As the brand turns 20, we look into what enables this cornerstone of the photography community to thrive alongside digital giants like Instagram.
As a cornerstone of the photography community, both digitally and offline, Lomography reflects a level of success that rivals brands like Polaroid and Kodak. They publish a magazine, have physical stores worldwide, and continue to introduce products to the marketplace.
Celebrating their 20th anniversary, one has to wonder what exactly enabled the niche brand to survive and thrive? We got the chance to test their Diana Baby camera (see gallery below) and caught up with their General Manager in America to get a in-depth take on their success story and the future of the analog arts community:
Tell us about your background and role within Lomography.
My background is in publishing and music marketing. I got into Lomography in 2003, just as a hobbyist, but quickly became addicted to the world of analog photography. Lomography allowed me to find a creative outlet that I had never really explored before. The simplicity and open-mindedness of the art form was so liberating. After shooting for a few years and getting on the radar of the Lomography team for my photos, they were kind enough to hire me for an Online Marketing position. My passion and dedication to the ideas and aesthetic of Lomography made me a good fit with this company and brand, and eventually led to them offering me the USA General Manager position. So my role now is to oversee and manage the US team and all sales and marketing activities in the USA.
What is your team doing to mark the 20th anniversary? Tell us about your community parties and how the brand has evolved over the recent years.
The 20th anniversary is a pretty big deal for a company that has been growing in an industry that experts say should be in decline. I think a lot of people champion our cause because they believe analog photography is something that should not be sacrificed for digital assimilation.
The reason Lomography exists in 2012 and beyond, and why it’s a growing movement at a time when the analog goliaths like Kodak and Polaroid are dead or on life support, is because of the community of analog photographers who believe so passionately in the virtues of this art form. The community is the heart of Lomography, so the celebration of 20 years of Lomography should be for them. So we’re having parties in all of our stores around the world to celebrate, turning back the clock a bit to 1992 for nostalgia, but making sure that they know how much we appreciate their support and participation in the Lomographic movement. There is also an amazing book coming out by famed publishing house Thames and Hudson called Lomo Life which documents the movement from the start, and shows for the first time some really beautiful photography of the cameras themselves. We’ve always been a very design-forward brand, and the hundreds of cameras over the years really show this. All in all, it’s just a time to look back on what we’ve achieved, and more than ever keep the Lomography movement growing.
Everyone seems to believe digital is the future, but there’s plenty of signals pointing to the importance of analog. Explain why you believe the future is analog. How does the Lomography experience compare to Instagram for example.
The idea of the “future is analog” is really a clever play on words. Everyone knows and can see how digital technologies and devices play a huge role in our lives. “The future is analog” does not say to me that somehow analog will overtake digital in the future. That would be silly. It’s just the idea that we have to keep analog ideas, art forms, and emotions alive in the future. It would be a sad world if you could only shoot pictures on a smart phone in the future. This is not a world that I think anyone really wants to live in. Analog photos are metaphors of a bigger idea, where real, tangible things are important to us, not just digital representations of them. But it goes even beyond that.
Memories are analog…the act of recalling a magical moment in your life in your mind, and not on a backlit screen…that is an analog concept. Love, friendship, truth, honesty, beauty… these are analog concepts.
You cannot digitize love. At least not yet. So we like to be a part of this in a way–to engage people on an emotional level. When you hold a print in your hand, there is an emotional response to this that a tiny image on your iPhone doesn’t compare to. The act of taking a roll of film to a lab and waiting a day for your photos to come back, and building anticipation, and then all the changes that happen to you between the time you shot the photo and the moment you first see it, and the excitement that comes with that moment… this is something that is lost with Instagram. We are not anti-digital; almost everyone who works at Lomography and every lomographer has a digital camera or a smart phone and uses it often. But we are very pro-analog. Pro- keeping the things that analog represents alive.
What are some of the most interesting/memorable responses you’ve gotten to your products?
People light up when they realize that they can use this medium to be creative and that it’s not elitist or exclusive to people who have studied photography. Opening people’s eyes to the beauty around them because they’re holding a camera that makes them more curious, interested, and engaged in the world around them is an amazing thing. When you see someone walk out of our store with their new camera all loaded with film, you know that their walk home will be more interesting because of that. Seeing the happiness in their eyes is very rewarding. It reminds me of why I got into Lomography in the first place, and keeps my fire burning too.
What’s next for Lomography? Tell us about your next steps, upcoming products, and yours goals for 2013.
Lomography will continue to produce innovative photographic tools, cameras, films, and beyond for as long as people are receptive to them. We have a new camera that pre-launched this past fall called the Belair X 6-12 that has been the best received and fastest selling product in our history. And we will continue to innovate in this way. 2013 will be a time when you will see some of the coolest new cameras and films we’ve ever made. Stay tuned!
Lomography has been sharing their cameras with us. They recently sent us their Diana Baby Camera and we tested it out by snapping photos in locations like NY’s Storm King Center, Jackson-Heights in Queens, and Kuwait. Check out the quality of the photos below.
Header image via Lomography