Digital Lomography Episode One: Hipster Philosophy


Digital v.s. Analog.  That is the heart of the debate. If you are not interested in the Digital v.s. Analog photography debate, then this article is not for you.  However, you may still benefit from some discussion of technique.

Many people online started doing analog photography before digital photography was a viable alternative.  In the 1990’s there were cameras that could take a digital picture, but the output wasn’t good enough to replace analog photographs.  Then for several years the digital output was similar in quality, but prohibitively expensive.  Then at last digital photography overtook analog photography in both cost and quality.

Don’t misunderstand, this article is not declaring that analog photography is not an art form.  As an art form analog photography is worth the same consideration as oil painting, sculpting, or fashion design.  As a tool for documentation, daily use, and publication, digital photography is more utilitarian.  It can also provide the same artistic options, at significantly less investment, than its analog counterpart.

This discussion is going to focus on the Lomography movement (pardon the numerous puns in that sentence).  Recommendations for equipment and tools to get the same effects that film and analog cameras produce are provided.

First, a definition of Lomography.  Lomography is a philosophy and style.

Many of the philosophical components are common sense.  Some are not supported by the zealots themselves.  Commentary from the “Ten Golden Rules”:

Take your camera everywhere you go.

Is this not the basic function of being a photographer?  Wether you do analog or digital photography, it is REALLY difficult to take pictures of something without a camera.

Use it any time – day and night.

If the camera goes with you everywhere, does it not stand to reason that you would use it whenever the need arises?  Are people honestly admonished to ONLY take pictures during day light?

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

If photography, analog or digital, is an interference in your life, one of two things is true.  1) You are spending too much time figuring out how to compose a shot.  Maybe look for a book at the library to help you figure this part out.  2) You are not using digital equipment.  You can make lots of mistakes until you get the picture you want.  With analog equipment every mistake costs money.  In the digital world, every mistake costs VERY little time or money (electricity and wear and tear count).

Try the shot from the hip.

It is interesting that although this is the recommendation, all the pictures on the website that show people using cameras, show them using the viewfinder (camera to eye).  Since this CAN be done with a digital camera (think tilt LCD on the back of the camera), there is no reason this rule won’t work with a digital camera.  The real idea is, “try from a different perspective.”  Example, put you subject on a bridge looking over, get under the bridge, and shoot facing them (towards the sky).

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

When you do this at night, lights in the background can make for amazing Bokeh.  Durring the day you can use a fast prime and narrow depth of field.  This is a basic photographic truism.  Fill the frame with subject material.  There are of course times that minimalism can play into a good shot too (a flower in a vase on an empty table, with a plain backdrop).

Don’t think. (William Firebrace)

This recommendation is more about getting aspiring analog photographers to burn through resources that it is to encourage an avante garde aesthetic.  There will come a point in photography where you don’t have to think as much.  The act of photographing is not a concentrated force of will issue.  It will feel natural and flow.  This would be BAD advice for a beginner, just like driving without thinking is bad advice for a student.

Be fast

Although it is true that action shots are interesting, there is something to be said for being slow/deliberate.  Think Ansel Adams.  Wait, don’t think, that’s right…

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

Especially when you do it digitally.  When shooting from the hip without looking at the screen, you get something a little random.  Unexpected is fun.

Afterwards either.

Photography in general is NOT just random noise.  That fact contradicts this rule.

Don’t worry about any rules.

Translation: If the rules prevent you from giving your money, ignore them.  It is more important that you buy something and give us your money, than it is that you follow our rules (even contradictory ones).

The basic philosophy of Lomography is, consume!  Spend money!  Declare poorly composed photographs “artistic.”

Now for a reality:  You can take a good picture AND you can stylize it.

In tomorrows article; equipment (cameras and lenses) that give you the Lomography style and feel.

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