In 2009, when Partha Rao returned from a holiday in Europe he realised that some of the pictures that his friends had taken were shockingly different from regular photographs. "My beach pictures were sharp and clear but these pictures looked… damaged, but surreal. They had a dreamlike quality to them," he says.
Rao is referring to a different genre of photography called Lomography that uses analogue film cameras produced by a Vienna-based company. The results are colour-saturated pictures that often look slightly distorted, but funky to the ones who appreciate yellowing, grainy textures that are characteristic of old photographs.
For years these special cameras were not available in retail shops in India.
However, four days ago, Rao, who quit his job in early 2010 to head the Indian arm of Lomography.com, and his partner Akshay Bhaon, 25, a computer engineer who gave up his career to join Rao last year, tied up with a city-based design store to sell the cameras and other equipment for the first time in India.
A year ago, the duo also started the Indian arm of Lomography.com. Headquartered in Mumbai and called Lomography India, the group has more than 1,000 members on Facebook and nearly 75 members in the city alone.
How did it begin?
In 1991 two Austrian students came across a Russian camera that produced unique and sometimes blurry images. Soon they travelled to Russia to sign a distribution contract with the manufacturer, LOMO PLC.
In 1992 the two students started the Lomography International Society, followed by a Lomography exhibition held in Moscow in 1994. Today the Lomography community has members across the world. Lomography.com functions like a community forum with discussions, tips and web pages where members have uploaded more than a million photographs.
How are Lomography cameras different?
Lomography cameras are cheaper (starting at Rs 3,500) than regular analogue cameras and deliberately made with flaws to achieve a certain effect - they leak light, saturate the images, create vignettes and off-colour pictures. The enthusiasts say the best - and the most frustrating part - of the genre is its unpredictability. You rarely know what kind of images your camera is going to produce.