I’m sure you’ve seen these interesting photos of the same old oak tree in his lomohome – and kdstevens will tell us the story behind his analog dreamscape. Take a peek at life in Northern California, where most of our latest ‘My Friend’ analogue magic happens!
Hey Ken, now is a good chance to introduce you to the Lomography community.
Hello, I’m Ken Stevens and I live in Northern California, about a half hour’s drive north of San Francisco. The town of Novato is in a rural setting surrounded by farmland, rolling hills and oak forests The majority of my work was shot within a mile or 2 from my home.
There’s always an interesting story to every Lomographer – what would be your Lomo story?
I guess when I was first introduced to Diana. Many years ago I met a photographer from New Zealand through mutual friends and when she found out I was interested in photography she showed me some of her most recent work. They were square photos in black and white and they had a strange, dreamlike distortion to them. At the time I was in the midst of my Ansel Adams wannabe phase and wasn’t very impressed. After all, everything I was doing was tripod mounted, with minimum aperture, maximum depth of field, and sharp as a tack from edge to edge. Then she showed me her “pride and joy” which was a vintage Diana, complete with the original box and instructions. Again, I thought it was a joke – I was using a 4×5 Wista, and a Plaubel Makina 670 and she was gushing over a plastic toy. But then, several years later, Freestyle Photo in Hollywood, California began carrying Holga (the new Diana) and they were selling 6 boxes of them for about $12 each. So I bought 6 and played around with them a little and modified some of them, making pinhole and zone plate cameras out of them. Then, a little over a year ago, I discovered Lomography and the revamped Diana and now I’m seriously addicted. And I will always be grateful to that photographer for her enthusiasm over her toy camera.
What is the reason behind your Lomo name?
It’s pretty boring, actually. Just my first and middle initials along with my last name. It’s simple and easy to remember (which I need).
Why analog? Why not digital?
I shoot both analog and digital. I’m older than most Lomographers and started taking photography seriously in the early 70’s well before there even was digital and I’ve always been interested in the experimental side of photography: making and using pinhole cameras, using historical processes such as cyanotype and kallitype, making Polaroid dye transfers and so on. But for reasons that remain unclear, I lost interest in photography and darkroom work for a while and sold most of my equipment, which I now really regret. Then digital came along and became affordable. I shot digital almost exclusively for about 10 years. Really it was because of digital that I got back into photography. The ease and immediacy of the medium: auto focus, auto exposure, instant feedback, and, because memory is so cheap, I could shoot hundreds of images and not worry about the cost of film and processing. So photography was fun again and as my interest was reborn I started picking up some of my old interests, but with a difference. With modern scanners and photo printers I didn’t need a darkroom and could spend time with my wife and dogs while working on my photos. Nowadays, most of my creative work is in analog. I use digital for more practical purposes.
Can you tell about your best lomo shot? What, where, and why this photo?
My best Lomo shot would have to be one of my earliest. It’s my avatar – the redscale shot of a single oak tree in a field with a country road running alongside it. I had just received 2 new cameras: a Horizon Perfekt and the other, a clone of the venerable Vivitar UWS. I had shot some redscale before but wasn’t very happy with the results and it wasn’t until I connected with @dogma that I knew why. He said that he always overexposes redscale film by 2 to 3 stops and he recommended that I make my own redscale using 400 ISO film. So I did and I loaded my first roll into the Vivitar clone and gathered up my new cameras, my wife, and our 2 dogs and went to a hiking trail near our home. About halfway along the trail is this magnificent old oak tree standing all by itself in a field – I must have photographed that tree a hundred times – anyway, I was alternating between the panoramic camera and the clone and captured this image. In true “don’t think, just shoot” style. I honestly don’t remember taking that shot and was very surprised when the results came back from the lab. I really liked it and the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. And it was instantaneous! I’m an old tripod and light meter photographer and shooting from the hip has never been my style, but I think the results from that simple snapshot are as good as anything I could have done using more sophisticated equipment. And @dogma’s advice was good – nearly every exposure on the roll was good – and in my opinion, and from the feedback of fellow Lomographers – it has been my most successful roll to date.
If you were a Lomo camera, what would you be and why?
A Lomo camera? Really and truly I’d be a Zero Image pinhole, but seeing as LSI doesn’t carry them anymore, I’d have to say a Lomo LC-A+. They are simple and dependable. Rugged and reliable. And, nearly always, yield better results than expected.
What is your Lomo style?
My style isn’t really a Lomo style. I think of a Lomo style as being a little more edgy and more urban than what I do. I’ve lived most of my life in the western United States and have been heavily influenced by the great landscape photographers of the past century. So I like broad horizons, untamed wilderness with just a hint of human presence and, if there is human presence, their failure to dominate. One of my favorite photographic experiences was at the Salton Sea in southern California. Houses, camping trailers, and marinas all abandoned—and decaying. What does that say? Maybe, in the end, (and I hope) nature wins.
The Lomography staff is reading this interview right now, and I’m sure they’ll be very interested in your suggestions – what else do you want to see in the “revamped” Lomography website? Your own lomowall in your lomohome, perhaps? Monthly free piggies? Anything! Remember… they are reading this right now.
I have 2 things that I really want. First, I’d really like redscale film to be available in 400 and 800 ISO. Second, I really wish there was some way that peoples’ comments to one other could be recorded in a log. We all have ongoing conversations with each other but there isn’t a record of who said what to whom, except by scrolling back through the older messages. So if I want to see what I said to @stouf last month, I’d have to go through 100 pages or more to find out. There is a lot of really good information being passed around. We just need a way to keep track of them.
There’s a Lomo Legend that an unfound Lomo Genie Bottle is lying around the world somewhere out there. If you find this, you only get to choose three Lomo wishes – a Lomo camera that you currently do not own, any film of your choice, and your dream location. What camera? What film? And where in the world would you spend these Lomo wishes?
Hasselblad—is that a Lomo camera? Seriously though, I own a lot of Lomo cameras but I don’t have a Lubitel, so I guess I’d pick that. I have owned several twin lens reflexes over the years and I like the way they work. I like looking down at my subject. I like right is left, left is right in the viewfinder—it slows things down. Film: If I could wish for anything I’d wish for Kodachrome 64, otherwise; I’ve been a big fan of Agfapan for a long time. But of the modern B&W films I like Kodak’s T-Max 100 the best. Where? Provence, France or Tuscany, Italy (or anywhere @vicuna goes).
Hold on, there’s a fourth wish – who among our fellow Lomographers would you like to collaborate with for this “wish project”, and why?
Wow! That’s hard—there are just so many great ones! But if I had to choose just one, it would probably be @eggzakly. I don’t know her personally, but she is a very gifted photographer and has a wealth of knowledge. I think it would be fun to watch her work.
Just for kicks – - Does your Mom know that you like smelling films and that you’re into Lomography?
Yes. She knew I was different from the day I was born.
Being a part of the Lomo community has brought a lot of pleasure to my life. I mean what a fantastic group of people! Everybody is willing to share ideas — there is very little negativity, just a communal pursuit of what is fine in analog photography.