Why Lomography Bothers Me

I couldn’t have said this better myself:

“…the basic Lomographic principles of “talent not required” and “it’s art because I say it is” has developed a cult following amongst people who would otherwise be forced to read books and improve their mediocre photography, but who find acceptance of their talentless shite amongst others who got suckered into the same boat. They use “technological throw-backs” because it requires more effort to take a truly horrendous photograph with a modern autofocus, autoexposure camera.”

What is with the current trend of “no-skill-required” photography? I’m all for experimentation. Lomo a bit, pinhole a bit, use a Brownie for a while, shoot some Polaroids – but for god’s sake don’t make technically inferior photography with no composition or skill in mind your main forte.

I have nothing against Lomo in general or even people who use it to take a break from their normal photography and mess around a bit, but to those who think of Lomography as “a way of life” – you need to get a real camera and learn how to properly take photos instead of relying on gimmicky flaws. While the rest of the members of their lomograpic society might love seeing crappy, blurry, badly composed photos of the top of your head, the fact that your plastic camera makes your photos look “artsy” does not make you an artist.

Yes, any random idiot can make an “interesting” photo with a lomo. The colors have that “wow” effect and the vignette and aberrations might make for an interesting photo, but why are we putting so much of an emphasis on the medium in which we communicate our photography and so little on the actual content? It’s like praising someone who just picked up a vintage guitar and started strumming because the sound is “warm and inviting”, but not critiquing the fact that he can’t play for crap.

Good on the marketing department though, for convincing a bunch of clueless “artsy” types that a toy camera is worth $100 just because the photos that come out are over-saturated, vignetted, and badly focused.

If you’re thinking of buying a Lomo – please, please reconsider. Pick up a used film SLR from ebay for less than half the price and pick up a prime lens with the other half. Experimenting with composition and subject is 80% of the fun of photography – you’re skipping most of that when you pick up a lomo.

As always, comments of all sorts are welcomed and accepted. If you love Lomo, state your position, if you hate it, do the same.

13 thoughts on “Why Lomography Bothers Me

  1. Tom

    It is refreshing to see someone who agrees with my view of the whole Lomo thing. I was starting to think I was some crazy person who just didn’t get it!

    I have seen very few lomo pictures that I liked, and big surprise the people who took them had a large number of “real” photos. It is possible to have a well composed photo, even with all the bad technical problems of the camera.

    We will never win though, as there are more people who don’t care about composition than those who do.

  2. Kyle Post author

    I was beginning to feel the same way Tom. My wife and a few close friends dislike Lomo, but I feel like I’m only in a bubble of sanity when I talk to them because it seems as if the rest of the world has fallen in love with the stupid things.

    Glad you decided to comment and share your point of view!

  3. Zorkikat

    Everything -and more- that those expensive shitty toys can do can be done with any other camera. Or for that matter, a cheaper second-hand store find. Grab any plastic camera, or any camera. Have the lomographers thought of that? Even their phone cameras will do.

    Want vignettes? Want blurs at the edges? Wrap a piece of crumpled cellophane around the lens. Or smear the edges with vaseline. Want leaks? Open the camera back a bit- the leaks will be different each time. Want coloured flash? Stick a piece of coloured cellophane over an ordinary (not the expensive coloursplash) flash. Just a few tricks which can be done without buying into LSI’s expensive crap.

    Thing is, these ‘tricks’ need some thinking. Reverse-engineer one effect, and the method can be figured out. Cheaply and easily.

    But thinking is not allowed in lomography….:P

    Lomographers celebrate form- garish colours, blurs, and film perfs- just elements which make the picture. Nowhere does the most important aspect, the picture itself- what it is about, what it wants to say and express- ever come in. Ask a typical lomographer what his photo is about, and the typical answer would be “uhh, duhh, dunno… cool blur…dunno how I did it…I just pressed the shutter….”

