rip, tear, burn, destroy: the photographic legacy of the LOMO LC-A
June 19th was the 25th birthday of the LOMO LC-A, and to celebrate I’ve posted a gallery of images illustrating what the LOMO does best: rip, burn, tear, mangle, obliterate, annihilate, and otherwise completely destroy (by any means necessary!) your precious filmstrips. I’ve lost more rolls of film and more individual frames between my three LOMOs than with any other type of camera I’ve ever owned. There’s the roll I took at Disneyland that I never took at all because the winder gears never actually ended up meshing with the holes on the filmstrip. There’s the roll I shot in New York that I couldn’t rewind because the teeth had eaten through the holes in the strip and when I opened the camera back (I thought the film had been rewound) the entire roll was exposed to bright sunlight and, like Dracula, reduced to ashes. Then there are the dozens and dozens of blank frames on my filmstrips that are there because even though the camera made the sound of the shutter opening, the shutter never in fact actually opened. The current shots on this page are all from my latest LC-A (actually an LC-A+), which has unfortunately taken enough spills that the back doesn’t really stay closed any more. The last roll I shot using my LC-A+ was exposed to to the harsh violence of stray photons at least five times, though luckily two of those exposures were in exceedingly low-light situations.
There’s come a time with each LOMO I’ve owned where I’ve gotten sick of its foibles — tired of the lack of precision focus, bored with the quaint blurriness and ‘hipster’ aura of cool, sick of the camera’s lack of proper exposure control, and downright fed up with the LOMO’s high level of unreliability (rivaling even that of Lucas). And yet I keep coming back to these cameras again and again because there’s some ineffable quality about the photographs that come out of the LC-A that simply can’t be reproduced. I think about half of this is due to the element of chance that gets jumbled into any shot that you don’t have full control over and the other half is a result of a lens that supplies not only stunningly bright and dreamlike colorations, but also a vignetting effect that draws that eye to the center of the frame where it can become properly mesmerized by the photographic subject. And that’s what the LOMO ultimately specializes in — mesmerization and dreams, images that look like blurry memories ripped straight from the cortical fold, and the ability to reveal the promise of aesthetic abundance locked inside of the vernacular world.
(Special thanks to David Noles for directing me to the Wired article on the LC-A’s 25th birthday, without which I would have remained utterly clueless about the event.)
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Tags: 25th anniversary, burned film, cult camera, damaged film, film burn, LC-A, LOMO, lomography, photography, Russian camera, toy camera