A little while ago, I decided to spend a day following the 10 Golden Rules of Lomography to see how they would affect my photography, and my creativity. Before I tell you how I got on, here’s a bit of background…
The story of Lomography began in 1991 when a group of Viennese students discovered the Russian-made LOMO LC-A in a vintage camera shop in Prague. They spent the rest of their trip experimenting with it. The results were vibrant colours, deep saturation and vignettes that frame each shot. Effects caused by flaws in the camera, like sticky mechanisms and light leaks, complemented their experimental aesthetic perfectly.
After showing friends, they smuggled cameras back from Russia to meet an increasing demand, and eventually negotiated a worldwide distribution deal. They started the Lomographic Society International (LSI), and wrote the “10 Golden Rules of Lomography.”
Rule #1: Take your camera everywhere you go
“Your trigger finger starts trembling, your eyes become hungry, your soul is burning for images. You grab your LOMO LC-A… the unstoppable Lomographic desire overwhelms you and won’t let go. And nor will you. It’s the best addiction in the world.”
Now I’ve got a camera on my iPhone, but it’s never made me feel like that! I grab my Diana Mini. I’m ready. Let the Lomography begin!
Rule #2: Use it anytime – day and night.
“When you are Lomographing, you’re living your life with more intensity and excitement.”
I do feel more alive to possibilities, as if I’m seeing the formerly familiar for the first time. The view from the train window is transformed – suddenly everything is interesting.
Rule #3: Lomography is not an interference in your life, but part of it.
“The LOMO LC-A is your new best friend, drinking buddy, spiritual leader and lover all at the same time. You work with the camera, you drink with the camera, you sleep with the camera.”
I have a meeting and I’m not sure I want my new best friend / drinking buddy / spiritual leader / lover in there with me, so I tuck Diana into my bag. Colours fade. The fascination drains from my surroundings. My heartbeat returns to normal… I’m not sure I like it.
Rule #4: Try the shot from the hip.
“Lomograph from shoes, socks, toes, hips, buttons, belts, butts; aloha! Try the shot from the hip to experience absolutely free and boundless dimensions of sight.”
I was once told to “shoot from the hip” in an appraisal and had to ask what the phrase meant! My watch is set three minutes fast so I’m not late. I write appointments in my diary in pencil – just in case. This one was always going to be a challenge for me. But I tried!
Rule #5: Approach the objects of your Lomographic desire as closely as possible.
“More communication equals better Lomography. Get close, even closer, don’t be afraid: laugh and everyone will not only love you and your LOMO LC-A but will also realise that Lomography is the most natural thing on earth!”
Okay, so I got closer to inanimate objects than people, and still managed to ‘scare the horses,’ but this rule has definitely changed my photography for the better.
Rule #6: Don’t think. (William Firebrace)
“Your brightest and clearest insights are always your very first impressions; information is delivered unfiltered from your senses to your brain. Lomography will enlighten you with true, simple and wonderful revelations.”
It’s remarkably easy not to think when you’re in the Lomo-flow. There’s something about that fast paced, rush of creativity that makes you see things differently, spot pictures and just snap them without thinking; happy to take risks.
Rule #7: Be fast
“Lomographic moments are not reading the paper and waiting for you to take pictures of them… the pool attendant with the big belly, the dance champion with the tight dress, the dog with the pink tie, the bus driver with the fat glasses…”
…the lady with the stripy tights I chased down an escalator at London Bridge – sadly I wasn’t quite fast enough!
Rule #8: You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film.
“You can never foresee the results with the LOMO LC-A. You do it because it’s fun, because it makes you curious, because it’s exciting to know that you never know what you’ll get and because it allows your creativity, intuition and inspiration to soar to heights you never imagined! Living with the LOMO LC-A means living with unpredictability, uncertainty and coincidence; it is therefore living in freedom.”
Creativity requires unpredictability, uncertainty and coincidence. Perhaps Lomography will make me comfortable with that. Writing the first draft of this post, my photos are still in the lab – in my head, they’re perfect. I’m excited to see what they’re really like.
Rule #9: Afterwards either.
“A few days later you get your Lomographs from the lab and can’t believe your eyes: Who’s that? What’s that colour? When did I shoot that? Whose hair is this? Your butterfly collection, what a shame, blurs, surprises, smiles, teeth, accidental double-exposures…
You’ll never completely understand the world. You’ll understand your Lomographs even less! Look at them in a different way and let them tell you their story, which is also automatically your story.”
Writing the second draft of this post, I have my photos back. My first reaction is disappointment – they are not what I was expecting at all! Some are not even recognisable. But I look at them in a different way, and start to see that they are interesting on their own right – they tell their own story.
Rule #10: Don’t worry about any rules.
“Don’t listen to others; remain true to yourself, follow your inner Lomographic voice and never forget that not all that glitters is a golden rule.”
I thought at the beginning of this exercise that the Golden Rules might apply not only to photography, but also to creativity. Having spent a day living them, I think they might even apply to life. To paraphrase from the rest of Rule 10’s explanation:
“Discover your own path, forget about your education, socialisation, indoctrination, knowledge and everything you’ve learned and not learned about anything. Set free your innermost desires, never stop moving, never stop creating; believe in yourself, focus on the important and not so important things, and enjoy life in all its variations…”
Further reading for the especially geeky:
- feature :: concrete; the quintessential hard stuff
- feature :: hand lettering
- feature :: the history of typewriters
This article first appeared in a slightly differently format on the D&AD website and is currently featured on the D&AD Inspired by Photography page here.