Sunday, 17 November 2013

The incredible story of Lomography or.. How Vladimir Putin saved analogue photography

Lomography is an international movement aimed at taking and sharing analogue photo’s.  And it’s more than photography; it’s a ‘living in the moment’ lifestyle. Their belief :“The Future is Analogue”.
Lomography is an international movement aimed at
Nowadays the International Society of Lomography has more than 2 million members. But it all started with three students in Vienna in 1991; Wolfgang, Bernhard and Matthias.
How it all started
In 1991 Matthias bought a little camera in Prague. Back in Vienna, in typical student times with parties, women and booz , Matthias and his two friends started taking pictures with this ‘Lomo Compact’. This small Russian camera made suprising pictures with a unique, authentic feel.

Soon the friends were approached by people who wanted a Lomo too and a within a few months over 50 people were taking pictures with the same camera. Because of this overwhelming interest in the camera, Matthias, Bernhard and Wolfgang wanted to organize an exhibition to show off all the lomo pictures. “But first let’s start a society”, they joked. And this first joke was followed by the next: the introduction of the ‘ 10 golden rules’ .

10 golden Rules

1.    Take your camera everywhere you go
2.    Use it any time – day and night
3.    Lomography is not an interference in your life, but part of it
4.    Try the shot from the hip
5.    Approach the objects of your Lomographic desire as close as possible
6.    Don't think (William Firebrace)
7.     Be fast
8.     You don't have to know beforehand what you captured on film
9.    Afterwards either
10. Don't worry about any rules

The students started selling camera’s, which they bought in Russia. With the earnings they were able to pay for the lomo events. In everything they did, the community approach was key; building an inspiring and ‘happening’ society of lomography believers. If you buy a lomo, you don’t buy a camera, but you buy lifelong membership of the International Society of Lomography.

The Lomo Compact, the little icon camera, is a product of the Lomo factory (Leningrad Optical Mechanical Association) in St. Petersburg. The factory came into business in 1914 making optical military equipment. One of their showcase products it the world’s largest telescope, in the Caucasus.
Exhibition in Moskow
At the end of 1993 the students came up with the idea to organize a special exhibition with 10.000 pictures from New York and 10.000 pictures in Moskow.  How cool it would be to combine ‘East and West’, or as some may think ‘ Good and Bad’ . They sent an invition to the general manager of the Lomo factory. But as the invitation was dated on the 1st of April, the people in the factory thought it was a joke, and the invitation was binned.
The opening of the exhibition in Moskow was a hit and was broadcasted on national tv every hour.  And so the General Manager found out it hadn’t been a joke after all. He hurried to meet the students in Moskow and invited them to visit the factory. They did not know at that time, however, that a radical decision had been made about the production of the beloved camera.
In those days things were changing rapidly in Russia. During the Gorbatsjov regime the iron curtain fell and Russia was moving away from communism towards a free economy. This had big impact on the Lomo factory. In communist days production was done at any cost, but now it had to be profitable. And as the production of the lomo camera cost more that the selling price, the factory had decided to stop production.
Saved by Putin
The three students headed into a series of serious negatiations with the factory. The current President of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin, at that time deputy mayor of St. Petersburg ,played an important role. He was charmed by the enthousiastic, creative students and their passion for this little Russian camera. And due to his vision that the continuation of the production of the camer would be good for the factory, and good for St. Petersburg, the factory
(And to add some juicy detail:  The General Manager of the Lomo factory was appointed Vice President of the Soviet Union in 1998; Vladimir Putin and Ilya Klebanov first met during the negotiations with those ‘crazy students’ about the production of the legendary little camera).

Two million lomographers worldwide
In the past few years the Lomography Society has grown rapidly. Especially in Asia the lomography has become very popular. At present the society has over 2 million members and embassy’s in 70 cities, including Amsterdam and London.
And with the growth of the international society the range of camera’s grew too. Originally everthing started wit the Lomo Compact, but in the past years additional camera’s, such as The Diana F+, the Supersampler and the FishEye were introduced. All of them little plastic camera’s with a specific unique character.
Picture taken with SuperSampler

Countermovement in Digital Era
In this digital era Lomography is a fascinating countermovement. It’s all about authenticity and  fun. A typical lomographer is curious; wants to experience and share new things. Although lomopictures are authentic pictures, made with filmrolls and printed, you get your pictures digitally too, so sharing through internet and social media is possible. Go on the internet and you’ll be overwhelmed with the lomo activity of members from all over the world. And for all not-lomographers there are even apps that help you to give a lomo –feel to your digital pictures.
 FishEye camera
Picture taken with FishEye

Want to get started?
After this great story, I can imagine that you want to try for yourself, like me. You can buy a camera for less that 40 euro’s. The ideal beginners camera is La Sardina. The Lomography camera in Amsterdam in the 9 Straatjes sells all the camera’s and they’ll give you good advice which camera is best for you. They also organize workshops every Sunday.
Last weekend I visited the store in Amsterdam and spoke to storemanager Jos Kraaijeveld and shop assistant Laura van Roemburg. Asking them what the typical lomo public is, they told me it’s all kinds of people. For intstance youngsters like lomo because to them analogue photography is something completely new, and it suprises them. On the other hand professional photographers are using lomo camera’s too. To give photoshoots an authentic feel, without using Photoshop.
Generally speaking people use lomo camera’s to capture special moments, because they like the extra feeling the pictures capture.

Asking them about their favorite camera Jos is all for the original Lomo Compact (now known as Lomo LCA+). Laura is very enthousiastic about Sprocket Rocket, a camera with a wide-angel lens, which make’s panorama pictures. And you can choose whether you want to show the sprocket holes. Great for taking holiday pictures!

And of course I couldn’t leave the shop without buying my own. My first lomo camera (as I know know there will be more..) is the Diana F+. A great basic camera that I can extend with accessories, such a flash or special lenses. Enough writing… I am want to get started with my camera..
My first lomo camera: Diana F+

Lomography Gallery Store, Amsterdam
Herengracht  298, (corner Wolvenstraat)

Click here for the blog in Dutch

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