Due to the major changes in the then Soviet Union at the start of the nineties, the LOMO PLC factories encountered difficulties in dealing with the new environment that they had to live in and the once healthy business that the LOMO PLC used to enjoy started to suffer from a sudden decline. However, all was not lost for the beloved LOMO LC-A when a group of Viennese students “discovered” the once popular camera and brought it to their student flat in Vienna.
It all started in Vienna, Austria in the early 90s, when a merry band of flat-sharing art, law, humanities and economics students explored the newly independent Czechoslovakia. There the Lomographers discovered the Lomo Kompakt for their restless shooting of colourful pictures in all possible of impossible situations. Soon after in 1992 the Lomographic Society was founded. They cooperated with their friends from the Russian LOMO PLC for the first time in 1995 and as a result of many hard negotiations, secured the continuing production of the LOMO LC-A until 2005. Straight after the closing down of the Russian production they developed the concept of the LOMO LCA+.
Consequently the production of the camera moved to China. The Lomographic Society is currently a global example of experimental and artistic analogue photography and promotes, distributes and invents a full range of Lomographic cameras, accessories, publications and lifestyle items. The Lomographic Society hosts about a million LomoHomes through which Lomographers share their millions of Lomographs. The Lomography website actively organises international Lomographic community competitions, co-operations, events and exhibitions. www.lomography.com
At the start of the nineties the then Soviet Union was confronted with the greatest changes to its history to date. Gorbachev, who had brought in major reforms, was replaced by Boris Yeltsin as Head of State in 1991. The Soviet Union broke up into various individual states and immense Russia opened up to the West, renounced Socialism and turned itself over to the hard capitalist market economy which governed the West. The majority of the Russian population lived in poverty and the LOMO PLC factories also found it difficult to fight the new reality.
So it came to pass that from 1991 the demand for the LOMO LC-A experienced a gradual decline as fewer and fewer people in Russia could afford a camera. Those who were able to buy one decided on a Japanese model instead. The whole camera production was becoming an increasingly heavy burden to LOMO PLC and yielded hardly any profits. In 1994, as only 30 employees were working on the LOMO LC-A, production of the camera as the last model was discontinued and the entire camera and film department was shut down.
Exactly at this point, just as the future of the LOMO PLC factory was more than uncertain and approximately 15,000 workers were forced to leave the company, a group of bright fresh-faced Lomographers went to Moscow to present an exhibition of their lomographs.
The colourful events of Lomography began back in the spring of 1991 when a group of Viennese students with Tyrolean blood explored the newly opened Czechoslovakia and discovered the LOMO LC-A in a commission shop. The small black thing with the charming “click” was brought to Vienna to a student flat and shortly after the Lomographic Society was founded. Here in a nutshell is what happened next: the photo-enthused young people took photos like crazy and got them developed very cheaply at the supermarket on the corner in 7×10 format, stacked the photos in cardboard boxes and got their friends and numerous visitors to the student flat excited about the new way of taking photographs. In the summer of 1992 they wrote the Lomography Manifesto (see page 54) including the 10 golden rules of Lomography. In addition, to facilitate all the camera shops in Austria’s neighbouring countries they carried out daring backpack smuggling ventures with their remaining LOMO LC-A stock in order to satisfy the ever increasing demand for the Soviet jewel. Shortly after, the Vienna City Council provided the tireless Lomographers with an empty house on Breitegasse in the seventh district of Vienna, which they immediately named the “LomoDepot”. This is also where the first lomographic exhibition took place. At the exhibition in November 1992, the 700 recently purchased LOMO LC-A’s from Moscow were sold at the Lomographic Society together with lifelong membership. At the same time, the ultimate exhibition feature of the lomographic works, the LomoWall was created. This quite simply came about because there wasn’t enough space in the little LomoDepot for the scores of individual works sent in by numerous Lomographers. Therefore to include the complete works, each photograph was modified, made the same size and pictured next to each other!Lomography was steadily gaining momentum and the Lomographers were joining just as fast (officially registering themselves as the “Fotoinitiative Lomographische Gesellschaft”). One night when the Lomographers were feeling tired but highly motivated after a successful exhibition they came to the following conclusion: “The earth needs an enormous global Lomography exhibition! We should kick off in Moscow with 10,000 lomographs from New York, and a day later in New York with 10,000 lomographs from Moscow, and simultaneously show the overall result of the insane event in the good old LomoDepot in Vienna!”
No sooner said than done. For this most insane of all Lomographic events, culture funding was obtained from the Austrian Government with the help of the exhibition co-organiser, the passionate Lomographer and then member of the Austrian Parliament, Monika Langthaler. Artists and friends in Moscow and New York were contacted (they were to shoot lomographs in their cities so that they could then be displayed in the other city), invitations were sent out, 1000 rolls of film and 40,000 photos were taken, and in the flat mass LomoWalls were glued. Public relations work was carried out in both cities with the help of both exhibition sites, the Here Gallery in New York and the Fotocentre in Moscow. On the 31st September 1994 the first part of the first ever Lomo exhibition outside of Austria was ceremonially opened in Moscow with 10,000 lomographs from New York. The following day it continued in New York with 10,000 photos from Moscow and the attendance of the prominent Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock. A Lomographer was able to convince Mr Mock of the global necessity for Lomography and won the inaugural address of the New York exhibition.
Apropos Moscow friends: to prepare for the Lomographic exhibition in Moscow the Lomographers from Vienna had to travel to the Russian metropolis quite a few times. When they hit the streets of Moscow in 1994 they accidentally made the acquaintance of a bunch of young Russian artists who quickly cast a spell on the Austrians. Nina Kerselli, Alexander Djikia (both illustrators), Andrej Turkin (poet) and Dimitrij Vrubel (painter) got on with the Lomographers like a house on fire. Consequently the Viennese crew got to know most of the thriving Moscow art scene and learnt to love their way of working and living. Likewise, the Russians showed a keen interest in Lomography as it presented a very welcome alternative to the usual artistic “imports from the west”.
The mood in Russia at this time was particularly open and bursting with positivity due to their recently gained freedom (in political, social and artistic terms). Consequently the weeks that the Lomographers and the Russians spent together were accordingly wild and exciting. The foundations of the love and
passion that the Lomographers share for Russia were undoubtedly laid at this time. It was this passion that would drive their ambitious ventures in the years to come and inspire the Viennese group to keep convincing the people at LOMO PLC of their projects’ merits! By the way, Herr Alexander Djikia, the Moscow illustrator and long-term friend of the Lomographic Society, is the man behind the amazing illustrations in this very book.
Have the full glory of the book here