Last year, Buzz and I hopped a train and visited the Manhattan Lomography store on E.23rd. We were intrigued and wanted to see a bit more firsthand what it was all about. There were some interesting things and a vaguely interesting hipster sales dude, but we decided that we’d experiment with some of their films and perhaps end it at that.
I bought a package of three rolls of redscale film. You know that function on your digital camera that allows you to shoot sepia tone pictures? This film can give a similar effect without using lens filters, but the color varies widely depending on exposure. It can end up spooky and almost sinister, or simply aged and nostalgic.
I tried the first roll last summer. This being a hipster type of photography, I broke out the closest I have to a hipster lomography camera: a Konica C35 EFP. It’s an old plastic clunker that is totally automatic. The only thing I have to do is to set the film speed, and even that gives me only 100 and 400 as choices. Then you just point and shoot. This, of course, is the point of styles like lomography, or if you are a phone “photographer”, Instagram (No judgment. Okay, some judgment.) You don’t have to think; just shoot and let the crappy camera create interesting effects. Chances are, 9 out of 10 photos will look exactly like what you would expect from a cheap camera: kind of boring, flat, and uninteresting. But sometimes you hit lomo gold.
That first roll yielded a few interesting things:
Here are the results of my attempt at a second roll of redscale, just scanned in a few days ago. First, a familiar scene from the last few posts:
Next, an early morning on campus walking from the parking lot to my classroom. Remember, these are exactly the way they came out of the camera (I did crop one or two of them, but otherwise, I didn’t touch them.)
Finally, some redscale street photography.
You’ll notice that there are lines going horizontally across some of the pictures. The film is so weak from the process to make it redscale, and the camera is so old and, well I’ll say it again, crappy, that the film actually broke while rewinding. The clerk at the photo lab had to spool it back into the canister using a changing bag (a light-proof bag used to handle film without exposing it to light, for when a darkroom is unavailable.)
The flaws, however, are kind of the point, and what could make the picture great and interesting rather than just another mundane snapshot. This is one area that I can embrace: sometimes the imperfections are what make something – anything – beautiful. For whatever misgivings I have about the movement as a whole, I like this spirit of lomography that celebrates beauty that appears in unconventional forms.
Overall, I can see how this film could be interesting to play with, but I don’t plan to use it too often. It can get really gimmicky really quickly (see there – that’s one of my aforementioned misgivings!)
If you’d like to see another way to make the snapshot more interesting, check out Buzz’s post on his half-frame Olympus. I think he was a little punchy when he wrote it. You can tell him I said that.