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Toronto Lomography store destined for the deadpool

Posted by Derek Flack / August 7, 2013

Lomography Store Toronto ClosedThe Toronto Lomography Store's days are numbered. The haven for analogue shooters and lovers of camera kitsch is set to close its doors on August 18th after an almost three year run on Queen West. While not entirely surprising, the closure will surely be a bruise for film fanatics across the city, as the places to purchase, develop, and talk film are becoming less plentiful every year. But along with its retail offerings, the store served as both a gallery space and community hub for analogue enthusiasts.

As far as the reasons for the pending closure go, store employee Ryan Zaback noted during a brief phone call that Lomography's head office is downsizing and hinted that the Toronto location was suffering in the sales department. It's not alone in that regard. Earlier this year the Lomography Store in LA closed and before that the Manchester location also shuttered.

Predictably, there's a minor silver lining in the form of discounts on store stock. Although there won't be a huge blow out, regular stock (a.k.a. not the film itself) is 20 per cent off until the doors closed, and there's far better deals to be had on floor models, store fixtures, etc.

As for a future brick and mortar hub for lo-fi lovers in Toronto, that's probably a done deal. But, in fitting bit of irony, the lomo community has surely gone digital enough in its dealings to weather the loss of this space without hanging up its reels.



LOL / August 7, 2013 at 09:02 am
Instagram it baby!
Mike replying to a comment from LOL / August 7, 2013 at 09:31 am
Instagram has nothing whatsoever on film. Digital offers us convenience...and that's about it. Better colours? Nope; Velvia's got you there. Higher dynamic range? Sorry, Portra 400 has 18-19 stops. Awesome B&W tones? Give me a break; Tri-X stomps all over digital.

Nope, we've traded quality for convenience. Fortunately, there are still enough great emulsions around (Portra 400, Provia 100, Tri-X, PanF+) to last me a lifetime with my exquisitely made Leicas, Hasselblads, and Mamiyas
MrPotato / August 7, 2013 at 09:38 am
Hey Mike,

Go take a very detailed and colourful photo of somebody who actually cares!

pro-shooter / August 7, 2013 at 09:47 am
The reality is that photography is a business. Digital saves me time and money and keeps my clients happy with nearly instant posting to social-medias.

I did start back in the 70s though... So I know what it's all about.

Would I go back to films and dark-room chemicals? NO FREAKIN' WAY!

Progress is progress, and digital gives me the ability to capture more moments in the low to craptackular lighting available at most weddings that you could never do with film.
Ingelbert Lievaart II / August 7, 2013 at 10:02 am
Sad news indeed. I shoot digital for my bread and butter photography but use film at every opportunity that's feasible. Scanned medium format just gives me something I can't get from digital and I'll shoot film until I die.
Mike replying to a comment from MrPotato / August 7, 2013 at 10:06 am

You'd be surprised how much money I earn from selling prints to people who care passionately about detail and colour...
Mike replying to a comment from pro-shooter / August 7, 2013 at 10:11 am

Photography is a sometimes a business, but sometimes its a hobby. And even when it is a business, not all of that business requires the ability to shoot the proverbial black cat in a coal mine (at which digital is undoubtedly better than film).

For those of us who shoot without the pressure of extremely rapid turnaround and in good light (or at least controllable light), film offers a subjective image quality that digital has yet to match. Even when it's a business.
Will / August 7, 2013 at 10:13 am
Was any quality photography coming out of this store? NO.

Just a bunch of hipsters trying to retro and cool.

There are still a million places to get film though most people who shopped at this store wouldn't know what to do with a decent stock of film, because any good film requires a good photographer.

We are taking more pictures than at any point in history... celebrate that a once expensive and impractical hobby has been democratized and made accessible to everyone. Sure that makes for a disproportionate number selfies and cat photos, but its a small price to pay.

Film was great, I get it, I started on film and still load one of my old cameras with a roll here and there, but with digital I can manipulate almost any photos to look like any film stock I want, instead of loading a velvia in and being married to that film for 36 frames of which 10 might be decent enough to print, or the other solution carry 3 cameras around all loaded with different stock.

