Lomo 20 Years On

Lomographer with camera
© Lomography.com

The now world famous Cold War-era Soviet Lomo camera turned 20 years old on the Friday 23rd November this year, and with it playing such a huge part in analogue photography history it seemed only right that we pay tribute to the evolution of one of the most popular photography styles in history.

With the advent of digital photography in the 1990’s, it seemed as though film photography was at the end of the road with digital cameras almost completely taking over. While there are, and always will be many die-hard film enthusiasts out there, analogue photography as it is also known, may not have been anywhere near as popular where it not for a few students from Vienna, Austria, who on a trip to Prague came across an unassuming little Lomo LC-A (Lomo Kompakt Automat) camera in a quirky photography shop.

Lomography on the dodgems

Experimenting with the Lomo camera, often taking shots without looking through the viewfinder, they discovered that on returning home and getting the film rolls developed that the images where vibrant, deeply saturated with colour with high contrast, and that the fixed glass Minitar lens produced vignettes which framed the shots. These results were unlike anything the students had seen before, as these effects were not usually sought after, especially not with digital photography where the aim of the camera / lens companies was to produce images with the most natural contrast and colour possible, with no sign of vignetting.

Lomo students

The students showed their photographs to friends and family, who in turn started asking questions and also wanted to get their hands on a Lomo camera. This kicked off the trend for Lomo photography, often called Lomography. Realising the large demand for Lomo cameras, the students flew to St. Petersburg, where the cameras where originally produced by the LOMO (Leningrad Optical Mechanical Amalgamation) Russian Arms and Optical Factory, in order to finalise a contract to begin production again for the worldwide distribution of the camera. The momentum of the analogue movement has continued to this day with no sign of letting up, with numerous exhibitions, parties, installations and collaborations still happening, securing it’s place in history as a worldwide phenomenon. It has also built a strong online community, over two million strong, since the first photo sharing website was launched in 1997, several years prior to the likes of Flickr.

With the advent of Instagram and the like, virtually everyone out there, whether they are interested in photography or not, probably has Lomo-esque photographs in their collection, or has at least appreciated this style of photograph, as it is plastered everywhere, and we probably owe it all to the students who found this great camera in a quirky little photography shop in Prague, without whom the Lomo camera and style may not be popular today.

Such is the popularity of Lomo cameras, it comes as no surprise that the company is proudly celebrating twenty years in business with a limited edition version of the Lomo LC-A+ camera, pictured below.

Images via lomography.com

Lomo-20-years-1 Lomo-20-years-2 Lomo-20-years-3 Lomo-20-years-5 Lomo-20-years-4 Lomo-20-years-6