A short story of how an unfamiliar roll of film and a plastic toy camera captured the imagination of a twenty something year old boy.
Disclaimer: this story is based on actual events. All characters are real and, like true analogue photos, nothing is altered, edited or falsely exaggerated.
He’ll probably remember that moment forever – the second the shoebox lid was lifted away and Dan got his first glimpse of that unique baby blue case. Strangely enough, the previous events of that day are somewhat of a blur to him. It was not long past his 22nd birthday, sometime in early December 2009. He had been shopping around Oxford Street with his Girlfriend Sarah when they decided to grab lunch at a nearby Subway, choosing a window seat with a great view of the street, perfect for people watching.
Sarah took the opportunity to give Dan his birthday present. Clearly anxious for his reaction, nervous he wasn’t going to like it, Dan could tell that a lot of thought had gone into this gift. Cutely wrapped and stuffed into a shoebox slightly too small, Dan had no idea what was inside, or how it would change his life.
He lifted the shoe box lid slowly, and there it was, that unique baby blue case. I would say ‘familiar baby blue case’… If he saw a picture of one now, be it different colour, size or style, he would know instantly it was a Diana, or at least a clone of one. But truth be told, at that particular moment in time, Dan didn’t really know what he was looking at. It was clearly a camera, a beautiful camera, but he had never seen anything quite like this before.
Instantly filled with so much excitement Sarah said he looked like he was going to cry, this was probably one of the best gifts he had received in a long time. It was perfect, exactly what he wanted, even if he wasn’t aware of it before. He had recently acquired an interest in vintage cameras, digging out his granddad’s old analogue SLR, but he hadn’t thought about owning one of his own. After all, despite being interested in photography, his background is based firmly in video and television, not still pictures and certainly not in analogue.
However, as soon as he saw that cool blue camera and it’s wonderfully retro aesthetic – With it’s shiny lens and charming plastic grooves, oddly placed Shutter Release and heart-warmingly clunky switches and knobs, he was in love. Instantly conjuring up images of photographers from the 50s and 60s with their funky cams, Dan felt a little cooler just holding his brand new (second hand) Diana F+.
He went home that night and looked up Lomography on the internet. Bombarded with websites, blogs and photos of Lomography, Dan was surprised he hadn’t heard of it before. It was all so new and exciting, and DIFFERENT. From the crazy, often psychedelic colours, and unusual and dreamy styles of the pictures created using the Diana, he knew this was the camera for him – even more special as it was a gift from the girl he loves.
What really intrigued him was the sense of community which surrounded Lomography. The Lomographers all appeared to be ambassadors for the brand, writing blogs, sharing and commenting on each others photos and offering tips to new or veteran photographers on how to make their pictures even more experimental and exciting. All spreading the message that, for them at least, the future is analogue.
It was a little while before Dan mustered up the courage to load the film and take the first shot. He felt it was only right that his first model should be the person who gave him the gift, and so waited until he saw Sarah again before using the camera. When that day finally rolled around Dan tore open the foil packing on that strange new (well, new to him at least) kind of film – 120 medium format 160 ISO.
It took him a little while to figure out how to get the film to stay secure inside the camera, but after a couple of false starts and reloads of the film, he was finally at frame number 1, finger on the trigger, ready to shoot that first shot. But sadly, stage fright kicked in and Sarah declined Dan’s request to take her picture, leaving his younger brother Joe to step up to the plate instead.
So used to the flippant nature of digital photography, and despite his very best efforts to stick to the Lomography ethos of ‘shoot first ask questions later’ Dan initially found the 12 shot limit very hard to stick to, especially with all the Christmas decorations and snow around. But the weirdest part was not knowing what the pictures looked like… impatience began to kick in,
Eventually he got his first roll of film back from the lab… he pulled open the envelope, grabbed at the small pile of square pictures inside and looking down at the first photo his hear sank. “Where is Joe’s head? That’s not how I framed it…” This would set the tone for the entire first batch of pictures.
For a moment, feeling bemused and defeated, he decided that he would give up shooting analogue. Liking only 2 photos out of 12, he obviously wasn’t good enough. But then he remembered just how excited he was when he opened that shoe box, and how amazed he was at the crazy world of Lomography and knew that he needed to be a part of it.
So from an excited yet rocky start to his Lomographic adventures, Dan was determined to maintain his analogue future. Steadily building on his collection of Diana accessories, and shooting everything from parties, to gigs, to protests and holidays – basically taking his Diana wherever he goes – Dan has practiced and honed his photography skills. He has had is photos exhibited in the LGS London twice, has one of his photos featured in the brand new lomo wall at LGS East London and has had one of his photos chosen to be the Lomography UK facebook profile picture.
He has grown to love the suspense of having to wait before seeing the results, the excitement as he opens the envelope to reveal his art. He has also grown more disciplined when shooting, having only 12 frames per roll forces you to think about your photos a lot more. By all means he is still an amateur, but an enthusiastic amateur at that. It is safe to say, that for Dan, the foreseeable future is most definitely analogue… and he is loving it.