While others may struggle in the face of recession, niche camera manufacturer Lomo appears to be going strong. Gary Wolstenholme visits the new Lomography Gallery Store in Manchester to investigate.
Fashion capitals of the world, such as Paris, Milan, New York and London have long catered for those with a love for a love for the Lomo rage of fashionably designed, stripped back film cameras. Their basic approach with plastic build and not quite light-tight bodies has created a niche all of its own.
Now Northern folk are better catered for by the opening of the Lomography Gallery Store in Manchester. Based in the trendy northern quarter of the city, what used to be a women's clothing boutique has been transformed into a spacious gallery, dedicated to all things Lomo. Manchester was chosen as the northern base for Lomography enthusiasts based on the location of online sales, Google search results and because the vibrant setting suits the Lomo outlook perfectly.
With camera prices starting at around £25 for a paper pinhole camera kit, ranging to the more extravagant Horizon panoramic camera, these quirky cameras are most definitely luxury items. So why is Lomography able to expand by 30% in these harsh economic times?
When asked, online Heidi Mace, Online Manager, said she believes this is because of the community Lomo have built up around its brand. Each Lomography Gallery Store holds workshops for groups of up to 15 people. During these sessions cameras can be borrowed by participants and staff members will guide them on how to make the best of them. There is also a strong online community, with monthly competitions organised by local Lomography dealers. Heidi also believes design is very important, explaining how Lomo has a dedicated design team, who spend at least two years perfecting each camera's look.
The entire range of brightly coloured cameras is displayed as art, in display cases throughout the store. A Lomo Wall forms a centrepiece and consists of images taken with the cameras. Although only one wall has been covered, the aim is to cover the entire store interior with six by four inch prints.
Support for Lomography fans doesn't stop at stores and workshops. A dedicated processing service, which takes into account the quirks of Lomo cameras is provided by the East London store. Films can be sent from the Manchester store with an extra surcharge of 50p to cover postage.
More details on Lomography including details of the new store in Manchester can be found at the Lomography UK website. Lomography Gallery Store Manchester can be found at 20 Oldham Street, Manchester. M1 1JN.