Come one, come all. Lomography has partners all over the world to help serve your analogue needs. If you're from the US then it's your lucky day! We're featuring our Portland-based stockist Zeb Andrews of Blue Moon Camera in today's installment of Lomography Partners.
Can you introduce yourself to the Lomography community?
We are Blue Moon Camera and Machine, an analogue camera store and film lab nestled in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, Oregon.
What does analogue mean to you?
Oh gosh, this would be a much easier question to answer in conversation over the camera counter of our shop, with the sounds of shutters firing, printers kicking out stacks of prints, and typewriters clacking away in the background. But here is a summary, of sorts. For us, analogue means a couple of different things. It is a deep appreciation for the generations of incredibly designed cameras that preceded the digital age of photography. It is about the look, feel, and mood that film images embody. And it is about the physical, tangible connection that an analogue photographer has not only with the camera in their hands but with the negatives (or slides) that come from those cameras. A wonderful connection comes from holding a frame of film up to the light and seeing the image you made right there at your fingertips, in real life.
What does Lomography mean to you?
Over the years of working with Lomography and selling their products, we have acquired a lot of respect for their commitment to keeping analogue photography not just viable, but fun and cool as well. In a few ways, Lomography has also done a great job of democratizing film photography, tailoring it to a wide audience that includes seasoned photographers who know their technicals forward and backward, those that are new to film, and also those somewhere in between that want to enjoy experimenting.
Why do you choose to work with Lomography?
Because the richer and more varied the film community is, the more all film photographers benefit.
What is your favorite Lomography product and why?
It would have to be the LomoChrome series of films, of which our current favorite is Lomochrome Purple, but historically speaking we really loved the Turquoise as well. We have our fingers crossed that one will be resurrected someday. There are no other films on the market even close to these unique films. We love shooting with Portra, Ektar, Velvia and Gold, and so on, but to be able to load up a roll of Lomochrome Purple and photograph the world in such a unique fashion is really cool.
Are you doing any creative projects right now in the shop, or personally? Please tell us more about them.
It seems like we always have something cooking, guess it is expected when you have a staff of passionate creative types. One project we just finished involved a large-scale mural painted across the outer surface of our new warehouse facilities. We recently expanded into a new building behind our current storefront and the outside of it was bare walls. One of the friends of the shop is a large-scale mural painter so we ran a Kickstarter to raise funds to hire him to paint a gigantic panorama across the outside of that warehouse. He just finished a few weeks ago and it looks amazing.
Ongoing, another big creative project we are working on that will likely never get finished is the Museum section of our website. We get so many different film cameras from all eras passing through our store that we wanted to start creating virtual exhibits sharing them all and documenting our research of and experience with them. It is a part art gallery, part Camerapedia, part Kelley Blue Book. We currently have over 500 exhibits published so far and we add more every week.
What does the future of analogue photography look like to you? How will this impact your store in the next ten years?
If you had asked us this 15 years ago we would have had a different answer. Fewer people talk about the "death of film" anymore. In fact, film has very much gone through a renaissance. We think it is going to continue to be popular moving forward as photographers really enjoy the creative options it allows. That and the cameras are just so cool to own and use. We bet the major companies of Ilford and Kodak will continue to play a central role in this, but smaller niche companies will also have a lot of influence moving forward.
So even if film labs shut down, companies like Cinestill will come out with DIY kits for home processing, or even if Fuji discontinues the last of their films, companies like Lomography or Silberra will fill the gap. It is hard to know for sure just how things will change over the next ten years but we are sure that things will change and evolve, and we have confidence that the film community will adapt with them.
What hardships did your shop or lab had to face during the lockdowns, and what kept you going through these hard times?
The biggest challenge was protecting our staff. In a retail environment where you are exposed to dozens of people outside your close circle of contacts, the possibility of our staff getting sick was a big concern. Close behind that was the challenge of staying in business as the economy hit the brakes and keeping that staff employed while keeping them safe. For us, that meant closing our storefront to the public. We shifted much of our business over to our website, which thankfully had full e-commerce capabilities.
Then we set up outside our front door to help customers who came to do business in person. We worked that way for over a year, through the heat of summer, and cold, rainy winter. It sucked, honestly, but we made it work. Our customers are really awesome and were patient and supportive through it all. There is very much a sense of community among analogue photographers here. But the best part was that we didn't have a single staff member contract COVID-19. Our staff became fully vaccinated in May and we were able to reopen our doors to customers not long after that. It was so good to see folks in the shop again.
What's the most annoying thing about running an analogue lab?
Dust. No matter how many anti-stat cloths and brushes there are until we can hermetically seal our minilab and darkrooms off, we will always be contending with little white specks in prints and scans.
What's your favorite memory from the lab so far?
There are too many to choose from. And probably our truly favorite memories aren't limited to a single episode but often involve seeing a customer develop as a photographer over years. We have had parents bring children in to get their first film camera, then years later they are coming in as teenagers buying film for that camera still. Those entire strings of memory are really cool to experience.
What's the weirdest thing you have received when developing films?
That runs the gamut as well. But we once had a customer drop off a disposable camera for developing. When we processed the roll, we discovered that the camera at some point had become infested with ants, which had been all over the film while the customer was shooting it, so the negatives had the silhouettes of ants across the images. We had never seen anything like that before or since.
What would you do if you didn’t run a photo lab?
Dunno but it would involve photography in some fashion I am sure.
Official Name: Blue Moon Camera
Began Accepting Film for Developing: 2001
Address: 8417 North Lombard Street, Portland, Oregon 97203
Services offered: 35 mm, 120, 4x5, 110, Disc, 127, 126, 5x7, 8x10, APS, Minox, 16 mm, 70 mm, 616 and 116, C-41, E6, BW, ECN2, C22, hand-developing, recovery of heavily expired films, film and camera gear sales
Film lab staff: 8
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