Photography has been an interest of mine since I can remember, one that seems to only grow over time. Back when I was using digital point’n’shoots (I couldn’t then imagine carrying a larger camera), I read about a small company who had acquired rights to manufacture and distribute an old Russian camera from the early 80s. It was small and as easy to use as my Sony Cyber-shot, but it turned out unpredictable colours, overlapping exposures and crazy light leaks. To eBay!
Having convinced a friend who lived nearby to get a Lomo LC-A too, we would shoot rough and unplanned around London (lots of throw-away shots, often of things I would not usually take photos of) trying to find conditions and subjects that would encourage the most unpredictable results from the camera.
Taking things up a notch, we started shooting whole rolls, winding them back into the canister (leaving just the end protruding), and swapping with each other to create totally random sets of double exposures.
From London, the LC-A came with me on trips across Europe and Asia, til it was eventually dunked into the Gulf of Thailand and rusted solid. Luckily, I found a magician back home who was able to revive it. Having refused to just purchase a new one, my LC-A came back 100% functional but only around 20% the original parts.
Shortly after, I moved to sunny Asia and the Lomo went to a storage container in Stratford.
London to Singapore
Though I’d generally forgotten about the Lomo LC-A over time, it would seem something of the experience stuck with me. Alongside my collection of quality Nikon glass from the 70s and my modern Fujifilm lenses, I also have a stash of battered old Soviet things. From a pixel-peeping perspective their IQ may well be dubious, but I really get something out of using them for certain types of subject.
Anyway, now living in Singapore I recently re-discovered my LC-A as well as a hard drive containing a lot of old photos. I was surprised to find that I still kind of like some of those dodgy Lomo photos from 10 years back.
I decided to set myself a small project to re-create 5 favourite shots from London in my new home city. I would try to find a visual parallel in the images, but also capture some differences in environment and spirit between the cities.
So—cheating Hamish’s format a little—here are 5 frames from London paired with 5 counterpart frames from Singapore. I have no idea what film stock I used 10 years ago, but the recent photos were all taken on Fujifilm Industrial 400 (RIP).
Singapore is known as ‘Little Red Dot’ for how it is often depicted on maps, so this signage is a fairly direct counterpoint to the ‘London St’ road sign. The neon lighting is common here, and helped me mirror a light leak that would otherwise be hard to recreate.
The shot of Hackney Town Hall is one of my favourites taken back in London with my LC-A—I love how the building seems engulfed in light. Although I was unable to produce a similar effect, this photo of a conventional ‘HDB’ (basically a tall council estate) has some of the barren stillness of the original thanks to the expanse of the sky. Luckily, I ended up with light leak to the left, too.
We don’t really have proper ‘pubs’ here in Singapore, per se, but this is one of my favourite bars. Number 5 Emerald Hill is a bit of an institution and is set in a beautiful old Peranakan shophouse. Also, I now have a fiancée to drink with! I like the surprise teal-to-red gradient that happened with this shot.
When I think of being outdoors around London I see grey skies, so the psychedelic colours of this street with classic red buses were a novelty. Singapore, by contrast, is a naturally more colourful environment (perhaps unnaturally colourful in this instance).
More on-brand with the grey skies, I enjoyed the accidental composition caused by 2 frames overlapping from London, and the almost graphic bar running vertically down the image. I somehow managed to merge 3 frames here from Singapore, for a similar effect.
As you might have guessed, I’m still drawn to the unpredictability of the LC-A, though the lack of accurate focus means I probably won’t use it so often today (well, that and the fact the plastic part of the winding mechanism disintegrated when I wound this film back).
Thanks for reading.