A very festive-looking Lomo LC-Wide (Pic: Icuresick/Lomography)
There would be no Lomography without the Lomo LC-A compact camera. When the Soviet-era Lomo optical plant decided to copy the Japanese Cosina CX-2 camera back in the early 1980s, they had no idea what a craze they would create in later decades. The humble Lomo LC-A, often given out to delegates at Communist Party congresses as a free gift, was destined to be remembered as a footnote in Soviet camera production. Instead, its discovery by Austrian art students in the early 1990s created an analogue photography craze. The LC-A’s production was restarted, and it spawned a new culture in analogue photography that is still vital and thriving in this now digital world.
The Lomo LC-A+, which was released in 2007, made some extra improvements to the basic Lomo LC-A; a higher ISO for using fast or pushed films, a cable-released thread in the shutter button, and a switch for shooting multiple exposures. It was a great update on the basic Lomo LC-A, but even more dramatic things were to come.
Think of street photography, and chances are you think of New York. It may not have been invented here, but the streets and avenues of New York are the backdrop to many of the genre’s classic images. Just look at the roll call of photographer who’ve made their name shooting the city’s streets: Garry Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz, Elliot Erwitt, Bruce Davidson.
It isn’t by accident. New York is a city where life is lived on the streets, especially on Manhattan, where people have lived cheek-by-jowl in tenement buildings, and the street has often been their only escape from stifling summer temperatures.
New York, therefore, has more in common with European cities like Rome or Barcelona than it does the city centres of the Mid-West., with its suburbs full of air-conditioned houses a freeway ride away. It’s a photographer’s playground, and along with Istanbul, is the best city of Earth to practice your street photography skills.
Greenwich Park as the sun begins to set…
Back in the Cold War days, the Soviet Union had a camera industry second only to that of Japan’s. Vast numbers of cameras were built, including many cheap and simple models sold at subsidised low cost to the west to raise hard currency, on a scale only an industrial superpower could produce.
It’s rare to find a camera shop shelf or second-hand store that doesn’t have at least one of these old Soviet shooters; the ubiquitous Zenit SLRs, the Zorki rangefinders, the Fed Leica clones and Kiev Contax copies.
But other Soviet designs – ones that weren’t made in the hundreds of thousands or millions – are also still available, though might have to have a little more patience tracking them down.
Somewhere on the road to Fes, on Kodak’s legendary Kodachrome
Peter Fordham was a British photographer best-known for his music work in the 1970s. If you own a copy of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, his second solo album, you’ll be familiar with his work. Fordham was the photographer who took the picture of Lennon, sat at his white piano with a pair of headphones on, at Lennon’s Tittenhurst Park home where the 1971 album was recorded. It’s a classic of rock music photography, Lennon singing into a hard black mic set against a stark white room, and was included as a fold-out poster in the album.
At some point recently, Fordham, who lived in south-east London, died. His death went unheralded; there’s no trace of an obituary on the internet, though I have found out he lived in East Dulwich, a few miles walk from my flat. I don’t know if he left family. But I do know he left piles of photographs and slides, a personal photographic history.
A few months after moving near Greenwich, I discovered an antique market called The Junk Shop. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of everything from old furniture to toys to all sorts of other knick-knacks. There, in a box next to an old dresser, I found a stack of old Kodak slide boxes, filled with old Kodachrome slides. On the side of several was Fordham’s name. And inside was a time capsule of the 1970s – not of London, but of Morocco.
A copy of The Sun in the sunshine
Who said photography needed to be a solitary pursuit? While I’m never happier than when combing city streets camera in hand, there’s something to be said for hitting them in like-minded company too.
Back in August I took part in a photo walk organised by Impossible and Instagram, held in conjunction with The Photographers’ Gallery in Soho. Instagram, of course, need no introduction, their analogue-apeing photo community has become one of the great successes of social media. (I’m resistant to its faux-analogue filters but you can’t knock it as a photo-sharing community).
Impossible, meanwhile, have done the seemingly impossible and rescued instant film from possible demise, buying the last Polaroid facility in Europe and making new emulsions for those old Land cameras that would otherwise gather dust. They also have created a quasi-camera that makes Polaroids from the pictures sitting on your smartphone – an analogue-meets-digital mash-up.