LOMO: Several years ago, around the spring of 2005, I got caught up in the Lomography craze. I bought one of the Colorsplash cameras, took a bunch of fun images with the interchangeable filters, and took the film (yes- FILM!) to the developers. I enjoyed the counter-aesthetic of the company, the "rules" that encouraged shooting from the hip, making the plastic camera part of one's adventurous life, and indeed, ignoring the rules. Lomos defied the hegemony of some members of the photo establishment that insisted, among the other things, that you had to focus and divide the image up into three parts.
But then, one day, the rewind button on my Lomo just snapped off, and I was emotionally crushed. I carefully buried it in my memorial photo box of fallen cameras, letting it rest in peace alongside two Yashica Electro 35s, a Canon Elph, a Polaroid, and my recently-departed Nikon CoolPix. My interest waned in Lomos, content just to remember the good times with a few snapshots.
My interest has been rekindled with the opening of the Lomography Store at 41 W. 8th St. I walked through the store the other day, browsed the big wall gallery of hyper-colorful New York images, picked up and examined the many kinds of adorable plastic cameras, and I almost bought a Diana model. I wasn't ready to commit, so I settled for a blue flash Lomolito, a single use camera. The store offers developing services, a critical feature that may lure me back for more.
41 W. 8th St
Monday through Saturday from 10:30am to 9pm; Sunday from 11am to 7pm.
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LEICA: As I'm interested in cameras and the history of photography, I decided it would be fun to walk from the Lomo store to the Leica Gallery on Broadway for a little ying/yang photo experience. Where the Lomo is self-aware and proud of its cheap fun, the Leica is the all-knowing and powerful god of cameras. While Kodak had introduced snapshot photography to the amateur world, the "serious" photo world founded what it was looking for with the Leica, a small-format 35mm camera. The precision and speed of the lens made it possible to shoot in all kinds of situations. The Leica quickly became a favorite among photojournalists, including Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Photographer Erich Lessing, born in Vienna in 1923, became the tenth member of Magnum Photos, the agency that Capa and Cartier-Bresson founded along with George Rodger and David "Chim" Seymour after World War II. The current exhibit at the Leica Gallery features Lessing's photographs of the talented and handsome music conductor, Herbert von Karajan. A few beautiful images of pianist Glenn Gould are tucked into the exhibit. Lessing often used a 1950's era Leica M3. See several images of this black and white series dating from 1957 at the gallery's website. My favorite is the one of von Karajan peeking into the cockpit of a plane. The exhibit continues through April 18, 2009.
Of relevant interest: Across the street from the Leica Gallery, at the corner of Broadway and Bleecker, the Corner Cafe occupies the site of one of Mathew Brady's studios.
Images: Digital images of the Lomography store and the Leica Gallery made with WOTBA's Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8, an entry-level camera with a Leica lens, and a Lomo photograph of a chubby terrier made with a now-deceased Lomo Colorsplash 35mm camera.
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