the charm of analog, the speed of digital

This weekend, Montréal is hosting a festival of films about art. Sometimes art films about art, or documentaries about art, but it’s all art all the time.

One of the films is about lomography, and the Lomographic Society International is here in force, loaning out lomo cameras to anyone, giving you free film, and a copy of the resulting prints. I borrowed the “traditional” lomo, but with the new fancy “colorsplash” flash (that has a nifty colour dial that lets you manipulate the colour of your flash, and create some low-fi special colour effects in your resulting prints.)

The cameras are sleek objects, fetish objects for any urban hipster who wouldn’t be caught dead with a Pentax K-1000. Nothing complements your Banana Republic duds better than a camera in milky white plastic with a velcro strap and pull-cord shutter release.

While not untrue, the above is the sort of nasty, holier-than-thou sort of thing a photographic purist might say. But since I’m not a purist, and have been caught inside Banana Republic on more than one occasion, I find the cameras charming, fun, and most of all desirable. Serious thought went in to making these cameras seriously fun. But not much sneaks past savvy consumers these days – they know when they’re being marketed to, and will knowingly participate, acknowledging openly that good design and a slick website worked.

And the most brilliant ploy of all – get the cameras into people’s hands so that they can touch and feel the good design and then *know* that they want them – is a good one, and I acknowledge openly that the tactic playing out this weekend at the festival is working on me.

The most enchanting thing about the lomo cameras is their elegant repackaging of the tried and true analog methods (light strikes emulsion, chemicals render details, resulting in an image on a piece of paper).

But there is only one hair in the soup – analog requires patience, and money. Even with the proliferation of one-hour photo places, photo developing at the grocery, the mall, the drugstore – you still have to wait, you can’t erase the bad images, you don’t know until it is too late if you did it wrong, and it can cost up to 20 bucks a pop to get those images in your greedy little hands. My definition of fun never included going to the photo lab. (and make no mistake, we’re talking about fun with photo here, leaving photo-as-high-art aside for a moment.)

It’s reflexive now, when in a social situation and everyone is snapping away, to ignore the yellow dots in front of your eyes and peer into a tiny screen to see how the shot turned out. “Ohmigod, I look like a refugee! Delete it!” Threats, more pictures, more beer ensues. Outrageous moments are captured and instantly verified for their blackmail potential later. (Catch this {{popup mk_beer.jpg mk_beer 200×150}}precious image of me being force-fed an $8 Heineken at a local strip club.)

(And who says you can’t take really bizarre photos with a digital camera? Especially if you drop it in a lot of water and dry it out with a hair dryer.)

I suppose I will wait and see how my prints turn out on Monday before I decide to fall for beautiful design or instant gratification.