Please meet Thomas from Brussels in Belgium. A true blue Lomographer for years, we are proud to introduce him as one of our beloved Lomo Amigos. Have a look at his story, his beautiful photo work, and get inspired. You definitely will.
Tell the community a little bit about yourself! What funny things do you do in regular life and is it the same thing you make your money with?
Well, I’m not sure what I’m doing in my life that is always funny, but I’m working part time for the International Committee of the Red Cross that provides protection and humanitarian assistance in war zone. On the other side, I’m a freelance documentary photographer member of the Belgian collective Out Of Focus and the french Agency Picture tank. I also launched with my girlfriend two years ago our own little company specialized in graphic design and photography, called Studio Fifty Fifty. So for an hyperactive person as I am, it’s quiet la lot of fun to be that busy. Yes I’m earning my monthly salary from my two passions. Helping people in need and telling stories.
How long have you been a Lomographer and how could you describe your vision upon Lomography?
For more than 5 years, I have been using a old Holga from time to time. But since a few months Lomography has been taking more space in my creative approach of photography. I always have a real vintage Lomo LC-A with me taking pictures of my daily life. But that’s just one side of my Lomography life. For me, Lomography cameras are very serious tools. The very strong “signature” of each camera and their imperfections fit exactly the kind of aesthetic I’m looking for to construct the narrative approach of a particular picture story.
How does an average day of Thomas look like?
It depends. I wake up at 7:30 A.M, take care of my new born son who is just a few months old. One of his smiles is sufficient to give me energy for hours. Continue with an orange juice, a kiss to my girlfriend and the day starts. Quick jump for a few minutes on social media to promote my work, do some consultation of online media and I will be on the road to the ICRC office working then for hours trying to persuade the European Union to keep supporting our humanitarian activities in war zones, or I will grab my back with my photographic tools to run for a press or a corporate shooting. Then it’s time for a lunch break, more social media and always a few e-mails to international photo editor to try to sale my documentary work. Back to work, back home to enjoy the family and scan negatives till late at night.
How do you capture your snapshots and would you like to reveal your secret snapshot strategy?
Well, it depends. I have so many ways to practice photography. For some personal project using a Hasselblad I can spend long minutes, even hours to find the perfect place to put the tripod, frame, and wait for the good moment to happen to shoot. With Lomography cameras it’s quiet different, those I mainly use for more nervous work. Like a therapy of my kind of “perfectly frame, balance and expose color medium format frontal approach”. These cameras are simple to use and therefore my only concern is to have a great framing and a key moment. I can be pretty aggressive at first. Jumping in somebody face, just a few centimeters from is nose to shoot. But I always take time after all to talk to the person I took in pictures and to explain my project. I’m not a thief.
How did you like shooting with all these Lomography cameras and what did your friends and fans think about your passion for Lomography?
A lot of pro photographers around me think I’m kind of crazy. I have at home a nikon D3 and a D800 for commercial projects, a Hasselblad 500, a Leica M2, a Mamiya, RB 67 for my documentary work. Therefore people are asking me more and more why I’m using these cheap “crappy” cameras. My answer is clear. I’m using it because they are cheap (so I can multiply the different format) and crappy. Perfect for some projects where I need these imperfections. And the most important part – they are fun cameras. For some tricky works on the field that’s just great. You don’t scare anybody with this kind of material. You don’t look suspicious, just a little bit “en marge”. These people always let you do your work don’t dare to say anything. Since a few months some people around me start showing their interest concerning my new way of telling stories by using all kind of Lomography cameras. I took me some time, but It’s seems that those people finally understand the strong visual and narrative impact of working with this kind of photographic material.
You did quite a few cool series with Lomography cameras so far. Could you summarize the stories behind your “How to be a Lomographer”, “The Shift” and the “Banger Rules” series?
How to be a Lomographer is part of a larger project How to be a photographer in four lessons. Since a few months, there is a vintage photo booth that has been installed in a cultural place in Brussels Belgium. I have then been using it to make fun of myself and other people I know in this microcosm of documentary, auteur and art photography. At first, It was just a game, but this work made a small buzz on the web. So I took the decision to expand this “little stories in four frames” about photography.
The shift project started in 2009. I was working in India on the biggest coal mining region of the country. I was working on a documentary work in color with a medium format Bronica SQ AI. One day, I had the opportunity to take some portrait of miners just before going into the pit. It was a terrible day. More than 45 degrees! My expensive Bronica did not support that heat ;-) So I grab my back up, an Holga with two tri-x rolls. Back home, the 20 black and whites portraits I took in 2 minutes with the holga, were stronger and closer to the reality on the field that the thousand of pictures I took in color with my nice Bronica. In 2012, I went back with one goal. To meet one of the miners I took a picture in 2009. His portrait won a few photography competitions and help me quiet a lot in my career. It took me more than a week but I finally found the guy. We had a great talk about photography and I gave him a few copies of the portraits I took of him + a part of the money I won publishing this picture in different magazines.
Banger Rules is my most recent work with Lomography cameras. These guys are coming to the speedway with all kind of all crappy cars to destroy them. I did the same, but with my cameras. In total I brought 7 different Lomography cameras (Horizon, Holga, Lomokino, Action sampler, Super sampler, LCA, Sprocket rocket). The idea was to use all kind of format to be able to tell the story constructing the narration with an editing using the “contact sheet” and “cartoons” appearances.
What was the strangest, funniest, or hands-down greatest Lomographic encounter since you started shooting with Lomography cameras?
The miner of the 5th pictures of my second Tri-X roll from The Shift story. The moment I took the picture 3 years ago I do remember very well. He was different than all other twenty miners I took a portrait of. He stayed in front of the camera without moving, so proud and so lost at the same time. His eyes seemed to go through me. That picture has been running in my head for months, years, and made me decide to go back and look after him. Three years later I finally found him and with an Indian friend being the translator we talked about that “photographic moment”. I tried to explain why his portrait was stronger than the other one. He mentioned again how foolish I was not having a properly working big camera that moment. He referred back to the Holga and loved it.
If your photo selection should have a soundtrack, what would it be? (3 songs title & artists please)
Banger Rules = “Fuel”, Metallica
The Shift = "Blowin’ In the Wind, Bod Dylan
How to be a Lomographer = “Photobooth”, Friendly Fires
What else is on the agenda for you? Anything you are looking forward to you would like to share?
At the moment I am quiet busy with a lot of exhibitions: Circulation’s festival in Paris, Foto 8 Summer Show in London, International Biennal of Photography in Liege etc. So now it’s time to go back to the field and tell new amazing stories about ordinary people. The best way to follow this is to check regularly my website www.phototvdd.be or to follow me on facebook.
What is your advice for future Lomographers?
Use Lomography for funny pictures of your friends and family, and do this on a daily basis. But from time to time keep in mind that Lomography cameras can be serious tools as well. They can help you to perfectly match the atmosphere of a particular place and moment. Try then to use it sometimes to work on real picture stories to try to give a new sight on our contemporary world.