I would like to discuss some of the practical questions I have been repeatedly asking myself, since I have started Lomography-ing. I might be very (some would say: too much) scientifically minded, but I often need to define a few rules, as I find myself a little lost in the absence of rules. I know: I am already in contradiction with Rule #10, "Don't worry about any rules". But if you are patient enough to continue reading, I would appreciate to know your opinion on these matters.
I can also recommend this recent article When is a photo a Lomograph
Ok the 10 Golden Rules, but these apply to shooting and to an overall Lomographic mindset: am I right? I am interested in finding out how other Lomographers operate when it comes to uploading their images.
The first element that makes a photograph a Lomograph is the type of camera. Initially I was under the impression that the very requisite a Lomography would be a Lomo-camera (or: toy, plastic, crappy, … camera), possibly coupled to a plastic lens, as the combination of the two ensures the unpredictability (and light leaks, and so on) that seems to be essential for a Lomography.
However, it is very common that Lomographers use all type of vintage or even simply just analogue (as opposed to digital) cameras. But what is Lomo in a photo taken by e.g. a Kodak Retina built in 1950’s, that carries one of the best (fast and sharp) lenses I have ever used? (I am quoting myself, so nobody should feel too guilty)
There may be someone that processes his/her own B&W films (I do), but most likely when it comes to colour film, we all have them developed at a lab. Either way, one may not have much control over this step.
Then, it is the scanning of the images. This may be more frequently done at home, if one can afford a (flat bed) scanner. So I would assume this may allow for some degree of freedom, in that some preliminary digital manipulation can be done, e.g. cropping, enhancing tones, etc., quite limited though and very much dependent on the quality of the scanner.
Now, would you condone digital manipulation at this stage? And if so, what type? My preference here goes to no manipulation at all (I don’t seem to have much control over the software of the scanner). I only make sure that my negatives and the surface of my scanner be as much dust-free as possible.
Now the sore spot: digital post-processing or not? I seem to hear all hardcore Lomographers shouting, horrified: “No! this is evidently against the purest Lomo philosophy: shame on you!”.
I might agree — to some extent. I know Lomography is all about freedom: freedom from rules (#10), don’t think much (#6), … But on the other hand, if I had to just passively accept whatever gets fixed on my film, as it happens to happen, that would equally limit my freedom of expressing my personal artistic touch (providing I have any).
Let me make this clear: I generally do not correct exposure (globally or locally), alter colours, reduce or increase vignetting, etc. — these may be considered as effects that are inherent to a Lomography.
However, I may crop an image and occasionally straighten it; I do remove dust and anything I find does not belong to the image I wanted to capture, or that my camera felt like capturing for me … I certainly do not remove scratches (those long ones that may extend from side to side of the frame) as I consider them a sort of camera’s signature — and as such part of the image. I may, at times, tweak the contrast especially when I realise I was not thorough at the development stage.
May I still proudly call myself a Lomographer?
Now we come to the stage of uploading our images. My first curiosity is: how do you classify your photos? That is: what is the key-element you choose for grouping your photos, hence to define an album?
I have seen many different approaches: per camera type (e.g. Holga 120, Supersampler, …), per film type (e.g. Kodak BW 400CN, Agfa APX 25, …), per period or event (e.g. Summer 2007, Party on the Beach, …), per theme (e.g. Cats, Portraits, …); or a combination thereof. My preference goes to the ‘theme’, also because some elements such as the type of camera or film used are among the standard metadata presented by the Lomography template; but I understand that in some cases it is the particular camera or film that characterizes the collection.
Another aspect I would question at this stage is: all images from a film, or a subset? Often I see that Lomographers dump their whole roll into an album, with no image selection whatsoever. I justify this, as the attempt of showing the unaltered truth of what the combination of camera and film captured. I prefer to actually input some of my personal taste and only upload images that meet my initial conception of the photo. What is your opinion on this?
Last but not least: keywording. I am not sure how keywording is used in the Lomography library, that is: how does the search engine pick up keywords? But I personally find keywording of utmost importance, if a Lomographer wishes to maintain a thorough database of his/her work.
In first instance, I tend not to use camera type or film (or any other standard Lomography metadata) in favour of the elements that truly characterize the image. Essentially, I try to imagine how I would be able to most effectively retrieve a photo from a vast collection by using one or more relevant and specific keywords.