Why is Lomography so Popular?

This is a guest post by Emily Buchanan

Anyone familiar with photography apps like Instagram or Hipstamatic knows that arty, vintage-looking photography is part of the modern cultural zeitgeist. After all, these apps have created a new kind of photography quickly called iPhoneography! After decades of demanding better quality cameras and images, many people have gone full-circle; they want their photos to look old, distressed and flawed. They want their photos to look accidental and interesting. They don’t want cameras to simply capture reality; they want reality to serve as the basis for something creative and unique. Something distinctly nostalgic.

But there’s a community that take this idea one step further. The Lomography movement uses real cameras and real film, united by their love of producing original images and tangible photos that they can touch, share and montage. This community host parties, exhibitions and competitions around most major cities. But what is the movement, exactly? How did it start?

lomography photo example

In the 1990s a group of art students in Vienna, Austria, started to take photographs with a Lomo Kompakt Automat – a small, enigmatic Russian camera that they knew little about. They snapped away with the toy camera and were fascinated by the interesting and colourful prints they created. The digital revolution was starting to take off and yet these students were enamoured with a process that was, even then, considered dated. When others found out what the little plastic camera was capable of, it ignited a new style of experimental photography and the movement was born overnight.

Are there any rules to Lomography?

Yes and no. These are the 10 ‘golden rules’ of the movement, but they are by no means compulsory:

  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 a part of it.
  4. Try a shot from the hip.
  5. Approach the objects of your Lomographic desire as close as possible.
  6. Don’t think.
  7. Be fast.
  8. You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film.
  9. Or afterwards either.
  10. Don’t worry about any rules!

The most interesting of these rules is number 4 – shoot from the hip. The Lomography community like to encourage their members to be creative and experiment with new styles of shooting. They suggest you forget about the viewfinder and instead hold the camera at your hip or at a cat’s eye level in order to achieve a new perspective on film.

So What Makes Lomography Popular?

Part of what makes Lomography so enjoyable is the unpredictability that comes with it; no two photos ever look the same, therefore there is plenty of scope for curious and creative minds. You’re not just generating a facsimile image, you’re producing art and half of the joy of Lomography is the gamble innovation. After all, creativity is all well and good, but when you’ve clicked that shutter there’s no going back.

Daisy, who works for Howling Basset and specialises in Kent photography, says,

I love Lomography because every photo you take is unique and you have the excitement of waiting for the film to be developed before seeing your results. It makes each shot feel special.

Sometimes you’ll be delighted with the results you get and others times it may feel like the photo has been ruined. But it’s always different. The only way to get round this is to get to know your camera and understand how it works best for you.”

lomography fish eye photo

There’s also the attraction of the Lomography equipment and process. We live in an increasingly digital world, and to produce vintage-looking photos we no longer have to use film, develop the photo or even have to wait for anything to happen. It’s instant, easily accessible and there’s little craft required. It is, therefore, disposable. In a way that’s a good thing, but we’ve also lost the connection to the process of making photos and the value that comes with each shot. So the love of Lomography is partly a nostalgic yearning for the time when photography required patience, skill and tactile stuff. Heidi Mace, the Digital Manager for Lomography, claims that Lomography sold 1.8 million rolls of film in 2011, which encouragingly suggests that film isn’t quite dead yet.

Finally, Lomography has a sizeable and supportive community. The chance to mix with people who all share the same niche interest is pretty attractive. Today, the community of Lomographers has over 500,000 members worldwide sharing images and ideas, including celebrities like Jack White, Elijah Wood and Neil Gaiman.

So what makes Lomography so popular? Artistry, coolness, community and nostalgia. It’s not about the quality when it comes to Lomography, but the fun and creativity involved in the process. A DSLR will capture quality photos but with Lomography you have the freedom to explore new styles and embrace your creative side.

By Emily Buchanan – Emily is a keen amateur photographer and Lomography mad. Whilst she appreciates the virtues of digital photography, she’ll never be able to fully convert. She, too, works for Howling Basset.

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