'm not inclined to be too critical of that kind of thing. I like old cameras for various reasons, but I'm not that interested in buying a somewhat pricey revival of a flawed but utilitarian Soviet era camera, which was attractive in no small part because of its low price.

I'm not really sold on the Instagram aesthetic either, because I had a Polaroid camera as a kid, but YMMV. It's fine for what most people want from a cell phone camera and social media. I also have a Ricoh SLR that I haven't used since the '90s, but lately it's tempting to buy some b/w film. BTW, my most used camera these days is my iPhone 5S. It's not bad, but the wide angle lens has to be taken into account, and it has some unnatural color issues that are sort of typical for a lower end digital camera. I plan on getting something with decent lenses again soon, most likely not film, but haven't decided yet.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:09 AM on May 22, 2015


Digital has definitely democratized photography as a ubiquitous easy-access option, but it's interesting to me how film flips back to being the accessible option as you go higher up the ladder of quality - medium format digital is very expensive, and medium and large format film blows everything else out of the water, quality-wise, at a small fraction of the cost.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:21 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've actually been really into old digital cameras lately and have been playing around with stretching the exposures and using sensor noise for aesthetic effect. It helps that those cameras are dirt cheap right now. I've got a bunch of old holgas and even a newer diana instax thing that I literally never use, because that film cost adds up. I've got hundreds of dollars of film to develop in a drawer, that I will probably never get around to. But I also grew up just on the cusp of film and digital photography, and feel much more at home in photoshop than in the darkroom. And for such a hoarder, I'm not much of a fetishist, and never really cared too much about film. I appreciate those that really know what they're doing with it, though, and something about lomography in general strikes me as a little shallow -- something like using a lot of surface effect to distract from an otherwise mediocre image, I guess. It's like instagram filters, in that sense.

Anyway, thanks to this thread I've got one of those cctv lenses coming for my fuji, so... thanks for that?
posted by jeweled accumulation at 11:26 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


thanks to this thread I've got one of those cctv lenses coming for my fuji

Fuji is the company doing digital retro right, I keep lusting after the x100t not only for the body but because of all the work Fuji's color tech people put in to classic film emulation modes using all that experience they've got actually making the films they're emulating. Gorgeous stuff.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:35 AM on May 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


[This was the reason for this fpp (Urban Outfitters link) - I was interested in this one purely on the external aesthetics but I didn't know if it had any substance, nor anything about lomography.]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:40 AM on May 22, 2015


TBH, if I was interested in the lomo ethos and aesthetic, I'd go get a pack of disposable film cameras and have at it. Because it's definitely something that's fun in theory but less so in practice for a lot of people, so you wouldn't be out the cost of a dedicated camera body if you didn't get bit by the bug, and if you did, the cost of the disposables are just the first drop in the bucket of money you're going to spend on your new hobby anyways.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:36 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


joseph conrad is fully awesome, The instant Lomos are lots of fun. Get one and order a few packs of Fuji Instax and go to town. You and all your friends will love it.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:02 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I was involved with Riot Grrrl at the same time I was in film school, and you got a lot of the equivalent crappiness in music. "Why don't they learn to play their instruments? Why are they using a drum machine?" There's some amazing electronic music out there, but some of my age peers will sneer at it and ask why they don't learn to play "real instruments" , dumping it into the same aesthetic class as ringtones."

Ha! Just Wednesday, I watched The Punk Singer about Kathleen Hanna, and that was on my mind as I was writing the comment, the bits about people slagging them for not being able to play their instruments and the DIY explosion through the zines. Zine culture is kinda how I got into music writing, and then I ended up working at Kinko's on the overnight shift, and the best part was getting to play around with a dual-lens Polaroid passport camera, which made stereo images by default. That and using color copiers as cameras, that was fun too.

"Except there is a HUGE range in camera quality in cellphones, with iPhones ranking pretty highly. "

Iphones still have a wide-angle lens and crappy zoom, so they tend to limit what shots look good from them.

"For someone like me, I'm not a fantastic photographer, so it's all about the process. It's something I make for myself. I know that's obviously not what everyone is about, but I'd wonder if the snapshot nature of this lends itself to more fun. It's like making bread - I'm not going to open a bakery, I just want to bake things.