Get over yourselves... if you like film, good for you, but don't get all self-righteous as if your photography is any more "pure" or authentic as anyone else. It's about capturing a moment, and telling a story, who cares if it's on kodachrome, ilford, velvia, or instagram!
Sloane / August 7, 2013 at 10:19 am
We all know those hipsters were probably treating it like a Best Buy and testing out the floor models only to buy it on Amazon for cheaper.
Mike / August 7, 2013 at 10:29 am

"Film was great, I get it, I started on film and still load one of my old cameras with a roll here and there, but with digital I can manipulate almost any photos to look like any film stock I want, instead of loading a velvia in and being married to that film for 36 frames of which 10 might be decent enough to print, or the other solution carry 3 cameras around all loaded with different stock."

Digital is certainly malleable, but show me a VSCO'ed or Alien Skin'ed image that looks like Portra 400. The results that these software packages put out are terrific, but they don't look like film; they certainly don't offer the technical advantages of film (dynamic range being foremost).

This is a fruitless discussion; digital won the popularity war, and has progressed to the point at which it provides a level of objective technical prowess that cannot be matched by 35mm or, in many cases, even 120 format film.

Fortunately, the quality of a photograph isn't measured in 'objective technical prowess'.

The other major reason that I choose to shoot film is that I can use some of the greatest mechanical cameras ever made (Leica M3, M6, Hasselblad 500cm, amongst others) for next to nothing. A Leica M is $7000; my M6 was $1000. You can shoot a lot of film for $6000, even figuring in the cost of a dedicated film scanner.
Eddie Monet replying to a comment from pro-shooter / August 7, 2013 at 10:36 am
So why do people even bother painting anymore?
Warren / August 7, 2013 at 10:36 am
I can understand maybe buying film here, but I don't know why you would get film processed, scanned, etc. here when there are so many other better options in Toronto. They might be dwindling, but they're out there.
Mike replying to a comment from Eddie Monet / August 7, 2013 at 10:36 am
Eddie Monet,

Astin replying to a comment from Mike / August 7, 2013 at 11:12 am
This is from a purely out-of-the-camera viewpoint though.

I'm not knocking film by any means. I've seen some absolutely gorgeous shots from medium and large format cameras, different film development techniques, and different films that blew me away. Depth, colour, detail, etc. that I haven't seen matched in the digital realm. But these are rare and specialized.

But pointing out colour and dynamic range as benefits is folly. 2 minutes with RAW files and a couple pieces of software and these are easily surpassed in digital. HDR (done right, not clown-vomit style) can give detail from the darkest shadows and brightest highlights. A couple sliders will adjust colours in a digital image to whatever you want.

You can't make those same adjustments (and undo them) in film. The chemical darkroom is far more limiting than the digital one.
Mike / August 7, 2013 at 11:38 am

Portra 400 gives 18-19 (!!!) stops of DR, with most of that coming above middle grey; there is no digital sensor on the planet that will hold that much highlight detail. The sensor in the D800 gives maybe 14, but most of that is below middle grey; in the highlights, you've still only got 3-4 stops above middle grey before clipping starts. That hasn't really improved because of the fundamental limitations of digital sensors.

HDR is certainly an option, but it's useless for moving subjects, and getting the tone mapping correct is an art form unto itself. Portra 400 gives me that in one shot.

And as for the colours, yes, digital is malleable. But I have yet to see anything as nice as a medium or large format Velvia chrome on a light table. You don't know from colour until you've seen *those* colours.

Once again, I don't shoot film because of the dynamic range or the colours or anything else. Yes, I think these things are subjectively (or even objectively) better on film, but that's beside the point. For me, film lets me shoot the absolute finest cameras ever made, for very little money, and involves a workflow that I get on with very well.

If someone else finds film objectionable, then so be it. Make great photos. That's the bottom line.

But digital and film can (and should) co-exist. Arguing otherwise is like arguing that sculpture is superior to painting because sculpture is 3D and painting is 2D; such an argument ignores the benefits (and drawbacks) of each medium.

