Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Don't Think, Just Shoot.

On a trip like this you see so much that you almost become numb. You don't know what you will assimilate into your being and what you will leave behind, touched briefly and then forgotten. It's especially difficult to immediately implement something you see, hear or smell into your experience. Sometimes you need instructions.

In an unlikely and subversive spot, the gift shop at the Centre Pompidou, I found a photography exhibit. This exhibit was unusual. It was displayed on the ground. While dozens of people fought to get a look at overpriced watches I became engrossed in hundreds of little pictures pieced together like a mosaic on a platform no higher than my knee. Each photo was an unremarkable snapshot of life. Signs at a Tube station, people passing by, feet on a beach, and a thousand other things we pay little attention to. Together they made up a fascinating cross section of a life where the mundane becomes beautiful. The collage was accompanied by a series of signs explaining the practice, called Lomography. There are 10 Golden Rules to follow to capture spontaneous, intimate pieces of life. I wrote them down.

1. Take your camera everywhere you go.
2. Use it anytime, day or night.
3. Lomography is not an interference in your life, but part of it.
4. Try the shot from the hip.
5. Approach the object 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.

According to the website of the International Lomographic Society, the purpose of the organization is to "shoot as many impossible pictures as possible in the most impossible of situations from the most impossible of positions. These lomographs are put together to make up vast walls of pictures with tens of thousands of images shot by what are often hundreds of individual lomographers, and then exhibited all over the world."

Lomography began in Vienna in 1991 when a group of students shot rolls of uncomposed pictures on cheap Russian cameras. They put their pictures together and found their spontaneity had captured life in an intriguing way. Often serendipity is more powerful than planning.

I spent the afternoon implementing the rules. The camera sees things you can't.

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Click each photo for a larger view. The story is told by the details.

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