The photographic art of ‘Don’t think, just shoot’

The photographic art of ‘Don’t think, just shoot’

Recent interest in old Soviet cameras has sparked an entire art movement: the Lomography movement. One little camera in particular, the LOMO LC-A, has revolutionised photography ideology, serving as a reminder of what art should be about.

RUSSIAN manufacturers Leningrad Optical Mechanical Amalgamation (LOMO) first produced their Kompakt Automat (LC-A) in 1982. Allegedly it was originally intended for espionage, but the quality of the images meant that the technology was sold to the public instead.

The LC-A’s production would have ceased in the mid-1990s were it not for two Viennese students. In 1991, Matthias Fiegl and Wolfgang Stranzinger were holidaying in Prague when they stumbled across the LOMO LC-A in a junk shop and used the camera to document their trip. The results were astonishing and unexpected. Their passion and the demand that ensued led to the foundation of the Lomographic Society International and the formation of the “10 Golden Rules.”

The revolutionary ten commandments of Lomography serve as a reminder not to be a slave to traditional photography techniques. Introducing rules for a philosophy that prides itself on photographic anarchy becomes clear with Rule 10: “Don’t worry about the rules.”

“It speaks for itself,” exclaims Lomographer Will Cheyney. “Lomography is a chance to capture the ordinary and make it beautiful - something people want to look at.”

The 10 Golden Rules

1. Take your LOMO everywhere you go.

2. Use it anytime - day or night.

3. Lomography is not an interference in your life, but a part of it.

4. Shoot from the hip.

5. Approach the objects of your Lomographic desire as close as possible.

6. Don’t think.

7. Be fast.

8. You don’t have to know beforehand what you’ve captured on film.

9. You don’t have to know afterwards, either.

10. Don’t worry about the rules.

Share the LOMO love

Cheyney was introduced to Lomography in 2008. “A friend at work introduced me to the LOMO. I was attracted by the seemingly unusual use of 35mm film - something I hadn’t used since college.”

The unusual effects in a LOMO are the result of the camera’s single 32mm wide-angle lens and typically include oversaturated colours, light leaks, blurring, distortions and vignetting. The LC-A’s only automatic function is its exposure. Its light-sensitive meter adjusts the shutter speed accordingly and allows the LOMO to function in all light conditions, something usually reserved for higher-spec cameras.

Expecting the unexpected is a fundamental part of the philosophy, and the camera’s unreliability is a positive for Lomographers, as Rules 8 and 9 remind. What traditional photographers might class as disasters are considered happy accidents by Lomographers. Methods such as using expired film or processing the film in a chemical solution intended for a different type of film – a procedure known as cross processing, are relished.

“Cross processing film is my favourite trick. Processing colour transparency film as if it were a negative gives you the classic LOMO grain, saturation and strong contrast as seen in ‘30 St Mary Axe’ and ‘Windmill’. Agfa’s Precisa CT 100 is my preferred film choice; it gives amazingly strong colour results.”

Hip to be square

Cheyney recommends getting creative with the shooting process too. “I often experiment taking photos from all sorts of different viewpoints. A ‘rats eye’ is when you place the camera on the ground when you take a photo (A deserted Moorgate), try photographing scenes to show what it’s like looking through your eyes (Tuk-Tuk from the Airport) or shoot ‘from the hip’ without looking through the viewfinder.

Shooting towards the sun with the subject blocking the sunlight’s path creates great halos and strong vignetting (Shaking it Off Like a Dawg), and unusual crops are a great way to add some dynamism to a photograph (Moo!).

Every Lomographer has a favourite LOMO-moment. Mine is when I stopped on a street corner in Manchester to shoot a street sign against a cyan sky. A passer-by muttered “nice camera” gesturing towards my LC-A+. I mistook this comment as ignorance on his part, until he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an identical one! Oh, what comradeship!

Cheyney’s moment is one of a small world and of great minds thinking alike. “Last summer I visited the Tate Modern in London and shot some LOMOs there. When I posted the results on the photo sharing website, Flickr, one of my Flickr friends spotted himself in one of the photographs. We almost met!”

Tempted to add some analogue to your digital life? LOMO’s vast camera range includes the medium format Holga, with a colour wheel that tints your exposures with yellow, red, blue or clear light, and the Action sampler that uses four lenses to capture four different photos on one frame and many more! “Just stick with it!” offers Cheyney.

“Shooting film (particularly with a LOMO) doesn’t offer any of the extras that we take for granted with a digital camera. For example, there are no auto-focus or ISO settings, so sometimes you’ll miss a great shot because you’ve got the wrong type of film loaded for the situation, or you mess up the focal distance - but it will make the good results much more satisfying.”


A Lomographer’s future is analogue. Is it yours?

Daisey Cheyney