Virtually every photograph that appeals to me was taken on film; now of course, film has existed for far longer than digital. But then again, until I can produce what Henri Cartier-Bresson was producing in the 30's, or what William Klein was producing in the 50's, or Joel Meyerowitz was producing in the 60's and 70's - each of them using film - then I would argue that whatever technical limitations film offers are not limiting the subjective quality of my work.

To put it another way, digital doesn't offer me anything I need that isn't already available on film. That may or may not be true of your photography.
Joey / August 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm
Perhaps Canadians are just very quick to boycott products invented and/or produced from a certain country with ridiculous homophobic laws.

End homophobia! Boycott Russia!!
pro-shooter replying to a comment from Mike / August 7, 2013 at 01:21 pm
So you're using film which requires lots of chemicals and developing prints which also requires lots of chemicals to hang on your wall. Will anybody buy it?

Who cares you say?

Well... it's all going to wind up in the landfill if nobody wants it. Thus, it's all garbage. (Eventually)

Not that my wedding work or portraiture has any longevity either. But at least I'm no longer poisoning the earth doing it.
Mike replying to a comment from pro-shooter / August 7, 2013 at 01:56 pm

Really? Not poisoning the Earth? Let's see.

My M6 was made in 1985. My 500cm in the late 70s. Mamiya 7 in 1995. All still going strong.

Will you be using your current digital cameras in 30 years? I doubt it. Where will they end up? In the landfill, poisoning the Earth, that's where.
Simon Carr / August 7, 2013 at 01:58 pm
That's unfortunate. The store itself is great and the vibe is really fun. The staff love photography as well and unlike mainstream camera stores, they're very helpful.

Say what you will about Lomography and lo-fi photography, label everyone "hipsters" yadda yadda, you can't deny that they have a positive impact on photography as a mainstream art form and recreation.

I'll blame the general economics of modern Toronto more than anything. Eventually everything good gets priced out of the city. The constant churn of stores, good or bad, in the downtown core is an indicator of bigger trouble.
Moaz Ahmad / August 7, 2013 at 05:18 pm
On a slightly different dad was a photographer for 30 years and he has a collection of old cameras and some undeveloped film that we kept in storage since 1996. I'm trying to figure out what to do with them.
Kelvin replying to a comment from Moaz Ahmad / August 7, 2013 at 11:42 pm
Moaz, I'll be happy to take a look at your dad's old cameras. Drop me a message on the linked facebook site.
Regarding the film, these guys will be thrilled to take a look at it:
MrsP / August 8, 2013 at 04:25 am
Mike, you talk too much. Seriously. You're even annoying on the Internet.
Mike replying to a comment from MrsP / August 8, 2013 at 06:46 am

Perhaps I do talk too much. But you took the time to comment....

I'll bow out now. After all, when a man argues with a fool, two fools argue.
Gary / August 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm
I think it's hilarious and frustrating that people spend so much time bickering over analogue versus digital. I use both. I love both. There are pros and cons to both. What I don't understand is that as soon as you tell people you use film, there is an immediate assumption that you are against digital. Not at all. I just love working with film. The process of working with film is a whole other ballgame compared to digital. Again, it's not better, it just requires another mindset. I find film is more challenging and as a result, more rewarding. But that's just me.

And I'm also getting very tired of people throwing around the word "hipster". It is NOT just hipsters who use film. I love shooting with film and rest assured I am the furthest thing from a hipster!

Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Will / August 9, 2013 at 05:44 am
Hey buddy, just tell me where I can get 800 color film without having to buy it on-line at Amazon and pay shipping and handling costs? Please tell me, I'd like to know.

