If you’ve ever spent significant time in Manhattan, you might know that Louis Mendes can be seen walking around the city holding a Graflex Speed Graphic, working faithfully in the tradition of street photography. He can often be found at festivals and street fairs, or outside of B&H, watching the comings and goings of the city’s photography hub on Ninth Avenue. He delights new subjects daily with his magically captured instant photographs. At first, photography was a hobby for him, something he did for his family or on the weekends. But after a few lucrative nights shooting in the nightclubs of Harlem, he quickly realized he had a talent and passion. He has been a full time instant photographer since 1972.
When we were planning an evening during which we would announce the new Lomo'Instant Automat to a gathering of friends in New York, we decided Louis would be the perfect guest of honor. After an afternoon chatting about his experiences in his many years of shooting Polaroids, it was clear that he had a lot of amazing things to say about instant photography— and a lot of great things to say about the Automat.
We commissioned a local artist, Owen Jones, who painted a really wonderful backdrop for the occasion, a recreation of the bed sheet backdrops that photographers would hang in the streets of the city in decades past to photograph their subjects on.
The night of the big event, once our guests had settled in and enjoyed a refreshment or two, we introduced the story of Lomography’s instant camera creations, beginning with the Lomo’Instant and then touching on the innovative Instant Wide. Then, we looked back to Louis as the expert of just why exactly Instant photography is such a powerful vehicle for capturing a moment.
It was precisely then he stole the show.
“When you take a picture, you participate in how it’s going to look. No one can take the same picture twice in the same spot. You only can take one shot, the next shot isn’t going to be the same as the first shot, " Louis said of the magic of instant photography. One of the best memories Louis described was shooting outside of City Hall in Brooklyn in the 1990s during the day while people were getting married. “When you see people’s reactions, it’s so precious, it’s priceless. They’re so happy.”
With instant photography, according to Louis, everyone is an artist: “When you have the camera in your hand it’s like a canvas, you’re an artist. Your mind is the paintbrush, the world with your camera is the canvas. You all have that in you. You write, you paint, you talk, it comes out of you.”
Louis praised the Automat as being a particularly amazing Instant tool: “Photos from this camera come out sharp,” he said. “What’s also amazing is that you can take a photo this size, and blow it up as large as you want.” He also said that loves the sharpness, color, and clarity of Fujifilm Instax film. When asked if would he start using this camera, Louis responded, “Immediately!"
That’s all of the endorsement we need!
He also described the precious aspect of the Instant photograph. We asked him, over the years how many photographs he’d kept of his subjects. “I’ve shot many things over the years, weddings, babies…I’ve gone through a whole lot of film. In the end, the subject gets the photo- there’s only one, it’s an original.”
Louis took amazing portraits of everyone that attended our wonderful celebration of the instant. Luckily, these were some of the photographs that got left behind. Full of Louis charm!
The Lomo’Instant Automat is the perfect instant camera for every situation. It’s range of creative shooting modes and accessories combined with its programmed automatic exposure make it perfect for exploring every Here are some of the photos taken around NYC be Lomography team members:
Overall, it was an incredibly special evening. We celebrated the way that Lomography has committed to giving as many people as possible the magical experience of instant photography, and walked a way with a lot of happy memories made into pictures. A true celebration of the instant.
If you’d like to experience the magic for yourself, you can back the Lomo'Instant Automat on Kickstarter.
We’d also love to hear about your stories with instant photography back in the day, or yesterday, or at your wedding, or whenever! Comment below!