I’ve always enjoyed the art of lomography. If I were to define what it means, I’d say it’s the art of accepting and incorporating the flaws of a medium into photographic art.
In this case, using a 1951 Bilora Blitz Box alongside Adox 100 CHS film (Expired Russian 120 film), lent a glow to the horizon, and gave a ghostly quality to the other photographer sitting farther up the dune from me.
Yet despite the dust on the image, the blur, the spots and scratches, I wouldn’t change or clear away any of it. It’s the eerie split between the light and dark, punctuated by the suggestion of human form, thta’s what truly gives this image life and character. If it were in focus, it’d be neutral and boring at best.
I showed the picture above to my grandpa the other day, and struggled to explain what about it grips my attention so strongly. He was raised on focus, technicality, and the rules of photography, so that makes complete sense. I credit him with much of my love of this craft, and I got my first camera from him. Undoubtedly, my photographic path would be nonexistent or much different without his help.
However, when I look at this shot I see something new every time. Even as I write this post, I’m noticing that the etch in the emulsion on the left side looks like a tiny butterfly seeking the flower in the center of the frame.
The context and memory of when I shot this plays into its character as well. It was a lonely night, coming back from a run to Taco Bell, realizing I still had a few frames to shoot for my darkroom class. I had spent the previous week constructing a camera from wood scraps after taking a few days to draw up a plan for a 35mm reel-to-reel pinhole camera. Everyone else was working from designs on hand, but that plan required a $50 medium format film back, and I had about $30 to my name. So I drew up a design and got it approved, cut and stained it, and now I was shooting my first roll through it.
I sat confused about what to shoot with a camera that required seconds-long exposures in full daylight. Then I just leaned back in my seat and aimed up at the overhead light. I knew it wouldn’t be a good picture, but I figured there’d at least be something on the roll. I took a few more shots that night.
These ended up being some of my favorite pieces in that whole class.
At its core, these are not truly photography as “the art of picture taking” but it’s most basic idea of “painting with light”.
Now, whether it’s the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia or real artistry that makes these worthwhile to peruse, I’ll leave up to you.
I just know that I like the way they make me smile.
And isn’t that the point?