Or maybe I don't really get what lomography as an aesthetic is about. I certainly didn't realize how expensive those lenses can be. Maybe I just want to take pictures with a cheap camera?
"

I think part of it still does come down to what you want to do with the images. Like, if you want to print them at any decent size (8x10 and above), medium format plastic cameras are pretty much the easiest way to do that. And they also pare off a significant part of overcomplicating the process — for a long time, the Holga aperture switch didn't even actually function due to an engineering flaw.

But if you want a picture that you can share with your friends or look at on a screen, they're not a very good tool relative to others, and are a lot more expensive.

As far as an aesthetic, I think there's some tension there between folks who want to call attention to the process that they used, emphasizing things like light leaks, chromatic aberration, etc. rather than the subject — the snapshot aesthetic can be fun, but a lot of lomos actually get in the way of taking good snapshots if you want to go back and look at the photos. I kinda think that high gain, overdriven amp heads are a decent analogy — if you're looking for a clean tone, they're not the tool you want. Some music sounds better with massive distortion, but if you're just trying to learn to play guitar, it can get in the way.

"I'm not really sold on the Instagram aesthetic either, because I had a Polaroid camera as a kid, but YMMV. It's fine for what most people want from a cell phone camera and social media."

I have a Fuji Instax wide and they're a lot of fun at parties. I had an odd moment with an older guy at a party recently where he was convinced that the slot at the top was because it wrote to CD-R and wouldn't listen to me until I snapped a picture of him and he saw it come out of the camera. Then he got all grumbly and stalked off. But it's always in the back of my mind that they're like a buck a shot.

"I appreciate those that really know what they're doing with it, though, and something about lomography in general strikes me as a little shallow -- something like using a lot of surface effect to distract from an otherwise mediocre image, I guess. It's like instagram filters, in that sense. "

I think that's a totally legit cop, and one of the things that I think fuels some of the backlash. On the other hand, people manage to take crappy pictures with amazing gear, so at least it's cheaper than that.

"Yeah, I've actually been really into old digital cameras lately and have been playing around with stretching the exposures and using sensor noise for aesthetic effect."

One of the things that I really like about cheap, low-end digital is how it reminds me of surveillance images — the CCTV stuff of Jason's is maybe even too nice for that. But where I tend to think of a lot of the toy film stuff as warm and pictorial, dreamlike, the digital stuff can be really hard and foreboding in a way that resonates with me coming of age during a big expansion of public surveillance. It can feel really surreptitious and impersonal, and I like seeing people play with that. I also remember enough of dial-up images where gifs blew out skintones and gave a really odd, lost-in-translation view of humanity to enjoy those too.
posted by klangklangston at 1:04 PM on May 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


This thread reminded me: it seems like DigitalRev TV can be a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it thing (I usually like it), but their Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge videos are incredible and demonstrate a lot of what has been said in this thread about the tools v. the skills.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:11 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Back in the mid-'60s I was a kid who rode his bike over to the neighborhood Radio Shack - where, as a "57th anniversary" promotion, they sold me a Diana variant for 57¢. (59¢, with sales tax.)

It was my first camera. (But not my last.)

All you hipsters with your $180 "MEG" editions can get right off my lawn.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:09 PM on May 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


OK, so this thread, man... I got nostalgic for film, and then found this.

They're sold out. I may have to fight someone.

No, I will reserve violence until once they're sold out of the ones that work with 150mm lenses.

Also, Koni Omegas with the 90mm are $60 on Ebay! (The 180mm lens to go with is $200, tho...)
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:09 PM on May 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Double posting, but hellfire, this guy is still in business... less than $500 for a full-movement 8x10? Well, I can tell myself it's not a motorcycle or fishing boat come tax refund time next year...
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:13 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]




Awww.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:56 AM on May 23, 2015


FROWNIE. FACE.

Get this man a kickstarter!
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:19 PM on May 24, 2015


Or, really, anyone, please, fill that niche.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:00 PM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is really making me nostalgic. For 5 years ago, when this was a thing. It was a more innocent, pre-Instagram time, when low-fi photography was limited to artists and hipsters.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:27 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


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