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Shoot from the hip, don't think, get up close and be fast

ON a rainy weekend, hundreds of zealous young shutterbugs throng to a store opening in an old building on Jinxian Road. They carry funny, funky Lomo cameras that set them apart as Lomo lunatics.

Some bear temporary tattoos reading "Lomo" or "Lomography." They call themselves and their simple cameras Lomos.

For those not yet in the know, Lomo is a 27-year-old Russian film camera brand - and, more importantly, a photography style that emphasizes spontaneity, snapshots and shooting from the hip. Lomo is also a lighthearted lifestyle and a philosophy.

Lomo stands for Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Amalgamation.

Among the 10 golden rules of lomography: don't think, be fast, shoot from the hip, get up close, and don't worry about rules.

This advice is very unlike the traditional reserve that is ingrained in many young people.

But many are crazy about winging it, going with the flow and taking their inexpensive camera wherever they go, shooting anything that strikes their fancy.

"Let our lives be magic and open," says one Lomo fan at the opening of Lomo's China flagship gallery store in Shanghai last month.

It's also Shanghai's first store. There are other Lomography gallery stores in Tokyo, Seoul, New York, Paris and other cities.

The six-floor store features enormous Lomowalls covered with colorful lomos. It sells cameras, equipment, T-shirts, camera bags and other accessories. Bags are printed with the golden rules, like "Don't think" and "Shoot from the hip."

Prices start around 400 yuan (US$59), around a quarter of the price of a Sony digital camera. The cameras, like the classic LC-A, are small, simple and operate well in low light.

Lomography fans take a lighthearted approach to photography and document everyday life.

They appreciate the "happy accidents" on film, the unexpected and unintended images that show up.

The Lomo film cameras were created in 1982 by a military lens manufacturer in the former Soviet Union.

They are known for their Fisheye lens that captures unusual images, as well as eight individual Oktamat lenses.

"Shanghai is the right place for Lomographic adventure and we believe lomo fans will love it," says Matthias Fiegl, managing partner of Lomography Society International (LSI), during the opening ceremony.

Lomo pictures have unique color, shadow and surprising combinations, says Fiegl.

The cameras look old-style but they are avant garde, like the building downtown, says Sally Bibawy, LSI's managing partner of production and brand development international.

"Lomography is a philosophy. Don't think, just shoot then see what happens," says Charlie Perez, a French singer in a Shanghai nightclub.

Perez, who has lived in the city for three years, has a black Fisheye2 Lomo and likes to shoot friends at the bar, his girlfriend, his cat and scenes in Tahiti.

"I used to depend on DC (digital camera) but I am fed up with the format - square pictures, quick replay and a few good pictures among hundreds of shots," says Perez.

The Fisheye2 features a nearly 180-degree wide-angle view and barrel distortion, just like a fish's view. It has a multiple-exposure function that allows several images in one frame. One of his photos shows a woman inside a man's body and two images of Perez himself.

One trick, he says, is to turn the camera upside down and shoot, then turn it right side up and shoot again, creating symmetrical images. He likes to sneak up on someone, call their name and capture the surprised expression and "weird faces."

Over-saturated colors, off-kilter exposure, blurring, "happy accidents" and alternative film processing are considered part of the Lomographic technique.

Besides the Fisheye, Lomo also markets the Lomo LC-A+, a reproduction of the classic model born in Russia; the Diana, which produces dreamy images with super-saturated colors; the Oktomat with multiple lenses; the Colorsplash with a rotatable flash color wheel and nine optional colors; the Holga with color-flash technology and light-leaks effects.

Most are manufactured in Jiangxi and Guangdong provinces.

Joan He, who works in advertising, became a Lomo two years ago and owns a Holga and a Diana.

She's keen on "happy accidents."

"I like the uncertainty of lomography and it's worth waiting to see the final results," she says.

On a trip to Xiamen, Fujian Province, she closed in on a cat but the feline ran before she pressed the shutter. She thought she had missed the shot, but she hadn't. She captured a "fantastic" effect of a blurred streak with high contrast and a mysterious feeling.

She likes trying different combinations of color, light and angles and created a remarkable image of a Xiamen building at sunset.

She prefers Lomos to complicated cameras, calling them more "natural." After shooting 10 rolls or so, you get the hang of it, she says.

"It's not only photography but the lifestyle," says LSI's Bibawy, whose temporary tattoo on her arm says, "The future is analogue."

Lomo fans have online forums like and often upload pictures there or on picture-sharing Websites like Flickr.

Users can directly fetch the digital format of lomo pictures from almost all Kodak outlets.

Lomowalls are popular. The biggest Lomowall to date was installed in Beijing in 2004 during the Lomo World Congress.

In the Shanghai store, people can party on the fifth floor with Lomowalls on all sides, pictures of upbeat, quirky, charming aspects of everyday life from around the world.

Timeline of Lomography

1982 - Birth of LOMO LC-A

General Igor Petrowitsch Kornitzky slammed a little Japanese compact camera onto the desk of his comrade Michail Panfilowitsch Panfiloff, director of the powerful LOMO Russian Arms and Optical factory. Then thetwo gentlemen gave orders to the LOMO PLCfactory in St Petersburg, Russia, to createLOMO LC-A.

1984 - Launch of the LC-A

The LOMO LC-A began mass production, with 1,200 people working on the camera. Starting at 1,100 units per month for the Russian market, its popularity soon spread to East European countries and to Cuba.

1991 - Discovery by students

While touring Prague, a group of Viennese students stumbled upon the LOMO LC-A and started shooting from the hip. Upon returning to Vienna, they found the strangely beautiful images. Friends, family and strangers, all of them wanted LC-A cameras.

1992-1993 - Birth of the LomographicSociety International

Demand for the camera quickly rose, leading to formation of the Lomographic Society International. The non-profitorganization spreads the spirit of Lomography throughout the world by hosting exhibitions, parties, tours and workshops.

1996 - Putin and Lomo

Russian manufacturers decided to stop production. Lomo fans scooted to the LOMO Optics factory in Russia and persuaded the factory bosses and Leningrad's Vice Mayor Vladimir Putin to continue LC-A production.

1997 - First World Congress

The Website was launched, introducing a product shop, community interaction and services. The first Lomographic World Congress in Madrid featured a Lomowall over 120 meters long, comprised of over 35,000 Lomographs.

2001 - First Lomography shop

The Lomography shop, opened in 2001 in Vienna, features walls decked with Lomographs (Lomowalls), a wide range of innovative products from all over the world and the full line of Lomographic items.

2004 - World Congress in China

The biggest Lomowall to date was installed during the World Congress in China. For one week, Beijing was bursting with Lomographs and Lomo activities.

2009 - Opening of Lomography Gallery Store in Shanghai

The Shanghai Gallery Store is the China flagship store and the latest addition to Lomography stores in New York, Tokyo, Paris, Seoul, Madrid, Barcelona, Sydney and Vienna.

Ten golden rules of Lomography

1. Take your camera wherever you go.

2. Use it any time, day and night.

3. Lomography is not an interference in life, but part of it.

4. Try the shot from the hip.

5. Approach the objects of your Lomographic desire as close as possible.

6. Don't think.

7. Be fast.

8. You don't have to know beforehand what you captured on film.

9. Afterwards either.

10. Don't worry about any rules.


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