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Lomo Beginnings: Hunting for an LC-A camera in ‘99

Imagine that cameras such as the Spinner 360 and the Supersampler didn’t exist; fisheyes and sardines are only ever on sale together at the fish market, in a world without a single Lomo shop. Those were the days of the ‘Lomo Beginnings.’ If you didn’t want to brave a trip to Russia yourself, where could you have gone to buy an LC-A?

Hunting for an LC-A camera in ‘99?

London, 1999. Who’s heard of Lomo? Er, what did you say? No, probably not the average man on the street. In fact, not even your more than average photography shop.

Lomography’s signature camera was the Lomo LC-A. But there were no shops I knew of where you could have gone to try out this camera, or hold this camera, or even just to see this camera, let alone buy one. Chances are, you’ve probably never even heard of it.

But at art school, our photography department had already adopted the LC-A with open arms. We could borrow one of theirs at any time. We were told to shoot whatever we liked; didn’t need to look through the viewfinder; use Fuji Reala film, or a cheap slide film like Fuji Sensia and cross-process it at the shop down the road. Yes, shoot any which way we wanted to, but just DON’T take it off the ‘A’ setting. What’s ‘A’?
‘A’ for Apparently, I didn’t need to know.

When the time came to getting my own LC-A, how can I do that? The Lomo shops of now certainly did not exist then, not even an online one. If you didn’t know someone who was already using an LC-A, you probably would not have known about this camera. And if you didn’t know that someone, you couldn’t have known how to get one for yourself either. It was done by word of mouth. The name ‘Lomo’ was still simmering excitingly in its emerging hide and it felt like a cult.

I was told to write to Fabian from Fly, who used to be on the same course. My tutor gave me an address and told me how much it would cost. There was no other way, he said. So, a hand-written letter and a signed cheque went into the post, in true analogue style. Will a camera really materialize?

The anticipated LC-A camera arrived! The small parts in the package were wrapped in a brown-ish paper as thin as filo pastry, evidently hand-packed from its Russian factory; the camera itself was cased in a simple plastic box, which was wrapped in a cheap paper printed with Soviet graphics. I unwrapped the batteries and put them in the camera…c-l-i-c-k? Er, hello?

Oh no, it’s a dud! I can still remember that moment. Disappointing!

The camera was posted back to Fabian, who then sent me a second one. I went through the whole unwrapping ritual again…

CLICK!

This time, I had a keeper!

…and here it is still, in 2012:

Did you get an LC-A camera before the Lomography Online Shop existed? How did you find yours?

Illustrated with 32×32 pixel desktop icons from 2002

written by digitaljunk

2 comments

  1. twinklecat

    twinklecat

    I love the tiny birthday hat!

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  2. nfprado

    nfprado

    great history!

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam