Comrade Tom Tigers
RANTICS

The Photographic Underground

Enter the Strange world of the manual cameras, the old and the oddballs
Or an attempt to catalogue and describe The Photographic Underground.

The Photographic Underground, it was about time that someone said something about it.
The Photographic Underground is not part of the "Mainstream Photography" Scene. It doesn't deal with modern state of the art cameras, nor with the digital scene. It also doesn't deal with photojournalism allthough they cross paths every now and again. It also crosses paths on a regular basis with the Art scene.
What is "Mainstream Photography"? It is, throwaway cameras, autofocus computerized cameras. Cameras that do everything for the photographer. People that take family shots, normal people with normal cameras. Photojournalism allthough sometimes bordering on the Photographic Underground is usually using top of the line cameras (there are some exceptions). They really deserve their own article... so for the time being I'll let them write it themselves. I'm not a photojournalist so I can't write about that.

Okay.... So what is this Photographic Underground you speak off?

The Photographic Underground is, not unlike the film underground or cult from the sixties, a collection of people of all walks of life that uses other than "normal" cameras. Don't get me wrong, someone who happens to use an old Fed 2 or Agfa just because he like the pictures he takes on birthdays isn't really a part of it. I'm talking about people who specificly choose for these cameras and ideas. Not only for the photos but also for things like style, wanting and other.

This Underground can be broken down in several parts,

The Lomographers

Or "the shoot from the hip guys and gals"

Allthough sometimes covered by the very loose term "Art" it is not art. But it can be part of art, I grant you that. Besides that you have to give them credit. A Lomographer is a true streetshooter. He or she takes the cheapest film and just goes out and shoots. The best shots make it into a Lomo wall and some take the worst shots for a Lomo wall. Though I have my doubts over the selling and merchandising that takes place over the Lomo. The fact remains that people have taken this little camera into their hearts and made it part of their lives. Can't fault that....

How do they fit in, in this Photographic Underground?

Well.... for one thing they are certainly NOT mainstream users. They reject the hardline techno stream in photography. They ... like often said... shoot from the hip. Their camera is the Lomo LC-A (also see my small review of the
Lomo ). NOT the plasticy 4 shots china box, NO, the Russian made LOMO LC-A! There is no other LOMO besides the LOMO LC-A. Praise be the LOMO LC-A. Blessed is this Minitar lens with its divine saturation. Let all film be developed and let fait give us odd effects. Allthough this is a horrible little camera IMHO it does have an odd appeal to it that makes you just want to use it. It is addictive. Some even say it is a cute camera. Lomographers are nice, they shoot at anything that moves and take it to the cheapest developer they can find and compile walls of their shots. The so called Lomo Walls.
A monument to their own "Art".

They are harmless... Very enthousiastic streetshooters and just fun to hang out with.

Back to the top

The Camera Collectors

Packrats....Good vs Evil

Collectors are a strange breed, and vary from harmless packrat type collectors to dangerous shark type searchers who will do anything for the right year camera.
Packrats are collectors that collect it all, they rarely sell they just collect. Some collect just for fun and don't really care what they collect. But to the most of them collecting is serious business. They may hunt for days, weeks, months and sometimes even years for that special item.

Collectors come in all shapes and sizes and from all walkes of live. From small scale, only a few cameras, right up to big scale collectors where a collection can go into several hundereds of cameras and in very rare case and these are very rare, thousands of cameras.

I'm a small time collector, I just have the usual stuff and actually no RARE W@W L@@K stuff as described on ebay. In terms of rare cameras I just have the FS-3 "Grey Sniper", a Mir, a Fed 2e (L), a Fed 4b Olympic, a Zarya Zorki 5a "Red Sign" and a Kristal. Hmm... I've got more than I thought.... but no exceptional oddities. Allthough I didn't think of myself as a collector until I counted the cameras. Which is over 90 cameras right now. Which actually suprised me.
But I'm also a camera user, I just hate it when they sit on the shelve and not being used. All my cameras have been used by me at least once. Why? Well.... I just want to learn... and this is the best way to do it.

Call me a User Collector...

So how do these collectors fit in the Photographic Underground?

Funny enough, a lot of Camera Collectors are also camera users. These are actually the best ones. Not only do they still use or in some rare cases even repair these cameras but they also give information and tips in the User groups on web. These are the best ones, some of them are on my
Photo Link Tips page. Some of them have even made the attempt to catalogue and describe whole ranges of cameras.

The darker form comes as an evil ebay sniping packrat. Once they got a camera you will never ever see it again. Not in any article, not on a website, it is gone forever. A vile and dangerous type of collector who will beg, steal or borrow, but never return....
The only time the camera shows up again is when it is auctioned off after they die.

Kind of a depressing thought ain't it?

It is difficult to see which kind of collector you are dealing with. The darker form has a shadow and a reflection just as the good form. So that won't work.
Both of them drool when an exceptional mint condition boxed camera is held in front of them. So that won't work either.
Both will give a fair price for an item and both are known to haggle. So... Dang...
Unfortunatly it is almost impossible to find out which are good and which are evil. This makes it very difficult to find out with what kind of collector you are dealing with.

These can vary from harmless right up to dangerous. Some are known to start biddingwars on ebay.

The Toycameras Lovers

And you thought that plastic thingy wasn't worth anything...

Plastic toy cameras.... who would have ever thought that they would be worth something. Well.... they are. Plastic boxes named Diana and Holga which take roll film have gone up in price like you would not believe. The Diana and Holga have even achieved, just like the Lomo or dare I say the Zenit-E, cult status and again just like with the Lomo we have to ask the question....

"But is it Art?"

Well... that really depends on the photographer or artist.

There is not much to tell about these people, but search the net and you will find them. They even get good results. And they are proud of it. After all getting a great photo out of an odd little plastic box that never should have been anything but a camera is amazing anyway.
Pretty much harmless... with an the possible exception of the collectors of toycameras.

Back to the top

The Experimentalists

A rare breed indeed

Among these are the people who build their own cameras. I like these people. Resourcefull, inventive. Most of them use black and white and do their own development.

Question now is.... Why?

Well... I don't know....

Others experiment with special filters, or even special films. These are scarce and it is hard to say they are either pioneers or just a modern form of the medieval Alchemists. But they can turn out incredible results, esspecially the ones that experiment with their own formulas for developing film. Or use the old formulas with a twist. Though the digital darkroom is lurking just around the corner the chemical darkroom is still alive and kicking, butt that is....
The results and possibilities are magnificent and enormous.

Totally harmless... but can turn out to be workaholics... Can and are known to hide for days in their house or dwelling....

Back to the top

The Subcams enthousiasts

Does size really matter?

Small... small ... Smallest? Yes they are out there, the small cameras, not bigger than a package of sigarettes or even smaller, Kiev 35a, Minox, Riga, Kiev 30, Samurai and many many many more.

They just love the small cameras, they use them or put them on display. There is a subspecies among them, the halfframe lovers. Not only are these in a way subcams but they get 72 shots on a 36 roll. And in all honesty halfframe is fun, Chaika, Olympus Pen, Micron and many many more.

Also pretty much harmless, some of them are very enthousiastic streetshooters. Usually fun people to hang out with.

Back to the top

Are you though enough or for that matter crazy enough to read ....

Part 7, How do you get a camera Collection, ?

Copyright © Tom A.H. Piel

All rights reserved