Sunday, April 6, 2008
Just when you thought it was safe to give away that old film camera and go completely digital, Lomography pops up as a 'point & shoot' film camera phenomenon with a world-wide, almost cult -like, following. Before attending the opening of the '12x36- a local lens' photographic exhibition at Art Space Hue in early April, I had never even heard of the Russian-made Lomo camera nor the style of "shoot from the hip" photography termed Lomography, but I found myself being pleasantly surprised at the raw character, vibrant color and variety of the photographs on display.
In line with the philosophy of Lomography of "take your camera everywhere you go", and "use it anytime - day and night" a diverse group of 12 artists in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Seoul, were each provided with a Lomo camera, loaded with only one 36-shot roll of 35 mm film. Their mission was to explore the theme of local space versus local culture in their particular cities. The artists then returned their exposed but unprocessed film which was then printed onto an enlarged 30"x36" contact proof sheet for exhibition, plus three photos were chosen by each of the artists as 11" by 14" prints. The unusual thing about this exhibition was that identical prints of all the photos were shown simultaneously in three galleries during April; Art Space Hue here in Seoul, the 222 Gallery in Philadelphia, and Gallery Revisited in Los Angeles. The exhibition curator, Benjamin Kaplan, wanted to compare the direct, tangible experience of three different urban spaces through the gallery shows in each city as well as via online exhibition. (Visit the exhibition website at 12X36.com).
The participating artists included: WK, Yangachi, Haelan Kim, and Yeji Yun from Seoul, Melissa Farley, Dan Murphy, Ted Passon, and Randall Sellers - all from Philadelphia, plus the Los Angeles artists; Andy Bruntel, Michael Hsiung, Estevan Oriol and Jessica Robbins. The artists were selected from a variety of backgrounds and were mostly not photographers, ensuring that this exhibition was in accord with the low-tech, high spontaneity ideals of Lomography.
Because of the small-size of the photographs it was more like looking at a spread of artist's "home" snapshots rather than the usual large format gallery display - but this meant that viewers were drawn into close quarters with the works, and the sense of sequencing and relative place and time of each of the images was preserved by the proof sheet format. Subjects varied from what looked like home birthday parties and informal shots of friends and family, to candid images of street life, posed portraits of L.A identities such as Snoop Dog, bleak realities of city housing projects or just the simplicity of a backyard lemon tree against a blue sky.
Examples of the Lomo cameras, (which were first invented in 1982 in Russia as a Soviet answer to the compact Japanese cameras of the day), were on display and/or for sale at the participating galleries. The exhibition was sponsored in part by the Lomographic Society International - which is described as a "far-reaching, international socio-cultural movement, using photography as a creative approach to communicate, absorb and capture the world". The society boasts over 500,000 international members, and offers a variety of accessible photographic competitions, real and virtual exhibitions, and publications. For more information about the background of Lomography, purchasing and using a Lomo camera, and to read the full story of the popular rise of this amazing little film camera see www.lomography.com.
While walking around the exhibition and admiring the "edginess" of most of the works, I still found myself thinking about all the hundreds of packets of snapshot photos I have had printed over the years (most of which are still languishing in cardboard boxes somewhere) and I have to admit I decided against buying a Lomo camera … for now, anyway.
The innovative photographic exhibition '12x36- a local lens' - April 4 - April 26 at Art Space Hue - Mijin bldg, 464-41, Seogyo Mapo Seoul 121-841. Check it out on line at www.12x36.com .
In Korea contact: Benjamin Kaplan 010-4757-7801 (English and Korean) Check out his Seoul contemporary art & culture site at www.thenativegaze.com
If you're in Seoul and you want to buy a Lomo camera or just have a look at them and see the photos on display, there's now a dedicated Lomography shop near Hongik University at 362-14 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. They do speak English so give them a call on 02-326-0255 or visit website Lomography Seoul shop
This blog author, Penelope Thompson, is an Australian contemporary artist living in Korea who works in performance, installation and community art events. You can see her blog at penelopethompson.blogspot.com.