The Lomo community revived a flagging film industry in the face of the hugely popular digital cameras. But with films stocks dipping, manufacturers stopping production and prices sky-rocketing, how much longer can this last?
I was chatting with a old photographer I happened to meet while on holiday in Taipei. Seeing that I was holding onto a couple of film cameras (LC-A, Horizon), he came over to talk. This man was an old-schooler. In midsts of the 5D Mark II’s and D700’s, he was holding onto a very well polished and maintained Canonet QL17III.
In our short-ish conversation, he lamented the death of film photography. With the dominance and convenience of the digital format, film cameras were also seen as anachronistic devices that are better suited for the back of a dusty wooden drawer, or at best, well-polished in a glass cabinet. No more than playthings in the eyes of the new-age digital cameraman.
One of his gripes about the situation was the lack of quality films and their exorbitant prices. Since film was ebbing, less demand would mean less incentive for the manufacturers to produce. And save for generic Fuji Superia 200/Kodak Gold 200, other films are almost only found in more expensive shops where owners know the nature of the film industry and justify this knowledge by charging incredible prices.
The old man cited the example of one of his favourite films. In 1990, this slide film costs about 2USD. Nowadays, IF you can find it, its almost quadruple the price. Taking into account inflation, that is still an incredible increase.
The lack of mainstream demand has also driven many smaller companies out of business, only leaving the bigger players. Even the big boys, has streamlined their lineup in order to match market needs.
But what would all this mean to us, the lomographers? Who just want to shoot and have fun? First up, we will have lesser films to choose from. And of those that are available to us, they would be expensive. Being extremely passionate about lomo, we might pay these high prices. But where would this take us? Would we be at the mercy of film manufacturers and shops who maintain a pseudo-monopoly of this film business?
Enterprising startups that decide to make out-of-production films solely for the community is certainly not purely altruistic. A certain instant film, recently reproduced after several years out of production, was retailing for almost double the price of the original film. People are biting because, well, they have no other opiate for their film habit.
With the burgeoning lomo community, the demand may increase but probably not sufficient for film-makers to increase their production sizes. The problem of films getting rarer and more expensive would thus be exacerbated.
But with all the doom-sayers and such, I would like to think that whatever happens in the future, it doesn’t matter whether lomo or even films will continue to live on. My personal belief is that in Lomo, we live for the moment. So what if a few years from now, a roll of slides cost a hundred bucks or our LC-A’s are like a kick-ass shotgun without ammo? We lived for now, and these shots are immortalized in cellulose.
The thought of that is sufficient for me.