Lomography Gallery Store
The Lomography Gallery Store is an interesting proposition - a real world venue for a community of photographers who've shared, shopped and communicated with each other online. As the name suggests, the new addition to Queen West is both a shop and a gallery, but the people behind it hope that it'll also become a clubhouse for fans of the distinctly low-tech and proudly analogue cameras it celebrates.
The Lomography story begins in Russia, where central economic planning led to the manufacture of a range of wonky cameras like the Lomo LC-A, whose primitive mechanisms and often plastic lenses were never going to give Nikon a run for their money. The story then moves to Vienna, where fans of the original Lomo camera made a deal with the Russian manufacturers to sell the camera to a growing cult of lo-fi shutterbugs.
Lomography's Austrian HQ decided last year that there was enough of a community of Lomographers in Toronto to merit a storefront presence for the company, which led to a fall opening in what was once the Red Indian Art Deco antique shop. Local Lomo enthusiast James Greenspan got the gig as store manager, and sums up his mission simply: "We're a community, and this is a place for the community to meet."
The gallery aspect is manifest in a river of Lomo snaps, knitted together in a mosaic that flows from wall to ceiling to wall across the front of the space. Greenspan says that new exhibitions will be composed of the results of Lomography "rumbles," where a theme is announced to the community, and the results are collected online and printed out for display, a process integral to Lomography's online backbone. "Lomography was actually a social network before Friendster," Greenspan points out.
The store sells everything from the LC-A+, the update of the classic Lomo, to plastic-lens cameras like the Holga and Diana, to panoramic specialty items like the Sprocket Rocket, the Spinner 360 and the Horizon, to offbeat fun cameras like the Supersampler, the Actionsampler, the Fisheye and the Colorsplash. There are refurbished Russian cameras, as well as accessories, books, bags and t-shirts. Prices range from $30 for a pinhole camera kit to around $500 for a Russian-made Horizon Perfekt. Film can be bought, and Greenspan says that they plan to offer developing in the future.
While you can get cellphone apps that try to ape the look of a Lomo, Diana or pinhole camera, Lomo fans insist that the film patina can't be digitally duplicated, and that no digital camera can match the one-shot, shoot-from-the-hip, accidents-are-everything aesthetic that Lomography encourages. With the arrival of the Toronto Lomography store, this community can finally meet in the flesh and shop in person.
Writing and photos by Rick McGinnis.