Lomography – The Retro Art of Film Photography and a Toy Camera

lomography l correia

What is Lomography? It’s retro film photography captured on quirky toy cameras. Its imagery will eternally surprise you, with effects you cannot truly control…

Thanks to the egalitarian nature of digital photography, all of us can now quite possibly take a beautiful photo. That sumptuous array of filters lets us evoke the atmosphere we need, from stark noir witchery to pop bubblegum magic or sepia vintage charm.

In contrast, manual photography (see beginner film photography tips here for framing shots) takes a certain degree of skill but there is a note of romance to the way we must learn its intricacies over time. Mistakes cannot be erased and replaced in the work of a moment with a version that more purely captures our vision. We must adapt and learn, and it takes a great deal of experimentation and discipline.

Lomography takes things a step further. It is an utterly romantic adventure in film photography.

lomography l correia 1

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Credit 2.0: Luci Correia used a Nikon D3000 to portray her journey as a lomographer

For lomographers, the art lies in the surprise of seeing what you’re going to get. There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ picture; only the fleeting moment of capture and ensuing surprise. And it’s all thanks to a little toy camera that became popular in the nineties.

What Is Lomography?

Lomography is a photography movement that takes its name from a cheap Russian toy camera, the LOMO LC-A. Back in the nineties, some Viennese students fell in love with the “unique, colourful and sometimes blurry” images this quirky little beast created. They founded the Lomographic Society International, hosted exhibitions and spread the virtues of a film photography movement whose motto was “Don’t Think. Just Shoot.”

What made LOMO pictures tug at the heartstrings? They came out blurred, or saturated with colour like Summer painted in Autumn tones. Their light distortion evoked extra-terrestrial landings or ghostly apparitions.

Lomography Diana Mini Blanca 1

Lomography Diana Mini Blanca 1

Lomography Diana Mini Blanca 1

Credit 2.0: Blanca used a Diana Mini and lomography xpro film

In fact, some of our most treasured vintage filters on mobile cameras today are a homage to the vagaries of lomography. Their unruly nature made them the freeform dance of photography, not a choreographed performance.

The 10 Rules of Lomography

Visit Lomography.com and you’ll see 10 ‘rules’ to follow if you want to use lomography cameras in the spirit of “Don’t Think. Just Shoot”:

  1. Take your camera wherever you go.
  2. Use it at any time of day or night.
  3. Lomography is not an interference in your life, but a part of it.
  4. Try to shoot from the hip.
  5. Approach the objects of your Lomographic desire as closely as possible.
  6. Don’t think.
  7. Be fast.
  8. You don’t have to know in advance what you captured on film.
  9. Or afterwards, either.
  10. Don’t worry about any rules!

Find out a little more about some ways to apply those ‘rules’ here. There is great pleasure to be taken in a well-staged shot, but it’s also freeing to think that lomography encourages you to say farewell to staging and premeditation. It’s freeing, that idea that your camera is not an interference in your life, but a part of it. In fact, some lomography cameras don’t even have viewfinders so you really won’t know what your photos might look like until you get the film processed!

If this all resonates with you, lomography is a hobby you can take up today. The cameras still exist, as does the film. They are small enough for you to carry anywhere, so that’s rule #1 sorted. What else could you possibly need to know?

How To Get Started With Lomography

1. Choose a camera

Unfortunately, lomography cameras are more expensive nowadays than when they first came out. Quelle surprise. That said, here are a few lovely ones to play with.

Diana Mini Camera

The Diana Mini comes in a pleasing array of colours.

One of the cheaper models is the Diana Mini. It is impossibly cute. It uses 35mm film which is easy to buy and develop anywhere. It is teeny enough that you can fit it into a pocket and carry it with you, just as you would your wallet or phone. It also has a viewfinder, in case you love the concept of lomography but are less enamoured of being unable to see a framed view of the picture you’re taking.

The Fisheye and the Superheadz are also 35mm lomography cameras. As you might expect, the Fisheye creates a nearly circular image framed in black as it takes a 170-degree view of the surroundings. The Superheadz takes colour-saturated photos, often with dark smudges around the corners, and can work out a little cheaper than the Diana Mini. You can also take the risk of 120mm lomography cameras which are harder to buy and develop film for, like the Holga and Diana F+. However, these might be a better option for dedicated lomographers.

2. Experiment and Go Wild.

In a way, you’re not seeing what you can do as a lomo photographer. You’re on an adventure to see what your camera can do. Double exposures, making your own colour filter and long exposures at any time of day or night are just a few things you can try. Here are some great lomography tutorials to be inspired by.

Lomography has its roots in the nineties, yet it’s a perfect tonic for modern curated imagery. Curated imagery is, in its own way, wonderful and freeing! This is not to take away the joy of taking beautiful mobile photos. No art is bad art. Creativity is to be celebrated in all its forms. Nevertheless, lomography takes the concept that no art is bad art a little further. Relish the freedom and spontaneity of unplanned shots. Never again need you view the resulting image as a mistake…