My Analogue Life: The First Time


I remember my first time. It was late spring, but summer had already set in. I was downtown, excited if not a bit nervous. I wanted to do it right even though I knew from other people that there was no real right or wrong way, that it’s a personal thing — everyone does it differently.

The details are a bit hazy: there was a metal door, a brick wall, concrete and a turquoise skirt. It was on the corner, on the edge of a rocky alleyway. It was a moment and before I had a chance to think or plan or make everything just perfect, it was gone.

I have proof that it happened, but that wouldn’t come for almost a week, after I’d taken to the lab the first roll of 120 film I’d shot with my new Holga CFN.

I’d been introduced to toy cameras years before, when I was an editor at a glossy city magazine, where one of my duties was producing and styling the monthly fashion spreads. It was an accessories shoot. I’d hired dancers as models and the photos were to be nudes. But rather than shooting it straight, regular, the same as it would be any other time, the photographer suggested he use his vintage Diana camera and purposely light-leak the film. It was a risk, but we took it and the photographs were breathtaking, with bursts of white light crawling up the bodies or hovering around their feet. I loved the images and the funny-looking plastic camera that created them.

It wasn’t until years later that I bought a toy camera of my own. Everyone I knew had gone digital. Friends had been nagging me to finally make the switch to digital and retire my tiny 35mm Canon. But I’d grown sick of seeing super-sharp, over-produced digital images everywhere. It didn’t seem right. I wanted something simple that at the same time would make me really consider my shots, not just dash off a hundred frames until I got it “right.” Then I remembered that weird little toy camera knew that was what I wanted.

Trusting that instinct was my first lesson learned in the analogue world. And I still get that nervous rush when I shoot something new. And that picture? That very first one? It’s framed and in my living room. My daughter stands against that metal door in her sunglasses and bright blue skirt and every time I see that photograph, it makes me smile and want to grab one of my many cameras and shoot something new.

What was your first-time like? Share your first analogue shots and stories with me!

Pamela Klaffke is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who now works as a novelist and photographer. Her column appears weekly in the Analogue Lifestyle section of Lomography Magazine.

written by pamelaklaffke on 2010-09-08 #lifestyle #sunglasses #column #holga-cfn #kodak-porta-160nc #pamela-klaffe


  1. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Great story, happy to read it! :) About my first time, I told it in my lomo story, but I never switched from digital to analogue... as I never went to digital... ;)…

  2. ni588
    ni588 ·


  3. fed
    fed ·

    Beautiful shot! I love it! The sunglasses rock and the pink shirt really pops against the dark background.
    I´m still taking my first steps in all that is lo-fi. It takes a few rolls to figure out the difference between what you see in the viewfinder and what the lens takes. All fun.

  4. pamelaklaffke
    pamelaklaffke ·

    great story, vicuna. and your photos are fabulous — glad you never switched to digital!

    fed: i'm glad you like the shot! and you're right about the discrepancy between the viewfinder and the lens. and every camera is totally different. i have one holga that i can shoot pretty much dead-on and another i have to tilt upwards at least 1cm if i want to get what i see in the viewfinder.

  5. warning
    warning ·

    My daugther is my model and my muse too. Great shot and story.
    The light-leaks of Diana are wonderful, flawed, ghostly, retro and ultimately analog.
    Greetings from Spain Pamela. Tania.

  6. pamelaklaffke
    pamelaklaffke ·

    tania: the shots of your daughter are adorable — i love the ballerina/princess album you shot with your diana!

  7. mephisto19
    mephisto19 ·

    oh very nice story... but for me i did not switch back to analogue... now i sometimes take a snapshot with an iphone if i need it nowish (sson) but in general i take an analogue version of it, too and am looking forward to that....

  8. pamelaklaffke
    pamelaklaffke ·

    thanks, mephisto19 — i think using an iphone or digital camera for "something now" is just fine; i sometime use my daughter's digital camera to shoot pictures of costumes and props when i'm organizing elaborate projects. but i love that you shoot so much analogue — your photostream is amazing!

  9. bcartwright
    bcartwright ·

    Great article and I love the framing of your daughter. Just slightly left of center. Makes me think there is another subject that is missing. Like Arbus' Twins if one had gone for ice cream.

  10. pamelaklaffke
    pamelaklaffke ·

    bcartwright: i'm glad you like the framing and i totally get what you mean by it looking like there's someone missing — i'd never thought of it that way!

  11. eva_eva
    eva_eva ·

    love your article!

  12. discodrew
    discodrew ·

    My first photo's were rubbish. I was so keen to finish the roll and get them printed that I was shooting any old rubbish. But I soon got the hang of it and my photo's have really improved and I'm still learning and buying new cameras/films etc to try new things.

    The best thing about starting Lomography was the reaction of my friends. 'Oh my god what an old camera why are you still using film?' and then seeing the pictures I've taken being used as there profile photo's on facebook.

  13. pamelaklaffke
    pamelaklaffke ·

    thanks, eva_eva (your double exposures are great!)

    discodrew: even though it may have taken a bit to get the hang of analogue life, it looks like you're well on your way (i like your action sampler shots a lot and they've made me want to dig mine out and take some new photos with it). and i know exactly what you mean about people being taken aback at us still using film and funny old cameras, but it's true — they shut up once they've seen the results (and post them as profile photos, you're right).

  14. zoe191
    zoe191 ·

    In December, 2003, I bought my first Russian LCA. My first photos were beautiful. I loved them. My first LCA is now broken. But I have replaced it with another LCA and an LCA+.

  15. pamelaklaffke
    pamelaklaffke ·

    zoe191: 8 years of lomography — that's great! i'm just getting ready to start shooting with a LCA, but have gone through about 3 or 4 holga CFNs in the last few years!

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