When I was about 12, I had a cheap red camera for taking snapshots of my friends and family. In the early 1990s I got myself a compact black Olympus Mju II that took amazingly sharp shots as long as you weren’t drunk and too close. At university I was the snapshot queen and my photo albums of those days are packed full of memories. However, In 2003 everything changed.
I asked Topper if he could get me a crazy plastic four-lensed camera, called an action sampler, for my birthday. I didn’t really know what this was but I’d seen shots that other people had taken with one and it looked like lots of fun, so I figured I needed one in my life. When it arrived, it was oh-so-shiny – a special edition called the cybersampler – and came with a whole load of leaflets and posters mentioning a website called lomography.com where I could upload my scanned images completely free. So I snapped away, scanned my prints and popped them online, creating another online presence for lipstick-lori in the process. Then I browsed the other images on the site, and that’s when things really got good.
I kept seeing these wonderful clear bright images on people’s lomohomes that had been shot on something called a Lomo LC-A. It seemed to be a camera that took 35mm film and could make the most awe inspiring images out of anything, with little more than an eye for a good shot and some knowledge of creative techniques required by the photographer. From all this browsing I learned about cross-processing, long exposures, the strategic use of a coloured flash, and also discovered that cheap Agfa film was a lomographer’s dream. By the middle of that year, I too owned an LC-A and so began my journey deeper into the world of photography.
Through discussions on the site, I ended up becoming one of the founder members of a wonderful group of Manchester lomographers who exhibited in various locations around the city a number of times, and who also had a hell of a lot of fun. A day trip to Portmeirion and a weekend in Blackpool stand out clearly in my memory, and not just for the number of images we shot. However, before long all this ‘breaking the rules’ stuff reminded me that I didn’t actually know what the rules were, so I borrowed an SLR and enrolled on a course in basic photography.
Once again I found that spending time with other photographers was rather fantastic, but by far the best thing about that course was the tutor. AJ motivated and inspired us all in a way that perhaps only an ex-punk can, and I have him to thank for so many of the fantastic shots I have taken since then. After a course in darkroom techniques, I went on to study for an A-level which helped to develop my creative side further and introduced me to an awful lot of photographers, past and present, whose work continues to inspire me.
These days I often need the motivation of going to an exhibition or discussing photography with my friends before I pick up a camera and create something, but I continue to see the world in a different way thanks to photography. After all, thinking about and paying attention to what I see every day, rather than letting the world pass me by, is something that I can do with or without a camera in my hand.