Photography for ‘Lomo’ sapians

By Trevor Ballanger

While rifling through items at a garage sale, a photographer spots an old Rolleiflex camera among the clutter. She picks it up and considers its potential as not just an antique but an artistic gateway. In a digital age in which film could be considered obsolete, some see uncharted territory waiting to be filled with beautiful imperfections.

Lomography is a term coined by a group of Austrian students who came across a small Russian camera called the Lomo LC-A in 1991. It eventually became the name of a global chain of stores they developed to celebrate analog photography, a style that relies on transparent film, according to Piper Robbins, who hails from the firm’s New York office. Chicago’s own Lomography Gallery Store opened Oct. 4 at 1422 N. Milwaukee Ave.

She said she chose Wicker Park for the store’s location because of the neighborhood’s hipster atmosphere.

“It’s the perfect neighborhood.,” Robbins said. “We go along really well with everything on Milwaukee [Avenue]. It’s kind of a vintage street. We’re not necessarily vintage, but what we’re doing is [taking] an old idea and mixing it with modern technology.”

Jerry Cargill, a Columbia alumnus, photographer and art teacher at Fremd High School in Palatine, Ill., said he was pleasantly surprised to find that Lomography Gallery Store caters to selling and printing Lomo and Holga analog cameras, among others, which he considers a good extension of the format he chooses to work in.

He said he thought Lomo photography wasn’t mainstream because of technological advancements in the field but hopes the store sparks a renewed interest in using film.

Cargill said he learned his craft using the square, 120 mm format of a Rolleiflex camera at Columbia in 1996. According to him, the light leaks and blurred focus in analog cameras make for an

interesting aesthetic.

Robbins said plastic Lomo cameras were once used as cereal box prizes when they were first made in the ’80s, but now are the most versatile cameras sold at Lomography Gallery Stores and can be used with a variety of lenses.

According to Robbins, the Lomo camera is great for starting out in analog photography because it leaves a lot of room

for experimentation.

Matthew Gilson, a digital photographer who has worked for several high-profile magazines and local schools, said he hasn’t worked with chemical processing for approximately five years because it is too slow, but he would use analog photography if time wasn’t

an issue.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily sustainable,” Gilson said. “Digital photography is killing off film photography at the consumer level.”

Robbins said she receives some criticism for using film cameras in an age dominated by digital photography and applications such as Instagram because they’re faster and easier to use, but artists who use analog photography create something special that can’t be accomplished by pushing a button to add a filter.

Cargill said applications like Instagram may actually benefit analog photography because they can spark creative interest and inspire people to develop their own photos in a darkroom rather than with a program like Photoshop. He also said potential buyers who are able to identify film prints might pay more for a photographer’s work.

“There’s just something better [and] more substantial with a darkroom print,” Cargill said, acknowledging “It’s hard to convince people of that.”

Although some feel digital media such as apps and Photoshop can duplicate the look of

print, Cargill said there’s no comparison. He said analog photography can be just as appealing as digital because the photos are unique, demonstrated by the aesthetic of film cameras sold at Lomography Gallery Store.

“This thing about understanding the place of film today is that it has its own little niche,” Cargill said. “It’s not going to go away, but it’s got a different life, and I think that life is more in the fine art realm. I just hope [people] use [the cameras] and use them a lot.”