Lomography is taking over China. Well, maybe even the whole world.
Lomography is a new trend in photography based on updated retro technology proving popular among young people the world over. Photography is an art that generally prizes precision: the perfect aperture setting, potent lighting, and spot-on composition (and, of course, in our era of digital editing, a lot of after-the-shot easy fixes).
But lomography—a form characterized by bright color, abstract shapes, and, well, messiness—has come...no, BURST...onto the photography scene in recent years, spreading its fun-loving, free-wheeling aesthetic to China, along with the sturdy little colored plastic analogue film cameras that make it all happen.
In the past two years, Lomography China has opened four official stores: one each in Guangzhou and Shanghai and two in Beijing.
There's also a Taipei Lomography store across the Straits. I visited the Lomography Shanghai store not too long ago, my trusty Fisheye camera in tow, and interviewed one of the employees, Camifour, who not coincidentally is an avid lomographer herself. After the jump, more photos and the interview with Camifour!
A Fisheye's view of the Gobi Desert
Since arriving in Shanghai a month ago, I have been toting my little turquoise Fisheye camera all over China. It's now been to four provinces (Gansu, Shanghai, Beijing, and Sichuan), and lomography in China seems to be logging just as many miles.
The official Lomography shop in Shanghai is small in size but it's packed with cameras, film and books. When I entered, I saw a few Chinese customers, all under twenty-five, or so it seemed.
I had originally bought my Fisheye in America and was still tempted to splurge on one of the bright, fun cameras that were stocked along the walls. After settling on black and white film, I chatted with the young cashier, whose name was Camifour.
China Travel: Do you participate in Lomography?
Camifour: Yes, I go out with my friends and take pictures. I love it.
China Travel: Why do you think young people are so interested in it?
Camifour: I don't know. It's fun and easy and the colors are great.
CT: What type of camera do you like to use?
C: All of them! We can borrow them here in the store so I've tried everything. But I think my favorite is the LC A+ because I love the color. All these pictures (pointing to the wall) were taken with this kind of camera. It's just very vivid. We have workshops in our store, though, every once in a while, and they teach you how to use any of these cameras well.
Rollin' on the Yellow River: Water wheels in Lanzhou
CT: How long has lomography been popular in China?
C: Well, our store has been open for two years. I think it's mostly the young people that come into our store, mostly around twenty years old. I went with my friends to 1933 last weekend to take pictures—you know where that is?—and they came out really well. A lot of our customers are under thirty.
CT: Are there any places in particular that you like to photograph in Shanghai?
C: I like to go to Xintiandi. Also Tianzifang. I've taken good pictures there.
I thanked Camifour and left the store, happy with my film acquisition and pondering the popularity of the cameras I'd just seen.
In my eyes, Lomography's growth in China also has a lot to do with self-expression. It's an easy and affordable way both to have fun and to create art. It also creates a sense of community and encourages young people to explore the world around them and create beautiful images.
And that, if I may be so bold, is truly hip.
Shanghai Lomography Gallery Store
No. 126, Jin Xian Road
Lu Wan District, 200020 Shanghai, China
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun: 12:00am–8:00pm
Phone: +86 21 6256 1054
Beijing Lomography Gallery Stores
No. 9, Long Tou Jing
Xi Cheng District, 100000, Beijing, China
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun: 11:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Phone: +86 10 6657 2769
No.101,Door 2,Block 30,Sanlitun Road
Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun: 12:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Phone: +86 10 6416 1868
Guangzhou Lomography Gallery Store
No. 87, Hao Xian Road, Yue Xiu District
510000, Guangzhou, China
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun: 11:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Phone: +86 20 8383 3583
Taipei Lomography Gallery Store
No.35.Ln.187,Sec.1, Dunhua S. Rd., Da'an Dist.
Taipei City 106, Taiwan
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 2:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.; Sat-Sun: 12:00p.m.–10:00 p.m.
Phone: +11 886 2 27736111