A curious choice: Lomography turns to Kickstarter

A 35mm film scanner that functions via your smartphone? That sounds like a fairly cool idea to allow you to free your negative imprints, no matter how old or how recent, and share them digitally, courtesy of Lomography. It works by photographing a negative with your phone's camera (iOS or Android) that has been back-lit by the scanner. You then edit it using the custom-built accompanying app, and are able to archive, email, and share it. Simple.

All being well, the Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner should be available in March this year.

There is, however, something that I find particularly curious about this product (apart from it not being compatible with 120 film). Why has Lomography turned to crowd-funding platform Kickstarter to fund it?

It's true that Kickstarter doesn't have any stipulations about the sorts of people or organisations who can use it to seek funds, but the general feel is that it's an option for creative projects that might not be able to secure funding through more traditional means.

As Kickstarter itself says on its website:

We started Kickstarter as a new way for creators and audiences to work together to make things. The traditional funding systems are risk-averse and profit-focused, and tons of great ideas never get a chance. We thought Kickstarter could open the door to a much wider variety of ideas and allow everyone to decide what they wanted to see exist in the world.

I'm not convinced that Lomography, a company with an annual turn-over of $40 million and 350 employees, according the the FT, can be classed as an organisation that would struggle to secure a bank loan for a project that seems entirely reasonable.

This leaves me feeling slightly uncomfortable. First, people have a limited pot of funds that they're able to donate in support of projects. When a company that could secure external funding through traditional means seeks the support of individuals, it is depriving other projects that might otherwise struggle to secure a bank loan or seed funding from amassing the funds that they need to launch.

Whilst it is all very well to say that funders have the ability to choose to whom they lend their support and donate their contributions, Lomography has a huge following and a professional PR department. They have the ability to reach a greater number of potential funders than media-shy Joe Bloggs who's a brilliant inventor with no assets to act as security against a loan. Kickstarter is designed to give everyone a fair crack at achieving funding and realising their ambitions; when well-known brands start to get in on the act, the odds suddenly become skewed against the small people again.

Second we come to the term 'profit-focused' in the Kickstarter blurb. Kickstarter wants people to be able to create products or host events that fulfil their ambitions; they might not succeed in making a profit, but that isn't the point. It's about giving people a chance and unleashing potential. If a project does take off and conquer the world, so much the better; it isn't, however, the pivotal principle behind its inception or the key factor that determines whether or not it should be granted funding. It's about moving away from risk-aversion and profit obsession and allowing cool things to come to fruition. 

Lomography, on the other hand, is a business and it is out to make a profit. I find it highly unlikely that it desperately needs to secure alternative funding for the scanner because it can't manage it through any other channels. From here, this feels like a cheap loan for Lomography that relies on Joe Public.

No, Lomography looking for Kickstarter funding isn't illegal and it isn't against Kickstarter's rules. It just comes across as really unfair.

The Smartphone Film Scanner project page is here, but if you'd like to contribute to project that's closing soon, take a look here.

I have asked Lomography to comment on its choice of funding source. I am yet to receive a response.

15:30 GMT, 16 Janaury 2013 - Lomography has sent a response. It's quite long, I doubt you want to read all of it. However, the pertinent points are these:

In order to continue to develop and release new films and cameras while also keeping up with the demand of a digital world we felt it necessary to start a crowd funding project to create a new product that otherwise would remain on the back burner for a few more years.

Part of the idea behind using kickstarter was to involve our community in our endeavors and to give back with some really fantastic incentives.

Sites like Kickstarter are a great way to help us fund some of our more off-beat projects. We want to continue introducing new products and keeping the film world fresh. This is just one way for us to continue making the future analog.

CanvasDropr: probably not just another photo-sharing website

When I get an email asking me to take a look at yet another photo-sharing website, it usually elicits a small groan, a roll of the eyes, and I wonder just how SuperPixShare is going to do a better job than ShareSuperPix, which I looked at last week. If I end up writing about ShareSuperPix, then it has to be either fantastically unusual or breathtakingly terrible; which means that CanvasDropr, a collaborative content-sharing website out of Denmark, has to be one or the other.

The idea behind it is that groups of people can collaborate around images or videos, creating giant digital collages in real-time that they can comment on, resize, and rotate at will. There's a video introducing it, if you fancy.

But you know, I really like CanvasDropr.

It's well laid-out and easy to use. You can drag and drop images and videos onto your canvas from your computer, or import them from other sites such as Flickr and YouTube. I love that this enables you to create an album of photos and videos from a trip or event that's all in one place and is easy to share with family and friends.