  4. Fred the Oyster

    There was an old adage about a bad workman blaming his tools – but now it appears to have become a cause celebre! Perhaps I’m getting old and set in my ways, but back in the day when I was relatively impoverished and learning photography, I was advised that the key to good pictures from any camera was to first learn its limitations and then work within that envelope. It worked for me in practice and I obtained some great pictures from such beasts as the Lubitel. A lot of the fun with that camera, and other old and capricious cameras, was allowing people to have a chuckle at the camera and then watching them stop laughing when they saw the results!

    I would also agree with one of the other correspondents that the Lomography marketing people have done a great job – reinventing the emperor’s new clothes is no mean feat!

  5. nicole

    I’m in between on this one. I have a lomo camera, the Holga 120fn. I used to have a digital point and shoot but it broke and I was getting bored of the dull photos i was taking with it. I like the idea of duality wwhen it comes to digital and film but I have found that I love my Holga more than anything! Yes it is popular with talentless fools who just like experimenting but hey, it brings joy to those ‘artsy’ types. I am one of those but I’m actually using my lomo camera. I found that it IS possible to find photographic beauty in the crappiest of cameras. I actually, when concerning composition, found it extremely difficult to use lomo cameras and get a decent picture out of it. All my photos I’ve taken have been pleasing and I’ve been extremely satisfied with the results of the blurry dream like photos. However, trying to appeal to your photography teacher with these pictures is a whole new game! I would eventually like to buy a good digital but for now, as a beginner in the photography world, I am strongly set in keeping and using my lomography camera. What I dislike about this post though is that you only timidly talk about those who DO use lomo cameras seriously. Although I do admit that’s a very few portion of lomo users, your argument isn’t of the cameras- it’s of the lomograohers. So yes, it annoys me too, whenever those hippy kids go out using their lomo camera bragging about how unique and different their photography turns out. But, I am one of those people, but I actually use my camera. So I can go either way with this.

  6. HBC

    Lomography isn’t just about the crappy cameras that they sell for way too much money on the Lomography website. I agree with all the comments about people using the camera as an excuse for their otherwise thoughtless photos. However, Lomography encompasses all analogue cameras, no matter how expensive. It’s just the idea of using FILM and creating concrete photos that can be passed on, the surprise after developing a roll. While I disagree with all of these photos being called “art,” I do sincerely believe in the concept of recording your life through photos and thinking of things in a new way, deeming them worthy of being recorded.

  7. Lifeonyourown

    ” It’s like praising someone who just picked up a vintage guitar and started strumming because the sound is “warm and inviting”, but not critiquing the fact that he can’t play for crap.”

    For the longest time I was looking for an analogy that could best fit hipsters and Lomography, and I have to say that this hits the nail on the head. Brilliant article.

  8. Daniel

    None of what you’re saying is preclusive of lomography – or is any reason why that style of photography should bother you. A bad photographer is a bad photographer, regardless of the method – but dismissing an entire school is short-sighted. Funnily enough, I would describe most of what Kurt Cobain did as just picking up a guitar and strumming away – but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a genius with what he did.

    You need to know what the rules are before you can bend or break them. My first digital SLR taught me those rules – then my first film SLR taught me to slow down, to stop and think. Lomo helped engrain those disciplines, to speed up, so it became instinctive. Eventually, a happy medium is reached.

  9. vm

    Just learnt about ‘lomography’ this year. Wow!!! I’ve been doing lots of ‘art’ for the last 20-25 years. Unfortunately due to my ignorance I simply discarded them as bad photos. Also I have some very rare ‘lomographic trasure films’ (films already forgotten in the box and veiled a lot that ‘lomographists’ are buying for 25-35 EURO).

    Guys, wake up. Using crappy cameras and crappy equipment doesn’t make you artists. This is excuse. Better learn how to make good photos. If this is your way – go ahead. But don’t tell us that ‘Lomography is way of life’. Below are the ’10 rules of lomography’ I’ve found in the internet:

    * Take your LOMO everywhere you go
    * Use it at any time – day & night
    * Lomography is not an interference in your life, but a part of it
    * Approach the objects of your lomographic desire as close as possible
    * Don’t think
    * Be fast
    * You don’t have to know beforehand what is captured on your film
    * You don’t have to know it afterwards either
    * Shoot from the hip
    * Don’t care about rules

    Currently any smartphone owner is doing that all the time and rarely he/she think is a great photographer. But this doesn’t profit to the Lomography AG, so the next bullshit has been successfully kickstarted ad implemented – the Petzval lens modern copy. Poor Petzval…He just tried to improve the ancient prime lenses quality and make them suitable for portrait photos.

