The Cult of Lomography- Kevin Mason

September 1, 2010

This appeared on Kevin’s personal blog this morning, some of us at Garage thought it would be worth posting here to see what fellow photographers thought, as well as the many lomo enthusiasts out there.

“Don’t Think Just Shoot” -or why “All that glisters is not gold.”

Don't worship false idols

As a slice of marketing genius this is up there with putting advertising billboards in videogames, or fetishising smoking - as an ethos for photography its as sensible as teaching your kids the slogan Don’t Look Just Run when it comes to crossing the road.

Imagine for a second that you applied this Don’t Think Just…. marketing slogan to another aspect of life, something that requires some skill or judgement, say cooking, or fashion or god forbid architecture. Don’t Think Just Build… only then do you really see what a retarded piece of advice that is.

If you don’t think about photography, if you don’t make hundreds of instantaneous decisions before you set up, when you find your subject when you frame your image, then what are you going to show us that’s uniquely yours? If you don’t frame the world based on the years of visual references that you build up in your lifetime, and then try and filter or distil those into an image or set of images then you might as well put the camera down.

I own a studio where we used to run a course on Lomography- people enjoyed it, had a hell of a lot of fun- and that’s good, I’m not against fun, but I think the real satisfaction lies deeper than that. This Don’t Think or Look Just Shoot is the antitheses of Photography- it encourages people to all take the same photo over and over again. A uniquely homogenised view of the world, that rarely, and if so by accident, is capable of showing us something new about the world we live in everyday.

Don’t believe me- then try this, spend some time on the lomography website and once you get past the adverts, the gimmicks, the marketing slogans, you find galleries of thousands of images that look the same, sure the sickly colours are different, the subjects may vary, but an individual voice and more importantly individual eye is impossible to find. Convince a hundred monkeys to leave their typewriters and abandon their efforts to write Shakespeare and give them a lomo-lca and you’ll eventually get the gallery of the lomo site.

The urge to look and record is a very human thing, so is the urge to shout and scream- it feels good, but as we are somewhat advanced as a species, we have refined it into many forms of singing and expression. It’s the same with Photography, what started as a science has been refined and evolved, often through accident, innovation but also from people looking, and more importantly thinking. When I was a kid I loved throwing paint at the wall- it was endlessly satisfying, but to do that as adult- well that would be a release of sorts but I certainly wouldn’t want to admit to it in public.

This Don’t Think manifesto is pure bullshit, designed to tap in to your growing fear as a human of a loss of identity, of a homogenisation of life, but by adhering to it, you are collaborating, joining the mass of visual noise but contributing nothing. It’s a stroke of marketing genius, selling essentially joke cameras, in as many different forms as the ad team can come up with. Read through the Golden Rules a few times, its like some Religious Mantra, all the time urging you to buy into this cult, and each time someone joins in and shoots without looking its just taking us back to the beginning again, not raw and unflinching but indiscriminate, inarticulate and mute. Have a discussion with a Lomo photographer- one who has really bought in and its like talking to a Scientologist. “Who cares what you see, and know already, and have learnt about the world or yourself just buy our stuff its fun… “

If you want to see the world differently, if you want to experience the world through photography, then stop, don’t take hundreds of pictures every day, buy a film body, a 50mm lens, and get to know what the camera does, look through the viewfinder with more care than you look at your lover, frame and reframe and see how that changes your view. Do this without film even, don’t take any photos, just keep looking, and look at the light, how it shapes and how you respond to it, watch your subject and see how it responds to you.

See how the act of photography changes the world and more importantly see how it shapes your unique view. We all have one, a unique view isn’t lying on a floor shooting a pier for the 100th time this year, don’t join the noise and the shouting about nothing in flashy colours. If you want to understand ‘snapshot’ then look at Stephen Shore, if you want to understand colour look at Eggleston, if you want rawness pick up any of the early years of Vice, or go back and see what Nan Goldin did in the 80’s, if its landscape then go see Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas on a big screen. What’s different about all these names is that they contributed something unique, that life, and the experience, knowledge, logic and reasoning had lead them to. Eventually you will find this a lot more satisfying than taking the same picture for the next 5 years with your Lomo and some x-pro.

And if you think this is all too serious, well I confess I love the Ramones…. There is nothing wrong with stripping things back but please put some thought into it, and don’t fall in love with the Ad mans slogan, its puerile.

Some gems from the Lomo Golden Rules…

Don’t look through the viewfinder.

Your hands (your trigger finger!) start trembling, your eyes become hungry, your soul is burning for images, images, images and you grab your LOMO LC-A, click, ahhhhhhh, click, click, click, now it’s better.

When you are Lomographing, you’re not only living your life at the present with more intensity and excitement.

Life inhales Lomography and Lomography inhales life.

Laugh and everyone will not only love you and your LOMO LC-A.

Lomography is often an unconscious act that can’t be controlled at all.

But you’ll understand your Lomographs even less! Don’t try to analyse them: look at them in a different way and let them tell you their story, which is also automatically your story. (kids it really really isn’t).


So do you agree/disagree, do you always keep a lomo on you, do you shoot it differently to any other camera, are you tired of the hype, or do you believe in a genuine movement created by Lomo, we’d love to know….

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Responses to The Cult of Lomography- Kevin Mason

  1. Lou says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you Kev - I think people should ask themselves ‘could/would anyone else take this photo I’m about to take’ - if the answer’s yes, put your camera away. This is exactly why I loved the course at garage.

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