The only alternative I have now is to buy my stuff on-line, or to just shoot black and white if I wish to shoot at night without flash-and sometimes, I like color. Please don't call me a hipster, either; the stuff sold at the Lomography store was amazing, and that's why I shopped there.
Joe Q. / August 11, 2013 at 10:27 pm
I enjoy using film cameras, but realistically, the only thing that film now has on digital is the psychology of the photographic process. It forces you to slow down and be deliberate about your photography. This is probably why late-model 35mm film cameras (1990s or 2000s) don't appeal to me. On the other hand, I find using my old Rolleiflex (from 1958) immensely enjoyable -- ground-glass composition, manual focus, manual exposure estimation, a limited range of shutter speeds and focal distances, and only twelve images per roll. It's a very different photographic experience than a DSLR. Each has its place.
cgw / August 16, 2013 at 09:15 am
Lomography tried to "brand" film photography--a silly and mildly insulting proposition to anyone who shoots film. Why buy their junk cameras when tons of quality 35mm gear is available for almost free? Why buy their crappy repackaged film when Kodak Portra is better and cheaper? God, just go to Toronto Image Works at King and Spadina for the last and best pro lab service in the GTA. Buy film in bulk from B&H. DSLR scanning of 35mm and 120 isn't rocket science.We're all entering the survivalist phase of film photography and the Lomography store isn't what we needed.
hmmm / August 17, 2013 at 06:34 pm

Lonography had a lot to do, culturally, with the re-popularization of film photography for the masses. A lot of what's still bring made today might not be available if there wasn't a new demographic to sell to, nor would there be new products.
cgw replying to a comment from hmmm / August 18, 2013 at 11:51 am
You're kidding, right? There were never enough hipsters stuffing film into plastic cameras or old SLRs to begin to slow the decline in film use that began 10+ years ago. FYI the "masses" I see all seem to be using smart phones for photography--not the poorly-made cameras sold in Lomography stores. Time ran out on their self-invented nano-trend.
Frankly Speaking replying to a comment from pro-shooter / August 20, 2013 at 02:05 am
Ya and digital also makes the shittiest photographer good.

Simon Tarses replying to a comment from cgw / August 20, 2013 at 03:45 am
Excuse me, buddy, but Portra costs about $13.99 a roll (compared to Lomography selling film at $13.99 for a pack of three rolls), not everybody wants a standard film camera, and again, not everybody wants to buy film in bulk (or can afford film in bulk) when film from Lomography costs 11-13 dollars a box for three rolls. If you like to be like that, fine, but don't presume to speak for everybody who likes to shoot film.
john / August 20, 2013 at 02:32 pm
For those you who want to buy film, there's Henry's, & Downtown Camera (both instore and online). Colour film can still be found at Walmart (under $4.00), drugstores, etc.
Lomography can be ordered online.

Surprisingly, your article fails to mention that Lomography has OPENED a Gallery store in Instanbul and an Embassy Store in Buenos Aires. In fact, the Embassy stores are still open and the closed stores are Gallery Stores.Finally, you can also find Lomography film at Urban Outfitters (online and instore)

Also, an Italian company, Ferrania has announced it is going to be making film again. It stopped making it in 2008 and decided to restart this year. While I'm not a business expert, companies don't bring back a product unless they think they're going to make money!
cgw replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / August 20, 2013 at 04:51 pm
You need to get out more, bro. Just go to Shoppers Drug Mart and buy their house brand ISO200/400 film(psst, it's Fuji Superia). Lomography cheapo film was crappy Agfa stock. My sympathies for suckering for an over-priced plastic camera when the same $ could have put something reliably capable of not embarrassing you into your hands.
cgw replying to a comment from john / August 20, 2013 at 04:59 pm
"Also, an Italian company, Ferrania has announced it is going to be making film again. It stopped making it in 2008 and decided to restart this year. While I'm not a business expert, companies don't bring back a product unless they think they're going to make money!"

They're planning on it and won't be spooling anything till 2014--maybe. You might ask what Kodak and Fuji's decisions to trim their film offerings says about demand in the residual market for film materials. It's still falling, too. As for Lomography, no chance that they were ever going to slow--much less reverse, as some claimed--the collapse in demand. I'll believe the Ferrania story when I see product that doesn't stumble like the Impossible Project's did. They'll be DOA if the quality is short of Kodak and Fuji product.
jeff / April 22, 2015 at 05:18 pm
crossways photo images is still kicking around.
2340 dundas st west, Toronto
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