Come one, come all. Lomography has partners all over the world to help serve your analogue needs. If you're in Ireland then it's your lucky day! We're speaking to Shane O'Leary of O'Leary's Camera World in today's instalment of Lomography Partners.
Hi and welcome to Lomography Magazine! Can you introduce yourself to the Lomography community?
My name is Shane O'Leary and I am the second generation owner (third if you count my grand-father's chemist) of O'Leary's Camera World, a family-run photographic shop and printing lab in Ireland's Real Capital, Cork City.
What’s the story behind your store?
Back in the 70s, my father, who still comes into work most every day, was tasked with running the photographic section of his father's Chemist in Cork City Center. The story goes that he ran it so well the counter couldn't contain the business. O'Leary's Camera World was opened on Oliver Plunkett Street, in Cork City center Spring of 1986 and the scene was very different back then. Everything was simpler! We've seen the rise of consumer film photography (the cameras we used to stock would make film-heads drool - Contax, Mamiya, Minolta, Olympus, Nikon, etc.), the wacky beginnings of digital and everything in between. It's been a trip seeing film make such a huge comeback!
What does analogue mean to you?
As a recording multi-instrumentalist, you would think I couldn't help myself talk about the nostalgic qualities of tape recorders, the warmth of amplifier lamps and how analogue beats digital hands down. I don't. What I would say though, is that it's the tactile interventions, unpredictable imperfections and lack of distractions afforded by analogue means, also found in film photography and processing, that, in my experience, influence the end result. Think about that chance encounter when you were too nervous to properly frame the shot, the time you were day-dreaming while developing rolls and completely missed the cue to switch out chemicals or the double-exposure project you completed when a friend sent you a roll from across the world. Now think about how meaningful some of those images are to you. Hard to sum up, but that's what analogue means to me.
Why do you choose to work with Lomography?
In 2020, we were taken aback by the demand for 35 mm film. Now keep in mind that we lived the hey-day of film sales and processing in 2004, when we had four full-time employees doing same day processing. This new generation of photographers were discovering film at a feverish pace and we (and the big companies) just weren't ready. Lomography, in the meantime, had amassed a huge following world-wide with their original cameras and unique film stocks. In retrospect, I wish we had started this relationship sooner as their customer service is second to none. Whether it's finding film for us, taking the time to have mid-week chats about organising events or answering our many many questions, they are a pleasure to deal with. Now it's 2023, and we are very happy to offer the analogue photography community in Cork more choice when it comes to film stocks, scanning apparatus, film and instant cameras.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
People for sure! The time we spent closed in 2020 really reinforced that. There is a fair bit of socialising in a photographic shop and so the favourite part of my job is to offer a place for customers and staff to do just that. Every day we get regulars coming in for chats and laughs, new photographers looking to be taken seriously and creatives sharing their work. The days go by pretty quickly!
And what’s the hardest part about it?
At the moment, the hardest part is sourcing stock, although it is getting better every week. With our customers we are building relationships with each purchase and photographers are building life-long kits with lenses, tripods, lights, etc. The past couple years have kept us on our toes and we've had to be creative with suggestions. But there have been silver linings! We were desperately looking for film stock and struck gold with Lomography. Not only do we now stock most of their film and cameras, but it's exposed the shop to a whole new network of film photographers and creators.
Who or what inspires you?
The who and the what are the same really. Just like my father before me, the thing that inspires me and gets me out of bed every day is family. Although the shop has a strong foundation, every day brings new products, trends and challenges. It's hard work, but my little one is all the inspiration I need. Now I'm a Dad!
Please tell us a bit about your recent scanning workshops with the DigitaLIZA Max. How did it go and how were the participant’s experiences?
With the scanning workshop we saw the opportunity to try something original. We would usually do a photo walk, but my colleague J-F (@tropic_of_cork) , who was really enjoying the DigitaLIZA MAX for his own work, suggested a film scanning workshop and I liked the ring of it. It was a B.Y.O.N. (bring your own negatives) event held after hours in the shop and it couldn't have gone better.
As I said earlier, it's the people that make the shop and it was no different for the event. We were ambitious setting-up three different DigitaLIZA workstations and obviously scrambling a bit to get everything working, but once we opened the doors it was all chat! We had a great diversity of photographers and negatives, everything from council hall meetings from the 80s, to found b&w strips handed down from generations past. The great thing was that the DigitaLIZA MAX was very user friendly. Participants just started using them even without a demo.
Do you plan to hold similar workshops in the future?
Absolutely! It was easy, fun and we are already talking about making it a staple in our rotation of in-store events. Plus, Lomography's staff was super helpful with promoting the event, drafting up graphics and sending goodies for participants.
We would highly recommend this type of workshop to other camera shops and photographic community groups.
Did you encounter any difficulties or challenges during the workshop?
Running a workshop with eight participants with eight different smartphones was a bit tricky and I think if Lomography keep developing their DigitaLIZA inverting software into maybe an app then that issue would be quickly resolved. Otherwise it was pure fun!
Finally, what is it like living and working in Cork City these days?
Cork City is a lovely place to visit and live. It's the right size, has a lot of history and is a great place to start your Wild Atlantic Way roadtrip, Ireland's famous West Coast experience. It is also a rapidly growing city and one of the many upsides is a steady influx of people moving to (and back to!) the Rebel County. Communities are popping up and flourishing all over and the film community is one of those; steadily growing thanks to local shops and companies like Lomography. So if you are visiting Ireland, come to Cork City and bring your film camera!
Want to see your favorite store featured in our magazine? Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will check them out!