The critical elements – your eye, the lens, the film, and your subject
…and the other , most important one
by Scott Ewdwards…
Hipstamatic, “Lomography”, Holga, Dianna- none of these now trendy, popular cameras made very decent photographs, yet the significance of the these applications are increasing day to day on camera phones and becoming a staple application for other camera users too.
The iPhone & Android is for this decade what Polaroid was yesterday, except with the advantage of instant review on a digital screen. The implications of the digital aspect of it today could mean a rather unlimited audience, if one so chooses. Everyone knows now that they can share their snapshots on facebook and other internet sites with scads of onlookers.
Almost everyone has some sort of digital camera, (over 6.4 million US active iPhone users last year, I read somewhere.) The little phone cameras are capable of producing noteworthy photographs too, much more technically agile in today’s terms- (iPhone4 has a*5mp camera that also doubles as a rolling shutter HD video cam and the new iPhone 4s has an 8mp rear camera), compared to these plastic toys cameras of yesteryear, which really can not be compared to a digital sensor would crudely relate to about 1/2mp in estimate. So why is it that holga apps and other lomo effects are emerging as such a hot trend, not only in digital apps but also in the resurgence of the actual film eaters? While writing this note, I discovered there is quite a healthy market for these cameras, (*see links in notes.)
-downgrading the picture, artistic merit?
Have you ever wondered why the burst of popularity for these applications to simulate lower grade, problematic photos? Things like vignetting, chromatic aberration, lens distortion, flares, spherical aberration, burnt film from light leaking thru the body… that engineers worked hard for decades to eliminate in order to obtain the clinical and sharp documents almost take for granted every day?
Is it ironic, at all, that we desire to manipulate photos to downgrade them?
It turns out, that even back then, these cameras were widely produced and distributed after the effects of there faults were found useful and praised. Somewhere in the course of time, we forgot about them. You can read a little more about the history in the links at the end of the article. The idea I am wanting to talk about though, isn’t about these cameras in particular.
It’s about the visual equivalent to mechanical resonance.
Quite another human sensory phenomenon, that I hope to maybe discuss at some point. As someone who has always been interested in art, I have given enough thought about this to make it a topic for a post. I read a few interesting articles that made me examine my own practices, so in the theme of this being my photography blog, I will try to write about this concept in our making of pictures.
I make pictures.
Weather I paint them or weather I use a box with a lens on it- with a sensor and a cf card on one side, or film, I am in the business of making pictures. This is a very technical business indeed.
I have attended classes and read books and plied the minds of some of the people whom I trust and respect in this business both in painting and in photography in my pursuit of creating good work. There are many factors that can go into the end of making a picture, such as
- Subject – thats a complete variable about what the picture is about
- Technical– …form, light, shadow, composition, context, relationship, all that stuff, like the rule of thirds, the ‘invisible tools, as well as the kind of physical, tools that make it, like brushes, lenses, films…
- tactile stuff, like the canvas, pigments, and the application
…and then, of course the most important element
- the viewer.
I know that goes back into the subjective nature of the picture. But one thing happens weather or not they like the subject pictured: they view it and complete the experience in their minds eye.
Let me further explain, that when we take in an experience, we have amazing sensory perception that has yet to be matched by anything, although a photograph in itself is not reality, it is quite a realistic impression of reality.
For example, I don’t know of any lens capable of achieving stereoscopic ability of the human eye. The filed of vision, the range of color, the fluid dynamic.
When a person sees something, there is an added sense from the environment, and this completes memories for the viewer, smell of the air, the temperature, sometimes the texture of the way it feels.
So when a viewer interprets the reality presented in a photograph, ( and for all intensive purposes here, a painting, and what topic I started with, a lomo-graph or histomatic, or whatever app deteriorated picture, our brain, by being a comparative creature by nature, starts to fill in what is missing from the experience with clues from what the picture tells us.
With a less defined picture, the viewer is engaging even more to make the connection, possibly filling it with their own preference, good or bad, and having a sort of pseudo experience with it, by engaging with it more.
That’s why I think the resurrection of the style of cheap old photography is now becoming a photographic phenomenon. It’s believable, likable, and fun. It can make an ordinary average snapshot look a lot less ordinary, a lot less than perfect…and in the case where ordinary is clinical and detailed and rather good, this is a welcome throwback.
iPhoneography is great, you can take crisp detailed photos of a document and have it transferred into text, or money in your bank account, have a real time face to face conversation with someone remotely, and make pictures that look like the plastic toy store cameras of the 1980’s with a few taps. and you can still print them :)
(if your interested in that, I can do it for you, even tho i’m sure there is an app for it somewhere) It’s sheer versatility makes it more than just a fun toy, it is a real camera, with an aperture, shutter speed, ISO and it makes great pictures that look pretty good at 8×10 and remarkably better at 5×7, raw from the phone , without PS.
The magic of looking at a photo, well, that hasn’t really changed much- if anything, our ever gaining insatiable consumption of electronic media has conditioned our minds somewhat to believe in even more less convincing files of pixels and dashes and dots over the analog counterparts of our golden era… where the machines are faster than our brains can decipher the difference… and that too is for another blog post Im sure:)
A little extra history about these “classics”
~Cheap Chic …from http://www.bohemian.com/bohemian/09.08.10/feature-1036.html
Aside from sharing strange but somehow charming names, the cameras that are making a comeback have more than a few things in common. Most of the models are made completely out of plastic, even the lens. Some operate on 120mm film, some have fixed lenses; all are inexpensive.
Holgas are adored for discrepancies in their plastic construction that allow light to leak into the body, often resulting in bursts of overexposed film. Both Holgas and Dianas are famous for their marginal field coverage and low-quality plastic lenses, which produce the much sought-after vignetting, or blurred-edge look, and highly saturated color photos.
In the 1980s, Holga cameras were mass-produced and widely distributed to the Chinese public. Intended to bring photography to the working class in an affordable way, the camera slowly gained international popularity a few years after its introduction. Professional photographers appreciated the image abstraction Holgas produced, as well as their affordable price, which was as low as $15.
Diana cameras predate the Holga and were brought into the United States from a Hong Kong plastic factory in the 1960s. They were widely used as cheap prizes for carnivals and fairs, and produced dreamy images with their soft focus. LOMO LC-A’s are Holga’s communist equivalent, developed in Russia during the ’80s.
And, of course, there’s the Polaroid. First introduced in 1947, the camera, which instantly produced square photos with a white margin, had its heyday in the 1960s. Ever since Polaroid announced its decision to discontinue production of the film in 2008, though, the cameras have practically become an item of lore.
Thanks Bohemian, and further noted that “lomo’ is a trendy name in low grade style after two russians resurrected the flailing plastic camera from oblivion into what it is today- not like the Diana and the Holga or the polaroids.
more history , here: http://microsites.lomography.com/holga/history until next post, Scott@lucidmojo.com