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On Lomography

§ Photography · Design thinking

The Lomographic Society is dedicated to enthusiasts of the Lomo LC-A – a Russian 35mm compact camera. I’ve arrived about half a decade late, but there’s lots to admire about their site: the quirky k10k inspired design, the sheer volume of photos & areas to explore, the pointless but fun JavaScript effects, even perversely the old-school frames and tables coding. Even more admirable is the navigation – the slightly obscure labelling and lack of context indication which mean it’s surprisingly hard to get around and to know where you are. And this is entirely deliberate.

Lomo LC-A

The Lomographic Society is not quite the enthusiastic group of like-minded individuals as first seems. It is in fact the sole world-wide distributor of the Lomo and as such has worked extremely hard to create a cult following behind the camera. Their website is a chief part of their hype – if you don’t get it, you’re not in.

Putting aside the capitalistic underpinning, the Lomographic Society does well to encourage photography with such mantras as Always take it with you, Shoot from the hip and even Don’t think. Getting folks to take a camera wherever they go and just snap away is good, but I wonder if 35mm film the best medium for this snap-happy ethos?

Maybe technology and medium shouldn’t come into the equation, but compared to digital, conventional film is quite expensive. A decent 36 exposure film – not Kodak Gold – will cost ?3 plus a further ?7 to process at a quality high street developers – not Boots. Even the cheap-as-chips free film mail order developers still cost a fiver a go. The delete-ability, easy distribution and immediate feedback of digital photography would seem to be more appropriate, especially now digital cameras can be had for the same money as conventional compacts. (To be fair, the price equality has only come about recently.)

Casio EX-S3

Last year Her Indoors bought me a Casio EX-S3 for my birthday and I love it. It’s tiny (smaller than a pack of Bensons) and fits in a pouch on my belt (wanky I know, but I have a tendency to lose things that aren’t strapped on). It’s been mountain biking, hiking, boating, pubbing and clubbing, and thanks to a cracking Pentax lens, low-light sensitivity and accurate metering, it takes great pictures.

Of course digital photography does assume you have a computer on which to view the pictures, preferably with a CD writer and a stack of CDRs to store them, and maybe a decent printer. So if emulsion-based photography is more your thing, and the Lomo your bag, then you might do well to consider an Olympus Trip 35, the iconic holiday camera of the 70s and early 80s (not to be confused with the modern plastic version).

Olympus Trip 35

You can pick up mint examples of Trips for about ?30, saving ?70 of the ?100 you’d have to fork out on a Lomo. And you’ll get a far superior camera with fantastic retro-looks, metering accurate enough for slide photography and a truly wonderful lens (as opposed to the ropey Russian job with its vignetting problems). But maybe I’ve missed the point – after all there is no Tripographic Society.