Friday, April 16, 2010

The Scene Behind Me

I had taken apart the Brownie Starlet with plans to make it into a pinhole camera, since when it came in the mail the shutter wouldn't fire correctly. Well, upon opening it up, and doing nothing special to it (and by nothing, I mean, nothing), the shutter began to work again. So instead of uglying it up as only an unskilled craftsman can, I took it out for a long overdue test run the other day.

This first shot was literally a no-look deal, just me holding the camera on my shoulder and going "click" (I mean, depressing the shutter, not just saying "click," which I didn't actually say):

This is another one that I like (I'm not sure what that says about my taste in photos, or maybe I'm just a narcissist because you can see my hat brim — more likely the case), even though others might disagree. I like all the foreground mush with the clearer action in the background.

I then took greater efforts to capture the grass loungers behind me:

I guess you could say I’m a sucker for hipster advertising. Maybe it’s that I’m getting older and I desperately want to be seen as “hip.” God, I hope that’s not the case. Then again, hipster advertising plus cute girls can equal a lot of money spent for yours truly, but it can also mean a new outlook on life (beyond cute girls. I can’t believe I just wrote that).

The last time I professed an interest in photography was about 12 years ago or so. I got a brand new Pentax ZX-M and shot for a while, but like with many of my undertakings, I petered out. When the planes hit, I contemplated buying a bunch of film and heading downtown to document the scene, but instead I stayed put in my apartment and watched the horror on TV instead. I remember thinking to myself that on the way down there I’d probably get hit by a speeding firetruck or ambulance. Yet today I don’t feel so bad that I didn’t fear for my life running from a toxic dust cloud, or worse yet, having to live with major health effects from breathing in said cloud. Besides, there was plenty of fear to go around that day, even if you never left your apartment, and two days later the wind started blowing northward so the rest of the city could ingest the residue of hate for another three months.

So, beyond some sporadic outings after that, I basically went 5 or 6 years without taking a film photograph until last summer. I could only walk by the Lomography store so many times before I was sucked in, and found myself walking out with a Diana F+, along with a super-wide lens and the fisheye. I liked the idea of shooting medium format again, since I had been doing it with my Ansco Shur Shot in the early 90s (as evidenced in my previous entry).

By the way, the Lomography store is a one stop shop. You can buy your camera and film there, and you can also give them your film to be developed, though that’s not in-house. They send it out to some joint in the 20s and you get it back the next day. I made many trips to the Lomo store last summer, always glad for a quick schmooze and the ritual picking up and dropping off of film, which I was dutifully buying there.

Now there are a lot of people on the internet who smash Lomo, and I don’t disagree with them necessarily. I don’t want to rehash what they say not so much because they’ve already said it, but I’m not sure I can just quite articulate it, how they accuse Lomography of being a cult and how they overly fetishize film and all that, “Look at us! We’re using film and we're so young! We’re ironic and irony is cool!” But any time you see someone online saying “Lomo stinks,” take them at their word. But the big reason why I think they stink, well, you can put this next one into the all-time sucker file.

Like I said earlier, I was buying film from them. Usually five-packs of Ektachrome VS, or Ilford Delta 100 (all 120), and never gave much though to the price. I knew it wouldn’t be cheap, but for the longest time it never dawned on me to bother doing a price comparison. I darn near soiled myself.

The price differential on the same 5-pack of film between Lomography and B&H was THIRTEEN DOLLARS!!!

That’s beyond a healthy markup. Highway robbers are even shocked by Lomo (you know, since highway robbers like to get together and talk about these things, it’s like a fraternity). I never brought it up to them, but what would they say? It was my own damned fault for never checking. I was seduced by the brand and kept shelling out the dough. Or maybe I thought I was really saving money since at Lomography, “the fifth roll is free!” I hate to think of how many rolls I purchased at such an outrageous markup. I’m sure it cost an outrageous fortune. Oddly enough, their processing charges were actually quite reasonable at six bucks a roll. Though since then I’ve taken to developing my own black and white, while leaving the E-6 to these nice Indians (Pakistanis? Who knows, people who appear to be from subcontinental Asia), of course, until I decide to do my own E-6, cutting everybody out of the picture (no pun intended).

So that’s the hate part of this love/hate thing. So where’s the love?

Well…If it weren’t for that damned Lomo store, I wouldn’t be here writing this today. This site (I mean, “blog.” I’ll always hate that word…) wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t re-discovered photography. Of course, I wasn’t content with just the Diana F+, and started spooling up 620 reels onto cameras in my collection, then started adding to the collection, and then came the purchase of Lomo’s Lubitel, which led me to my OG Yashica-Mat, compliments, even more cameras, rolling 35mm onto 828 backing paper, this site, and so forth.

This photography thing has been more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined, and I never expected that I’d be dedicating myself to adding a picture a day to a website of my own making (well, of Blogspot’s making, but you know what I mean). Though as fulfilling as it is, I know that it's also something I have to keep pushing at. I can't allow myself to get complacent, nor can I be just satisfied with my output.

I know I’m not the best photographer out there (I still can’t even bring myself to say I’m a “photographer,” and I think if you look at my pictures you can agree that’s not false modesty), yet I certainly ain’t the worst. Then again, so much of art is subjective blah blah blah puke.

So Lomo, I despise you yet I’m indebted to you all the same.

Thanks, jerk.


  1. I wasn't even aware there was an actual, physical Lomo store until just now. I thought it was something that just existed solely on the intertubes, in an ironic, hipster-scented haze.

    I've only bought one official Lomo product, a 3-pack of their X-pro slide film from B&H to try it out. It was okay, but not anything I'm dying to use again. I do think they are crazy good at their branding. I can see why they can sell cheap little plastic cameras and overpriced film - their products just look so much damn fun! They come in different colors, like popsicles! That appeals to me, even though I know better.

    It seems that a lot of Flickr peeps are violently pro or anti Lomo, but I don't really feel that strongly about them one way or another. I think it's good that they've lured a lot of people into analog photography with their bright colors and flashy gimmicks; I also think that the effects that they hype are readily and a lot less expensively achieved in other ways. Ultimately, they're in the business to make money, and good on them for doing so, but I'd rather find my own junky camera at a flea market and respool my own redscale film, you know?

    The one hipster-targeted camera I would like to get and would spend stupid amounts of money on? The Blackbird Fly. Specifically, the orange one. Never mind that I don't like shooting with 35mm film. It's just so... orange.

  2. I don't get their whole Lomo branded xpro slide film, as I've always understood that xpro is in the "pro" and not in the film before you "pro."

    Well, they cut the flea market and respooling out of the equation and make it easier for the consumer!

    Oh, and their "cheap" little plastic cameras ain't so cheap either!

    By the way, judging from your trip pics, you weren't too far from the Lomography store, and just a block away from a store that sells Blackbird Flys.

  3. It's probably for the best that I didn't come across the Lomo store. I would have been sucked in, spent a bunch of money, and then have had a Lomo hangover the next day.