The climax of the movie Gattaca is a scene where 2 brothers– one genetically modified to perfection, the other a natural man– swim a race in the ocean, with the natural man defeating the perfect one because he calculate on saving any energy for a return trip. It’s a lesson about being too perfect, and how unpredictability can trump design.
In a similar vein, I wanted to see how a shoddily made plastic camera from Lomo- the Diana F- stacked up against the free Retro Camera application found on my phone (comparable to the Iphone “Hipstamatic” app).
The Diana was a cheap Chinese medium format camera which has 4 aperture settings, one being a pinhole, and a few focus settings which swing from side to side if you don’t pay attention. It’s a precursor to the more famous Holga medium format camera, also available from Lomo. The lomography aesthetic is one of the Happy Accident, fun is the priority, and the joy of getting one’s film back and seeing what went wrong, where the lightleaks landed– that’s the icing on the cake.
Shooting around the Emerald City Comicon last week, I was asked a few times about my camera, and having something strange around your neck is a good way to break the ice. I don’t think a stranger has ever asked me about my phone.
The downside is, film is expensive, developing is expensive, I’m stuck with the limited number of shots and I don’t take my camera everywhere I should unless I intend on shooting .
Now, the omnipresent cell phone and its sundry apps. I’m lucky enough to even remember that I have a camera on my phone, it does so much. It has all the benefits of digital photography and, in the words of my non-photographer Wife, “(the retro camera app) makes me look like I’m any good.”
The Retro Camera App has 5 cameras to choose from (Xoladroid 2000, Barbi, Pinhole, Little Orange Box, Fudgecan), as well as “black and white” or “color” options. The whole process of choosing your camera, shooting and developing is a graphics hoot. Even when the camera gear is packed away, my phone is close enough to get a shot like this one of Mt. Rainier.
I’m the kinda guy who’ll take photos any way I can because I love it all, but that said, the promise of something funky and accidental doesn’t come through in the Retro App. It can’t lightleak frame numbers on my film, do infinite panorama, accidentally double expose, and physical damage like scratches (which can add to a degraded image) are missing from the app photos. It’s a bit of a surprise with how the image comes out, but nowhere near as exciting as the anticipation as I have on the drive to Tempe Camera Lab to get the film back.
When you want to truly lose control and fuck up your photos, lomography is the way to go.