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Analog Art in a Digital World, Lomography

Analog Art in a Digital World, Lomography

New style of artistic experimental photography and unorthodox snapshots

Maria Popova

April 13, 2010

An interview with Lomographic Society North America CEO Ulli Barta.

Last month, the iconic Lomography movement opened an ambitious retail space in Los Angeles. At the Lomography Gallery Store opening, we caught up with Ulli Barta and picked her brain about the allure of analog art in a digital world, the specifics of lomo photography, and the cultural significance of being present in the moment.

GOOD: The Lomo story is quite extraordinary—it’s rare for a piece of technology to sprout a vibrant, thriving community. Even the iPod hasn’t translated ownership to an actual hub of creative collaboration. How did this community evolve and where do you think it’s going?

ULLI BARTA: Lomography was started as a “community,” friends introducing their friends. It began as a somewhat spontaneous, underground arts movement in Vienna, then expanded further through the reach of our friends who went to study all over the world—the first Lomographic Ambassadors. The founders of Lomography organized parties, exhibitions, and meetings with friends as the main platform of spreading the word about their ideas, the 10 Golden Rules of Lomography and how to use the little Russian LCA camera as the main generator of brilliant, colorful, bursting-with-life photographs.

Over the years, these basics haven’t changed. We have stayed very true to the original vision, being dedicated and lucky to expand the platform, introduce many new ideas and products, revive some existing ones, and continuously grow our international community.

Of course, we also grew up along the way—the original art movement grew into a proper business combining community, art, commerce, and analog philosophy into its own structure, but the core of what we do today is still the same: We communicate through images.

G: How is analog art holding its ground in the digital age? Is the “retrostalgic” vintage revivalist movement we’ve witnessed over the past decade across other facets of culture, from fashion to architecture, helping drive interest in Lomography?

UB: I think the analog movement is very important and deeply rooted in our digital time. Although analog may seems like a niche remainder of an age gone by, for me it simply represents being in the present—fully. It’s about experiencing the moment, dedicating yourself to the here and now and allowing time to evolve at your personal, human speed.

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It is this human element that intrigues and keeps you fascinated. There’s something alluring about the ability to master an art form, at the same time allowing for the “unmanageable” and yet defining moment of the unknown. [Lomographic Rule no. 8: You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film; and no. 9: You don’t have to know it afterwards either.] It’s not just analog art that provides this; there is really a much bigger analog movement that stands for our need to not only accelerate and evolve at a speed faster and faster every day, but to feel, think, stay in the moment with all the uncertainty this can entail.

I don’t think we need to choose one way over the other. The great thing about the times we live in today is that we can be at home in both worlds, giving up neither the authenticity and sensuality of analog techniques nor the curiosity and drive of the digital age.

So in Lomography, it’s kind of like we have our cake and eat it, too.

G: Each of the Lomo cameras seems to have a distinct character, its own story and style. Tell us a little about the differences, both in the cameras themselves and in the sub-communities that create with them.

UB: Each of our cameras has its own concept, its own book, and many specialized techniques about and around it. We try to create cameras that allow a beginner and a Lomographer with many years of experience to be intrigued, be both at ease and challenged to jump into the new cameras’ world of images and techniques.

Our Fisheye camera, for instance, is the world’s first compact fisheye camera. There were always fisheye lenses you could attach to your cameras, quite costly, but never before was there an actual compact camera with a fisheye lens. The image aesthetic of the fisheye camera is very strong and distinctive, but when you read the booklet and book about the camera and how to use it, you find tons of possibilities to expand and work with it to achieve many different effects using this aesthetic. We have also added multiple exposure functionality on its second model [Fisheye 2 camera], and with its integrated flash, the camera is a great tool to use for techniques like light painting.

Then take the DianaF+ camera. We have reissued a highly collected photographic icon from the 1960s and ’70s, and reintroduced it to the analog photo community. We’ve developed a whole family of intriguing accessories around the Diana camera allowing the Lomographer to use multiple lenses, pinhole, different film formats and an exhibition format—The Diana World Tour with the Diana Vignettes Exhibition—that showcases what makes this camera so special.

Our camera books are another way to give the Lomographic community a platform, a voice, a way to be published and exhibited on a broad and international level. But beware, the Lomoraphy virus is contagious—you may find yourself absorbed online for weeks as you find out about all the fascinating content of this analog subculture—LomoLocations, our Lomographic Magazine, LomoHomes, the tremendously interesting LomoAmigos and, of course, one of the biggest analog picture archives in the world, where you can just get lost in millions of amazing, beautiful, dreamy, and vibrant images of our community.

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