The Lomo LC-A became an unlikely cult in the early 1990s. There’s not many global movements that have been spawned by a bunch of Austrian art students poking about in a Prague junk shop. But this is definitely one of them.
I got my first Lomo LC-A back in 2000, and amid all the many other cameras I’ve bought over the last decade-and-a-half, the LC-A has remained. There’s a few extra scuffs and scrapes. The frame counter no longer works. But I’ll never sell it. Along with the £50 Praktica I bought the same month, this is one of the cameras that fuelled a lifelong love of analogue.
My old LC-A’s been joined by a bunch of other Lomo-esque compacts, and last year I found an LC-A being sold from Russia with a few quirks – notably a tiny badge of the old Soviet battlecruiser Aurora glued on the front. It’s this Lomo that travelled with me back to my native NZ over Christmas – all the way from moody Moscow to the bright, hard sunlight Down Under.
I spent five weeks back in NZ over December and January. December is the lead-up to summertime in NZ – if you’re lucky, Christmas Day can be hot enough for a picnic and a game of cricket on the nearest beach – and the hard summer sunshine and blue skies have drawn photographers from all over the world.
These conditions are great for Lomography. Lomos really sing when you use cross-processed slide, and this style works best when there’s plenty of light. A sunny summer’s day in NZ has plenty of that.
My blinged LC-A is a standard late model from the USSR era, made for export – it has Western ISO film settings instead of the Soviet GOST system, but other than that (and its Bolshevik-themed badge) it’s pretty much identical to the clunky, chunky Cyrillic model I’ve used since 2000.
Lomos – and the wider Lomography movement – certainly have their detractors. I can understand why. If your kind of film photography is painstaking detail, fine grain and careful composition, Lomo-style must look like a car crash. But there’s charm to it, I think, and loading a Lomo with a roll of old film has been the best way to beat creative block I’ve come across. It’s also been a great way to see the country I grew up in through a different set of eyes.
New Zealand is a country full of green and open spaces – and on a cloudless day the sky is of such a deep, enormous blue you very rarely see in the Northern Hemisphere. That blue means the kind of old slide films I look to cross process – Kodak Elite Chrome 100 and the unbeatable Agfa CT100 Precisa – are even more eye-popping.
I shot a roll of Kodak Elite Chrome near where my mum lives, Paremata, a small town and suburbs clustered around a channel which divides two arms of an inlet, not far north of Wellington. The waters are often millpond calm, and to the north there’s a track alongside the water, behind a row of old boatsheds. The green foliage, bright sheds, blue sky and shimmering water can look dazzling on cross processing’s saturated palette.
At the start of the trip I spent a day in Piha, on the west coast of New Zealand’s main city, Auckland. It’s only 40 minutes drive from the centre of the city but feels like a world away. Bush-cloaked hills tumble down to black sand beaches pounded by roaring surf; Piha’s one of NZ’s most challenging surfing sits, with a vicious rip that has pulled many unsuspecting swimmers to their death. It’s a moody, dramatic place. Along this coast Crowded House made their best album, ‘Together Alone’, and much of the Oscar-winning film ‘The Piano’ was filmed.
It’s always been seen as a place for people who don’t quite fit in in Auckland’s more manicured, regimented suburbs. I joined a friend who was playing at the local bowls club – Piha’s social hub – for a leaving party. Everyone seemed to know each other, and their dogs too; a place full of friends, however many the legs.
These shots are taken on Lomography 100, the standard sunny weather print film sold by Lomography. It has a golden tint to it which is fantastic in bright light; there’s a pleasing, old school holiday photo vibe to it, like you imagine faded prints might have looked like when they were fresh from the chemist a few decades ago.
The Lomo’s always been a staple travel camera, but it’s been nice to use somewhere I know so well. Sometimes, a slightly different perspective can make the most familiar of places feel like somewhere new.
See more pics on my Flickr set.