How discovering two vintage cameras launched me into an adventure that is Lomography. I've never looked back since!
While my first official Lomography camera is a Sprocket Rocket (which I will get to later) it wouldn’t have been with me if not for my grandfather’s analogue cameras.
I was facing a crossroad in my photographic interest late in 2010. I own a Canon 350D which I trusted faithfully, but it had occurred to me that I’d reached a point where I knew how the photos would turn out. I understand the aspects of photography enough to avoid rookie mistakes and surprises; plus, it seems that editing the pictures in Photoshop seemed like a necessary thing to, not to mention the thousands of shots you can get in one event, and the chimping, and the spaces taken up by hundreds of megabytes of files. Lenses and accessories cost thousands which is not practical for a student or non-professional like me. Photography became an unlikely chore, which is not the way it was supposed to be.
One day, while following my parents back to my hometown, I wandered into my grandfather’s room and curiously opened up one of the desk drawers. Amongst the familiar stench of moth balls and old furniture, I recognized something I encountered before in my childhood. It was a solid metallic object protected in a leather casing with the label “Seagull 203” emblazoned on top. The dials and film winder gave it away that it is a camera, but it doesn’t appear to have a lens in front. As I pressed one of the obscured buttons on top, the thing suddenly came into life — the front cover slowly folded out, followed by a shiny lens with its black leather bellow expanding behind. The whole mechanism is not unlike a sleeping giant who woke up after a long doze and giving itself a satisfying stretch; as I gazed in amazement, it appears to revel in the situation, satisfied to be out after being shelved for so long.
The camera is about 40-50 years old and had been closed for around 10 years. I remember playing with it while I was still a kid, and thankfully I didn’t damage it!
Further down the drawer, I saw another camera — this one appeared much more modern and recognizable — an Olympus Trip 35. It wasn’t in any casings but I tried the shutter and it worked. I brought both cameras to my dad and he agreed to drive us to the local camera shop and ask if they’re still working. The shopkeeper said that the Seagull’s lens was stuck and the film was not available any more, while the Olympus still can be used as it feeds on the common 135 film.
That day, I went back home with two analog cameras, not knowing what to expect. I mentioned them to my grandfather on a family dinner and even he did not recall having the Seagull until I brought it up. He was a reporter for the local town newsletter and had the Seagull first, but it proved to be too heavy which led to him subsequently investing in the compact Olympus. I had both cameras examined by my uncle who is a professional photographer. He checked them and said I could try using the Olympus first as it appeared fine, but took the Seagull to his trusted camera repair shop to fix the lens.
Me and my uncle with both cameras.
I loaded the Trip 35 with a roll of Kodak EBX — officially my first slide film — and the results are out of this world. The lens is clearly moulded but it gives a grainy, frosted layer to each shot. Best results appear under direct sunlight, however many photos still appear underexposed.
Shooting with a roll of Lomography Color Negative 400 film made the results brighter but still uniquely diffused.
My uncle returned the Seagull and apparently it only took him RM30 (USD10/GBP6.3) to repair it. He introduced me to 120 films, the Sunny 16 Rule, and the operation of the camera, after which I continued to do my own research on the internet. I brought it to a trip to Singapore and fired away my first 2 rolls of 120 black and white film, just to see if it was still working and if I knew how to control it. When I got back the photos, I was delighted to see the camera still working and the images are sharp!
Nevertheless, I was determined to test out a colour film. I used Lomography Color Negative 400 120 on a trip to Krabi, and while the results are great, one particular photo just stood out and made me fall in love with the camera. It was this photo that blew me away with its sharpness, saturation and everything — I even managed to fooled my friends who thought that I shot it with my Canon and upped the saturation in Photoshop!
It was after using those two cameras that my interest in film photography rose, and I discovered the Sprocket Rocket being featured in one of the local photography magazines. I immediately fell in love with the panorama and sprocket holes and the name of course; subsequently I headed to one of the retailers and purchased it, almost exactly one year ago around this time. Hence, it could be considered as my own Valentine’s Day gift!
It took me a while to get used to the Sprocket Rocket and it is the challenge that it unique. It appears that all Lomo cameras have a personality; while you need to get used to it, it also needed to familiarize itself with you. The photos can only get better over time as you kept using it.
Digital is the equivalent of mass production while film is similar to craftmanship. Using all those cameras only taught me more about photography; even though it cost money, it was well spent and at least still cheaper than investing in an expensive lens. Not only that but now my photo album is in a cheerful stream of unpredictable colours, with more quality than quantity! And that, is the story of how I fell in love with my first analogue cameras.
What was the first Lomo camera you owned and fell in love with? Share your stories and check out our requested posts for this month to earn more Piggies! Meanwhile, you can check out other Love at First Lomo stories from our community members.