My Analogue Life: Learning to Love the Limits


I broke my arm. I fell in my living room on a Sunday morning. The culprit? Slippery socks on hardwood. The break isn’t too bad, and thankfully it’s my left arm and not my right. But broken bones or not, life goes on, and the work continues, albeit with some necessary modifications.

As I’ve spent the last week with my arm slinged and immobilized, I’ve found myself thinking about limits and how they’re not such a bad thing. In fact, limits and a loose structure can often be the catalyst that sparks new and creative work. This may initially strike you as oppressive and doesn’t sound like it makes sense, I know, but limits, whether self-imposed or set by circumstances, can — and do — keep us on our toes. Limits force us to think in a different way, look at things from a different point of view.

A broken arm means I can’t hold a camera with two hands and advancing the film on my Holgas is too frustrating to bother with. I’ve found myself turning instead to my ultra-lightweight toy cameras like the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim and my stash of Vivitar IC101 panorama cameras that I always pick up at the thrift stores, as their life expectancy isn’t long. The situation has forced me to rethink the series I’m working on and rather than shooting with my trusty Holga CFN, I’ll be enlisting that Vivitar panorama camera. Sure, it’s portraiture, but who says you can’t take panorama people pictures? The tests I’ve done look great and I’m delighted to say that I actually prefer the look I’m getting — it’s unexpected and original. It’s taken me out of my comfort zone and I like it.

Limitations are challenging and push us into new areas we may have never explored otherwise. One of the worst things to hear in my experience is: do whatever you want. Too frequently, when someone says this, what they end up getting is more of the same of whatever you shoot. This might satisfy wedding or advertising clients, but it’s usually not particularly fulfilling. While logic may dictate that this freedom would unleash all kinds of creative thinking, it’s actually setting limits (but not too many!) that really get the imagination going.

What kinds of limits have you put on yourself (or have put onto you)? Share your 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 2010-10-20 #lifestyle #highway #fuji-sensia-100 #vivitar-ic101 #pamela-klaffe


  1. azzzy
    azzzy ·

    Its the haze season here in singapore, no sun for my slide films.

  2. nicolas_noir
    nicolas_noir ·

    Thought that long pic was from a fake pano! I've got a Vivitar PN2011 and an Octopus clone, which have a wide angle 28mm lens for full frame and a switch for panorama which is quite handy. Love them both and love the UW&S too :-)

    My current limits are finishing my roll of Kodachrome 64 before processing finishes at the end of next month, financially being limited to cheap plastic cams and time wise being limited to plastic focus free cams as my little boys don't have the patience for metering, focussing, etc.

  3. stouf
    stouf ·

    Sorry to hear about your arm ! Get better !
    My limits are set by my girlfriend. When we're about to go out for a walk or anything that could be photographically interesting, I just look at her while filling my backpack with cameras... Her face progressively passes from amusement, to anger, to anxiety (about my mental health). When I see she really can't take it anymore, I stop filling the bag. : )

  4. mephisto19
    mephisto19 ·

    i really hope your arm gets better soon!
    my limits are money. always. my boyfriend is very understanding when it comes to taking pictures (lucky me, as it is a high time investment), so i do not have that problem. but i always need films as i am shooting so much and films cost money. and development, too. and if i had more money, i would let them be scanned, cause now it is me scanning and that takes ages. sometimes my limit is time due i have to earn money and have less time to scan and take pictures. as i have many different cameras, weather is hardly a reason not to shoot. if i forgot to pack in films, i make multiple exposures and if i forgot to take a camera, i buy a cheap disposable camera somewhere or use hte iphone of my friend... and what did tom petty sing: "the sky was the limit"

  5. antibiotyx
    antibiotyx ·

    Oh I can totally relate to this article. I broke my right clavicle last April and had a pin surgery to fuse the fractured bones. But I'm doing good now. The accident happened at the time when I got really hooked on lomography. My injury didn't stop me from taking photos, even if I was wearing a sling. My left hand could still manage to snap and click on the shutter. I just needed someone to load the film. Hehe. Two months after my operation, I went outside and revisited some of my favorite, nostalgic places. Lomography became part of my therapy. The accident made me appreciate life even more. Now, I'm a lomo addict and constantly trying to live life to the fullest.

  6. pamelaklaffke
    pamelaklaffke ·

    azzzy: that's a drag about the haze. i know in the winter here in canada it can be very dark and grey, but sometimes i've found that a low-speed slide film does work to create a great moody, atmospheric photo.
    nicolas_noir: fake pano?! never! it amazes me that such a crappy little plastic camera like the IC101 can often create lovely images. and i know exactly what you mean by kids not having the patience for any fussing around with cameras or gear (or anything, really). my daughter is the same. and good luck with the kodachrome — let me know when you post the photos.
    stouf: that's hilarious about your girlfriend's expressions indicating when you should stop! i usually only carry one camera at a time, so i don't invoke the wrath of my fiancé, but my daughter sometimes rolls her eyes at me when i stop to take a photo when we're out and about.
    mephisto19: money is such a big deal when shooting analogue, that's for sure — and processing, too. i'm lucky to have a local pro lab that doesn't charge outrageous prices compared to some places i've heard about. and scanning is a time-consuming pain. i usually try to work on something else while i'm doing it, like cleaning my desk, which always seems to be piled with books and film and sewing patterns and dvds.
    antibiotyx: ouch! your injury sounds really painful, but i'm so pleased to hear that you found ways to shoot anyhow. i think it would be so easy to fall into a depression when injured, but like you, taking photographs is a sort-of therapy and always makes me feel a lot lighter.

  7. paramir
    paramir ·

    as a graphic designer, I very much understand what you mean when you say that getting the full "freedom" to do as you see fit, leads so many time to the opposite result, of falling back to the known and familiar... while limitations can "force" you to be creative and wake the rebelling spirit, to take the challenge and make anyway! As I heard someone say once, and as I experienced so many times, the creative process sometimes needs a problem along the way to kick off. until then it is familiar paths. hope you find a less painful limitation to inspire you next time :) be well.

  8. eatcpcks
    eatcpcks ·

    First of all sorry for your arm, secondly thanks for your great article again!
    My limit is mostly the time... Working all day long is not easying my photographic skills. And I'm not really confident with night shooting, I must try more because winter is coming and I will probably not see the sun for pictures:) Money is not a problem here cause my lab is cheap too... But Other limits are sometimes motivation... Caused by the fact I work all day, sometimes I get lazy for shooting more!

  9. mephisto19
    mephisto19 ·

    i am reading when i am scanning, listening to the radio, watching tv or looking through sometimes i tidy up, sometimes i even sleep when i am too tired. the PLING my scanner makes when he (it is a he! like my cams are she, most of them) is through a set of pictures wakes me up so i can change the film and continue reading or sleeping or whatever. it needs so much discipline! pamela, i really hope you are better again.

  10. pamelaklaffke
    pamelaklaffke ·

    paramir: so true, and i love that you say "the creative process sometimes needs a problem along the way to kick off." that's certainly the way i work best!
    eatcpcks: motivation and inspiration can sometimes be hard to come by. i am often motivated by things, like a vintage dress or a weird doll, so i'll head to the best thrift shop in town when i'm feeling blah and like there's nothing to shoot. and you you definitely try more night photos — it can be an experiment to find the right film and lighting conditions for your camera, but it's worth it and playing around to get it right can be much of the fun.
    mephisto19: that's great about the super-multi-tasking, through it sounds exhausting! thanks for the best wishes about my arm. it's healing — just very, very slowly!

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