It was a nervous time for film photography when digital cameras took off in the 1990s, and seemed set to take over entirely. But with some help from Vladimir Putin - then deputy mayor of St Petersburg - the little Lomo camera became a retro cult classic, and showed film had a bright future.
In 1991, a group of Austrian art students on a trip to nearby Prague found, in a photographic shop, a curious little camera.
Black, compact and heavy, the camera was rudimentary. The lens was protected by a sliding cover. Loading, focusing and rewinding were all done by hand.
After developing the shots, the students found it produced pictures unlike anything they had seen before.
The colours were rich and saturated, an effect heightened by the lens's tendency to darken the corners of the frame to create a tunnel-like vignetting effect, and there were dramatic contrasts between light and dark. The Austrians were hooked, and so were their friends when they showed them the results back home in Vienna.
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The little camera was the Lomo LC-A - Lomo Kompact Automat, built in Soviet-era Leningrad by Leningrad Optics and Mechanics Association (Lomo) - and very soon a craze was born. It was an analogue Instagram in the days before digital photography.
- Vignettes - the Lomo's shots show a characteristic vignette at the edges, like tunnel vision
- Bold colours - a Lomo hallmark, especially with cross-processed slide film
- Long shutter speed - the Lomo LC-A's shutter stays open for as long as it needs to expose a photo, which can lead to interesting light trails
- Expired film - the LC-A's lens suits the warped coloured shifts found on cheap, expired film
- Small size - the best camera is the one you have with you, and the LC-A fits in a jacket pocket
This Lomo craze may have ended up helping save film photography from an untimely end.