Sometime last year an idea caught me by the neck and didn’t let me go. It was surprisingly nothing to do with writing or books, though you could say it was peripherally connected. The idea was analogue photography. That live breathing art that transforms a moment into magic. What drew me intoxicatingly close was the world of toy cameras. I collected a few of them, explored the differences and was always pleasantly surprised by their behavior.
If you say toy cameras, can Lomography be far behind? Lomography was founded when two students on vacation serendipitously stumbled into old Russian cameras with plastic lenses. It was a fascinating find which grew into a technique, a philosophy, a magazine, a community and thankfully several cameras. It was bright, sparkling, and inviting world. Images of brilliant hue dotted its landscape. It was like a hall of mirrors. How could I not be a part of it?
Cut to this year: After establishing offices all over the world, Lomography opens its India office in Mumbai. They select Indian bloggers to try out the Diana Mini. I am so incredibly lucky to be one of them. Big thanks to Lomography India and Akshay Bhoan for being so unbelievably gracious! I feel like I am looking at a dream while holding it in my hands. Yes, I know it’s surreal.
Let’s turn to the dream now, I mean the Diana Mini. The Diana Mini is a small 35 mm toy camera that does many big things. Its size ensures that you can carry it anywhere. I know because I have taken it to work, to community gatherings, to lunches with friends, book readings, bookshops, in fact anywhere because photo opportunities don’t knock before they appear.
It has a really cool retro finish that guarantees second looks from passers-by. I saw quite a few people taking a peek at the Mini in hand while I stood in line for billing recently. Once you get to know the basics, it’s easy peasy. I needed just a few simple steps to start off:
- Take off the lens cap
- Gauge the distance between the subject and the camera
- Set the marker to an approx focus distance
- Set the aperture settings: sunny day or cloudy day depending on the weather
- Set the shutter mode: N for a sunny day and B for long exposures
- Press the shutter lever
- Advance the wheel
The Diana Mini does so many things: multiple exposures for instance. Don’t advance the wheel and expose the same film again for a surreal collage effect. Toggle between rectangular and square formats as you want. I stuck to the square format because I loved it. For shooting at night, there is a hot shoe flash attachment. Little transparent slides of plastic inserted into a slot in the flash allows you to bathe a scene in a color of your choice. You can give that yellow tone or red tone to any frame.
The Mini doesn’t need batteries. It’s pure physics of light, which means that if you are stuck in a part of the world which has little or limited electricity and if you have film and it’s sunny, you can still use the Mini.
The Diana Mini is analogue toy photography at its best. I am waiting for the results come back from the lab for the real surprise. I will be uploading my experiments soon as well. Till then, feast your eyes on the camera itself.
Go to Lomography to know more about the story, its driving force and how you can also step into this wonderful world. For Indians, Lomography India should be your photo home. Visit the Facebook page as well for personal interaction with the Lomography people, Lomography enthusiasts, tips on analogue photography, and so much more. So, what are you waiting for?