Istanbul on a Lubitel

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The Soviet photography manufacturer Lomo is best known for the famous Lomo Kompakt Automat, the chunky compact camera which kick-started the Lomography trend. But their contribution to analogue photography goes far deeper than that.

For decades, the massive Lomo plant in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) built other cameras – from the simple Smenas to the clock-powered Leningrad rangefinder and 60s design curious like the Voskhod. And after the quirky Lomo, they’re best-remembered for the Lubitel, a cheap and cheerful range of twin-lens medium format cameras that provided many photographers with an affordable way of shooting big. And while they are lumped in with a whole host of plastic fantastic toy cameras, Lubitels are actually capable of quality results.

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Josh Rouse, Subtitulo

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Shot on a Kiev 60 with just a single lamp for illumination

Josh Rouse is one of the most criminally under-rated songwriters around. His 1998 debut album Dressed Up Like Nebraska is filled with a beautiful sense of loss and longing, while 2003′s 1972 is a time capsule pastiche, taking the listener back to the year of his birth, alive with the sounds of Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and Carole King.

I first met Josh Rouse on a trip to Nashville in 2000 to interview Lambchop‘s Kurt Wagner for the Independent on Sunday; years later, I met him again around the time of his album Nashville, a love letter to his adopted home city shortly before he moved to Spain.

Having already begun my soundcheck photography project, I then shot Josh and band several times over the next few years whenever he was in London – and ended up doing the publicity shots for his next album, 2006′s Subtitulo. The shot you see here is my favourite from the session.

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London in a frame

London in a Frame

Union Jack postcard? Check. London Taxi? Check

I just came back from my fifth visit to Istanbul; out of every city I’ve been to it’s the one I keep going back to. For a lad from Lower Hutt, New Zealand, it’s a city made of the very stuff that sends you out in the world with an overstuffed backpack, eager for a dose of the exotic.

I had some of those feelings the first time I stepped off the Tube in the middle of London back in 1994, on the short walk from the centre of town to Euston Station, wandering around a huge metropolis I had only ever seen via a TV set or a film screen. Living here nearly 20 years, I’ve always tried to remember that feeling when I’m walking around the city that’s been home for so long. It’s a good watchword to live by if you’re a photographer – keep your eyes open, and you never know what might be around the corner.

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Xpro battleship, Greenwich

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A model of the battleship King George V at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

Half an hour’s walk from my house is historic Greenwich. It’s the most famous name in naval tradition, forever associated with the Royal Navy and the admirals and seafarers that helped create the biggest empire in human history.

One of the highlights is the National Maritime Museum, opened in the 1930s to celebrate Greenwich’s proud maritime history, located in Greenwich Park. Just inside the museum is an enormous model of the British battleship King George V, launched not long after the museum was built. It’s one of the ships which chased down the German Navy’s flagship, the Bismark, in 1941, and later accepted the surrender of the Italian Navy’s battleships.

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Zorki Photo, meet Zorki Photo Cafe

zorkiphotocafeI set this blog up in 2012, over a decade since I got into film photography. In that time I’ve shot on a bunch of weird and wonderful cameras, a lot of them old Soviet ones. One brand of cameras built in the USSR was the Zorki – a word which is the Russian equivalent of the English word “hawkeye”. That’s a word with some serious photographic pedigree, seeing as it was the name of a range of Kodak cameras from the early days of amateur photography.

When I decided to set up a blog to write about my travels and experiences with film, “Zorki” seemed as good a word as any; seeing as a fair bit of the content would be about Soviet stuff, it had the requisite Russian ring to it, and “Photo” would leave you in no doubt that this was a blog about photographs. And –crucially, this – the name wasn’t already taken.

My happy discovery this week is that Zorki Photo has some company; there’s a Zorki Photo Café to be found in Cluj-Napoca, Romania’s second-biggest city.

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