Sean Lotman: A Weaver of Photographs and Words


Sean Lotman, the brainchild of the ongoing Analogue Lifestyle series “I Do Haiku You,” mesmerizes us with his beautifully composed haikus which accompany each of his daze-dreamy Diana F+ photographs. Today, let us delve into his analogue world as he elaborately and eloquently talks about his preferences in film photography.

Tell us something about yourself.
I am a native of Los Angeles, living in Kyoto, Japan.

How/When did you begin taking pictures? What was your first camera?

Though I’d done a bit of shooting in my twenties, it was not until my 31st birthday in Iceland that I became the photographer I have evolved into today. From my girlfriend, I received a Holga. I shot three or four rolls, quite pleased with how the photos turned out when I returned home. The Holga led to my picking up the Diana F+, which was literally ‘love at first sight.’ The Diana F+ and the Nikon F3 are the only cameras I use.

Describe your style in photography. What are your usual subjects and themes?

I prefer vividness, saturation, and dreamy colors. Always color. I would call my photography ‘surreal humanism.’ I want my work to reflect my humanistic ideas about the universality in man, gleaned from my exposure to other cultures in India, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Ideally, my subjects are portrayed in some kind of tableau so that a possible narrative might be conjectured. As a storyteller, this is very important to me.

Amongst your numerous film photographs, which is your favourite?

To be honest, I simply do not have one. There are many photos I like more than others. But I don’t have a favorite. However, the following photograph, a beggar standing above me, a giant buddhist statue behind him, captured in abstract, loose lines probably sums up my aesthetic better than most.

What is the soundtrack for your series of photographs?

The soundtrack for my photos might be dreamy (later Yo La Tengo or quiet Animal Collective) or reflect the fusion of Western and Eastern musical elements like Bobby Callender’s The Way, the early 1970s Japanese rock band Happy End, or any of the resurrected gems collected by the Sublime Frequencies label.

We all have our idols, which photographers do you look up to? Who or what influences your photographic style?

Steve McCurry and Henri Cartier Bresson are inevitable influences. I’m a big fan of Helen Levitt and Joel Sternfeld. I love Jacob Holdt’s work on American life in the 1970s.

If you could take anyone’s portrait using film, can be living or dead, who (would it be), which (camera would you use), and why?

This is a strange question that I hadn’t thought about. But it would probably be my great grandfather, who was a commissioned officer during the Russian Revolution. When chaos erupted and people were being killed he escaped with his wife and his brother and his wife, starting from Odessa by the Black Sea and crossing a Europe devastated by the first world war and spanish influenza. On foot! It took them several years. I would have liked to have taken the photo of him standing on the docks in Marseilles, before boarding the ship that would take him to America. I suppose if I’m time-traveling thus, I’d have brought my Diana F+ with me.

Analogue vs. Digital. What makes analogue/film photography more special than digital?

While digital has gone an admirable distance in democratizing photography, it really has homogenized the way we look at things. Digital photography often feels streamlined, if not mass produced, resulting in image cliche. It often has minimal substance and thus little emotional capacity to enthrall us. The great allure of film besides its serendipitous aspect is its impressionistic potential. It is just personal preference perhaps, but I have no aesthetic interest in viewing the blandness of reality reproduced. Rather than merely reflect life, I want an image to enhance it. That shooting with film is adventure and risk makes it all the more worthwhile when a photo successfully transcends the barriers of “reality.”

Do you own Lomography cameras? Which is your favourite? / Which Lomographic camera would you like to have and why?

I have a “Diana F+” camera. That is all I need.

A lot of people are into photography today, what would you say to them to inspire them more?

Find your photographic ‘voice.’ Your work must define your vision so that people who have never met you will recognize your photos immediately. Your portfolio should be a manifestation of everything you believe in. Your camera is there to tell your story.

Aside from your I Do Haiku You series on Analogue Lifestyle, do you have other creative online/offline projects? What other creative pursuits do you wish you could explore?

I got into photography rather late. I am a writer, by training, essays and reviews but mostly fiction. I have written two novels and a number of short stories. I am still looking for the right publisher for my work. Unfortunately, I will never be a good musician, but being a fan is fair reward.

For more information on Sean Lotman, you may visit,,, and @seanlotman.

The Diana F+ is a new twist on the ‘60s classic cult camera. Famous for its dreamy and soft-focused images, the Diana F+ is now packed with extra features such as panorama and pinhole capabilities. Available in our Online Shop.

written by basterda on 2011-12-13 #lifestyle #interviews #sean-lotman #i-do-haiku-you #film-photographers

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