    Surprisingly today lots of ….ots are buying the Petzval lenses and using them with their midrange DSLRs then posting a lots of photos (mostly of their girlfriends/wives – probably excuse for spent $500 per lens). They call this again ‘lomography’ despite it is far far from using crappy equipment to point and shoot. Especially with Petzval+DSLR I don’t see how rule ‘Shoot from the hip’, ‘Don’t think’ or ‘Be fast’ could be accomplished at all. Won’t even comment about ‘You don’t have to know beforehand what is captured on your film’ when using digital camera.

    For those screaming ‘Why you don’t try and see how funny is that’ – guys, I have children. They are doing lomography every day with smartphones, tablets and my old cheap point and click cameras. And yes, this is a great fun, but mostly for them. My 3-yr old daughter took over thousand photos of her leg with the iPad and some of the photos even deserved to be shown to the public and friends. And all 10 rules were obeyed. But please – grow up. Doing lomography and doing selfie doesn’t are not so different – the result is often silly……

  10. Daniel Keating

    Pros & cons on the lomo crowd:

    About the only Pro is that they help keep film alive by being fellow consumers and adding to the demand.

    Cons:
    They foolishly are willing to spend waaaaay too much money on expired film stock. Back in the days if a film was selling for $4.95/roll and expired it was put on the photo labs $1 basket “grab bag” at the front counter for lens tests /light leaks on used equipment. Some vendors are really cashing in on this to where I’ve seen a 185ft roll of bulk chinese Lucky B&W expired military surplus going for $90 on ebay. If you shop wisely you can get fresh 200ft of Ultrafine 100 AND a 500ml bottle of Rodinal for that same $90.

    Paying $75 for a plastic Holga that would have been a $5 toy camera in the 90’s is laughable. I can buy used YashicaMats for $50-100 and piece together a Bronica or Mamiya from parts on KEH for a little over $100. As others have commented a used SLR body & prime lens is cheaper than a holga or diana and worlds apart in quality.

    Now, let’s be fair and look at some other angles that photographers have been able to market themselves. Years ago a gal was doing garage sales browsing and saw an old 4×5 view camera for $10. She bought it and got some film. The shots of her aged mother showed why the camera was only $10–the lens had scratches & was soft–but the light coming in from a given angle was complimentary to reducing her mothers noticable wrinkles. This was the birth of a multi-million dollar franchise —Glamor Shots. Yep soft diffusion smoke generators-feather boas of the late 80’s through the 90’s.

    There was another guy whos schtick was holding a postal jeep mirror looking over his shoulder behind him while shooting polaroids into the mirror. What god awful crap–but hey –THAT guy made it onto the news and not me.

  11. Ellena

    Hello M!Well first, you need to consider which type of film you will be using. Basically there are two types of films you could use, etiehr the 120mm (a.k.a medium format film) or the regular 35mm film. This shouldn’t be a problem since medium format cameras such as Holga & Diana can be modified to take a 35 film, and to me that’s an advantage.I haven’t tried the supersampler yet. It looks mighty fun But I wouldn’t recommend it a lot since there isn’t much of modifications you can do to it unlike the Diana.As for the fish-eye camera, I would suggest getting a instead of the whole camera. This way you can have both a regular and a fish eye camera at the same time. Assuming that you live in Kuwait, keep in mind that medium format films aren’t very accessible here. As a matter of a fact, I only found one place that still sells 120s but they only had one kind film & unfortunately it was Fuji pro 160.Since you’re new to photography, I would suggest etiehr getting a or a with their (just in case you wanted to use a regular film) and get your film supply from .If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. I’d be glad to help a future fellow lomographer -Nada

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