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The Call #2 (and a rant)…

August 11, 2009

Todays shot is another one from the Agat 18K.  This camera was made by the Belomo company in Belarus.  If you find yourself here you are probably aware of Lomo and the Lomographic Society.  A post over at Holgarific by a fellow lo-fi photographer got me thinking.   Generally, the toy camera community shuns LSI and feels cheated by them.  Their prices are incredibly outrageous even for the crappiest of plastic cameras.  When I see people asking where to get a Holga I always tel them not to buy it from Lomography or else they will be paying way to much.  Now there is nothing wrong with making money of course.  However the accesibility and ease of use that attracted me to lo-fi photography just doesn’t seem present in what has now become a multi-national corporation.

But rants against what is sometimes called the evil empire are a dime a dozen.  What got me thinking was a seven part documentary mentioned in that post over on Holgarific.  I took the time to watch all seven parts (1 2 3 4 5 6 7) and it really opened my eyes.  The whole movement was started by a tiny group of cheeky individuals who stumbled upon the LCA.  They started selling the cameras just to fund their own exhibitions and love of photography.  It was so genuine and very grass roots.  The question is how did that small little operation go from a small grass roots photography movement to a company that wants to sell me £20 Holga for #65.

Needless to say I am very conflicted about the Lomographic Society.  On one hand they helped keep the Lomo LCA and Diana alive and kicking (albeit not the same as the originals).  On the other hand they sell cameras and a lifestyle that seems only accessible to a tuned in, trendy elite with disposable cash and even more disposable likes and dislikes.  Too many people get too upset about this aspect and take it personally.  Thats no fun.  For me its is ultimately about the photography.  I commend them for what they have done and even though there are a few things on my wish list that come directly from them, they won’t be getting any money when I get my next Holga.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2009 10:57 pm

    I agree with your sentiment. LSI gives me the impression that they’re not in it for the love of photography anymore. However, I get the complete opposite feeling from SuperHeadz. They make the cameras that THEY want to use, and then they make more for the rest of us!

    That’s not to say that the Blackbird, Fly or Digital Harinezumi are accessible to all (money wise), but it can’t be cheap for a small company to make niche products from scratch.

    I don’t really know what i’m getting at, but i wanted to throw in some support for a company i feel represents the future of toy cameras.

  2. August 12, 2009 12:51 am

    I’m not sure what there is to be conflicted about. In my view, they’ve popularized the LC-A, but have made it far, far less accessible than it used to be with their obscene pricing, forced bundling, and monopolistic bullying of other sellers. (I wrote up some of their less savory practices here: http://photondetector.com/blog/2008/04/22/lomographic-society-continues-to-suck-co-opts-worldwide-pinhole-photography-day/ )

    Their Diana+ looks like a neat camera (though I don’t know from personal experience—the old Diana clones I bought on eBay for $20-25 do just fine), but of course it’s embarrassingly over-priced.

    Other than their crap business practices, I also take issue with the fact that they promote the idea that photography is about the equipment. It’s just as laughable to think you can play like Jimi Hendrix if you have his guitar or cook like Jacques Pepin if you use the same brand of knives.

    The only thing I see in the plus column for them is the same thing there is in the watered-down, commercial clones of underground music: it gives people an introduction to things they wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise heard of, and a few of them will run with it and make some amazing art that would have otherwise not existed. And that’s truly a great thing—but it will almost certainly be because they threw away LSI’s rules and made their own.

  3. August 12, 2009 1:20 am

    Jacob: I often wonder why there is so much complaining about LSI pricing and never any about Superheadz. However, Superheadz is a much smaller company and maybe it comes down to business practices. If you watch the documentary from the bbc you can understand somewhat that LSI had to take a product from a planned economy and make it work for a free economy. Don’t know if that really defends them but it gave me a new perspective.

    Nicolai: I get what you’re saying. For me, LSI was like a gateway drug into the world of photography. Without them I would have never heard of the Holga or the Diana and would have never moved onto other cameras. I think the reality is even though they sell watered down versions of originals the world of photography (specifically film) owes them a lot. For the millions that fall for their marketing a select few stick with the medium and the world is that much more enriched. I just found it interesting that what is now a global money hungry monster started so humbly. And besides, you cant argue with good photographs.

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