In our post on the history of film photography, we left off at the dawn of a new era with the invention of the first digital camera by Fuji in 1988 and the creation of the JPEG to store digital files a few years afterward. Perhaps it is not surprising that at the same time digital photography was beginning, a new movement emphasizing an appreciation for film also commenced.
Where much of film’s earlier history focused on technological advancement, ease of use, and speed, the Viennese students who launched Lomography in the early-1990s emphasized the aesthetic qualities of the medium. By making something old new again, Lomography’s story echoes our own passion for remaining connected to hands-on processes, and we decided it warranted a post all its own.
Photography by Stephen DeVries.
The movement got its start with the Lomo Kompakt Automat, a 35 mm plastic camera first produced in Russia in 1984. A group of students from Vienna came across the camera and fell in love with the particular quality of the images it produced—rich, saturated colors and a vignette that lent the final product an artistic quality. They were so enthusiastic about their discovery that they ventured to St. Petersburg to request rights to distribute the camera globally.
Their request was granted, and Lomography has since become a global brand and community dedicated to analogue photography. By opening up fashionable boutiques of their own and also selling cameras at places like Urban Outfitters, they’ve become an entry point into the world of analogue photography for a generation that who might have otherwise relied solely on smartphones to capture the world around them.
From Past to Present
A virtual perusal of Lomography’s merchandise online provides a helpful introduction to the range of film cameras now included under the movement’s umbrella. There’s La Sardina, whose small size and rectangular shape resembles the can of sardines its name implies. They also offer the Holga, a popular lo-fi camera that produced square photos long before Instagram. It uses 120 film (aka medium format), creating larger, more detailed images. Lomography even has a movie camera, the LomoKino, which captures moving images on 35 mm film.
Lomography has also brought about the revival of the Diana camera, the favorite of fine art photographer Lara Porzak (featured in our September/October issue). These cameras got their start in the late 1950s and 1960s as cheap novelties often handed out at parties and fairs. Lara has a special appreciation for the plastic lenses on the old models, which have deteriorated in their own way lending each camera a distinct charm. She has more than 50 in all, and has named and labeled each one according to the particular character of the images it creates.
Lomography has revived the Diana, offering their Diana F+ in 33 different color and design variations. They have also created a Diana Mini that shoots 35 mm film (the original uses 120) and a Diana F+ Instant.
To ward off the potential intimidation that might occur when first venturing into analogue photography, Lomography also explains on their website the different kinds of film and the particular look of each format. Their camera guide additionally provides an introduction to their range of products.
From soft focus to multiple exposures to split frames Lomography.com explains it all. No apps required.