Lomography - a pleasant journey back to shooting film.
By Daniel Go
28 Dec 2007
About 4 weeks ago I decided to purchase a little film based camera known as a Lomo LC-A+, this little camera is Chinese remake of the Russian made LC-A. Thus began my entry in to the wacky, wonderful and colorific world of Lomography. I've become aware of lomography about 2-3 years ago while browsing through the images in PBase. I kept encountering the word LOMO and was wondering what it is all about. So I checked it out and it looked like some old film shots while others looked like film shots shot by someone on an acid trip, definitely very funky, psychedelic and whack colored images. I didn't really pay much attention to it as I was then still casually shooting film with an old film based point and shoot having grown tired of carrying old film-based SLRs. I wasn't really into photography then and was just beginning to enjoy the crisp, clean "Hi-fi" images of the budding digital cameras. So I definitely was moving towards the opposite direction.
Fast forward to the present. I've been taking photos "seriously" for about 2 years now and noticed that lately (starting this year actually) I was getting burnt-out a bit with photography and getting a bit bored with it and the seemingly "clean" and "sterile" looking images from my digital camera. It could very well be lack of skills on my part plus the "restless free spirit" in me looking for something else. I begin to deliberately "degrade" my images adding deeper contrast, higher saturation, underexposing my shots either through my camera settings or via Photoshop. I also began to play around with vignettes, textures and grains. When I realized what I am doing was that I was trying to simulate film! I always felt that film has this "organic" quality that is not present in digital camera, I may be guilty of romanticizing it but that is how I feel. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with digital images, It's just I wanted a fresh perspective, something new in terms of direction and outlook. I started looking more and more at film shots and tried to emulate it with my camera and post processing workflow. But the saying – nothing beats the real thing is so true. I didn't want to go back to buying film based SLRs (I regretted giving away my old SLRs) because I need to buy lenses for them on top of films and it will be a huge financial burden for me, so I looked around and remembered Lomography.
What is Lomography? Lomography emphasizes casual, snapshot photography. Characteristics such as over-saturated colors, off-kilter exposure, blurring, "happy accidents," and alternative film processing are often considered part of the "Lomographic Technique." Users are encouraged to take a lighthearted approach to their photography, and use these techniques to document everyday life. It's images; rules and techniques are often the anti-thesis of "serious" photography. The camera that started the whole Lomo-craze is the LOMO KOMPAKT AUTOMAT or better known as the LOMO LC-A. (You can read more about it here --> http://www.lomography.com/about/) Right now Lomography is a term that is used for a wide range of cameras that are often classified as Toy or plastic cameras and in many cases they are truly toy cameras.
Since the LC-A is the one that started it all, so I decided to start with in despite of it's higher cost as compared to the myriad of cheaper toy cameras available. I have to say that when I started out almost 4 weeks ago I was really nervous and anxious as I shot my first roll of film in a long time. I wanted to hurry up and finish it off quickly but since it's film and not digital, I had to be conscious of what I shoot since there is no delete button and films are expensive. After I eventually finish off my first roll, I didn't have high hopes since I fumbled my way through the 36 shots. I am very poor at estimating distances and the LC-A doesn't focus like ordinary cameras since it uses Zone focusing which requires you to set the distance between the camera and the subject in order to focus. Well, my 1st roll wasn't anything to write home about as expected. But it did contain several shots, which I really liked, and so I am hooked. I continued to read a lot about the LC-A and wanted to try out the original Russian made one so 1 week after having my Chinese LC-A+, I ordered a refurbished Russian LC-A. My 2nd and 3rd roll turned out a little better than my 1st so I am definitely stoked! I also prefer to shoot with slide (positive) films than regular negative ( these are the commonly used 35mm films, the type we find in drug stores, groceries and most camera /film shops) and I love how xpro/cross processed images look like. Cross processing (sometimes abbreviated to xpro) is the procedure of deliberately processing photographic film in a chemical solution intended for a different type of film.Cross processing usually involves one of the two following methods: 1) Processing positive color reversal film in C-41 chemicals, resulting in a negative image on a colorless base 2) Processing negative color print film in E-6 chemicals, resulting in a positive image but with the orange base of a normally processed color negative. Cross processed image often have wacky color shifts, highly boosted contrast and saturation.
I don't know where or how far my own Lomo madness will go but I can safely say that for now I am enjoying every moment of it (I just wish that slide films are less expensive and more readily available.) The fact that I can't see the images until they are developed and I never know what to expect from shooting expired slide films and having it cross processed adds a sense of anticipation and excitement.
Lomography has added a sense of fun, freshness, excitement and spontainity which, like a breath of fresh air, has re-energized and re-vitalized my approach towards photography. BUT I wouldn't call myself a LOMOGRAPHER, I see lomo as another way to shoot film and to be stuck with the label "LOMOGRAPHER" will be too limiting for me. Remember a camera is just a way for self-expression, a way to capture light and memories whether you are using digital or film.
Am I going to abandon the digital format? No, I don't think so, there is definitely a place and a time for both formats for me and I will continue to use both format for the foreseeable future God willing. I guess I have a digitized analog soul. I just feel blessed be able to try all these. God is good indeed .