Even better, of course, is that other people can collaborate with you to create a giant canvas of shared images and videos from a holiday, party, festival, or celebration. You can see all the media simultaneously, and everyone contributing to the canvas can add, resize, rotate, and comment on content in real-time.

You can even integrate your canvas into your own site. 

The team behind CanvasDropr don't just see it as a way of sharing media amongst friends, but as a useful tool for designers, media types, and photographers. As they put it, it's like Google Docs for images and videos.

I'm intrigued to see how CanvasDropr develops. It is certainly something that my family could make use of to consolidate the thirteen million images that we manage to take at one party. I might even be tempted to use it to create a collage or two from my current trip.

CanvasDropr: you should check it out.

March photo competition winner!

Champagne copy

Ladies and Gentlemen, you made it very hard for us in March. Very hard indeed. With so many awesome entries, Haje and I tossed potential winners back and forth across the globe for a week. You impressed us with the variety of your horizons; from dawns to moons, cityscapes to rural desertion. There were silhouettes and HDR, and very clever interpretations of the theme. Eventually, though, we found a victor. So please, raise your glasses (or maybe it should be tots of rum) to March’s winning picture:

Sailing into the Sunset

Many congratulations to Joe for his gloriously warm horizon, Sailing into the Sunset. Please drop me an email so that I can put you in touch with the marvellous people at Fracture, to sort out your prize.

Thank you to everyone who entered; you’ve done yourselves proud. April’s competition is coming up very soon, and we’re really looking forward to seeing what you guys submit to that.

January photo competition winner!

Champagne copy

‘Crimeney – awesome stuff – it’s great to see that people are posting such fantastic images! I’m very impressed indeed.’ That was Haje’s reaction when we sat down to judge the January competition entries. So before I announce the winner, and invite you all to have a drink (alcoholic or otherwise, depending on your timezone and personal preferences) and a slice of cake to celebrate, to everyone who entered: thank you and well done. You made our lives difficult in the best way.

We delighted to unveil the winner of our monochrome photo challenge:


Mix, by Geoff Ridenour

Many congratulations! Please drop me an email, Geoff, and I’ll arrange a prize to wing its way to you.

Check out all the entries on our Flickr pool page. They really were phenomenal and everyone deserves credit. We’re looking forward to another great set of entries for February’s competition. Details will be going up soon.

Oh Gap, get it together!

Chris Devers vs Gap

Imagine how surprised you might feel if you were to walk into a multi-national clothing store and find that a picture you took is being used as the base for a design on one of their garments. I’m guessing my surprise levels would register at ‘Astonished’. They’d probably be followed by anger at rating ‘Livid’. Well, Chris Devers has just found out that the Gap has reproduced his photo of a rather lovely Jaguar E-type on some kiddies’ clothes. (Yes, it’s pretty obvious the design came from his photo.) All credit to him, he seems remarkably calm. Given the circumstances.

Chris has set out just how you can determine that it was his picture that is the base design for that used on a Gap ‘thermal body double’ vest. They’ve used it on a baby-grow, too.

Sheesh Gap! Yes, it was licensed under Creative Commons, but it was non-commercial and with no derivatives. I’m pretty convinced that you’ve managed to violate both of those terms by selling a derivative of the image on your clothes. Would a phone call, or an email, be too much trouble? Perhaps they’re just too big, and too busy, and too important to worry about the rest of us?

Chris is waiting for a response from Gap. And biting his tongue in the process. I’ll let you know when I hear any more.

(Obviously the image is Chris Devers’. And a headsup goes to A Photo Editor.)

Colour filters on a keyring

Photojojo filters 2

Colour filters: love them. The crinkled mess they always seem to end up in, no matter how carefully I store them: not so much.

If only someone would find an easy-to-store, easy-to-use solution for creased and wrinkled gels. ‘But Daniela,’ goes an email that has just dropped into my inbox, ‘we have!’

Those clever people over at Photojojo have put eight colour filters onto a keyring. So you get the entire spectrum, plus a double helping of green, in one easy-to-use place. Not only will they stay wherever you attach them, being on a keyring and all, but because they’re made from acrylic they won’t crumple either. Huzzah!

Now you can turn your whole world sky-blue-pink with a filter or eight over your lens, or just bits of your world lime-green-orange by using a handy-dandy elastic band to secure a filter over your flash. Not keen on lime-green-orange? Try imperial-purple-yellow with scarlet spots instead.

Available from Photojojo for US$15.