The Real Sell Out

Once again the kind people at Wired allowed themselves to be victimized by multiple drafts, lazily checked facts and unfortunate attachment to complex sentences. This piece is about the 25th anniversary of a Russian automatic camera that has grown into a cult fascination with the young and hip, the Lomo LC-A. Sorry it took me over a month to repeat publication but it’s been a bumpy several weeks.

The biggest problem remains that I know fuck all about photography. I chased one thing that turned into a sprawling mess with lots of potential but more than I can handle right now. My editor Keith wants it fast and hard and I was milking a possible feature; back-burner it and move on. Caught wind of another interesting topic, this one about an African news agency that uses cellphones and folding keyboards to record and upload stories. The appeal was their program to train young journalists in the field but the photographic angle didn’t hold up– the kids all record videos on their cell phones. After a rousing defeat I sniffed around Indymedia hoping for a similar idea but walked away with nothing. My friend and former conspirator Pete suggested I interview a local photographer which I have done but the transcript is pretty mind-boggling and I’ve been staring at it with no clues for quite some time.

Until Daily told me about the new Lomography store in New York I was blissfully unaware of the company. That off-handed suggestion lead to this story which went up this evening, and it’s been a wild ride. After scoping out the marketing-heavy website and collecting some basic understanding of what was going on I discovered the 25th anniversary was fast approaching. Keith took the hook and I began building the piece around that. Got in touch with the NYC store’s manager for details on their birthday celebration (June 19th) and chased down three professional photographers affiliated with Lomo who would talk about the cameras and about film vs. digital in general. Then it was into researching the history of the Russian company and the rise of the Lomographic Society, the company that sells them to the Urban Outfitters crowd.

At the end of last week there was the possibility the story would run as a This Day In Tech feature, a payable offense. By the next day Keith discovered something already had the slot so it was back to a simple Raw File post for credit and experience. However when we met for lunch on Monday Keith began considering running a gallery of Lomographic images, and the piece got chopped into tiny pieces, reformatted, and I started mediating between the photo editors and the photographers for image clearances. Unfortunately as time was running out one of the people I had contacted, Diana Mulvihill, couldn’t be found. She’s actually in India right now volunteering with Operation Smile which provides facial reconstructions for children who otherwise wouldn’t have access to such a procedure. On the plus side this was a big part of why I really wanted her to be in the article; on the negative having her quoted without her pictures would no longer make sense in the context of the new gallery design. She got cut out and I hope she doesn’t hate me for it. Maybe I’ll just do a little thing here about Operation Smile and run her Q&A for the hell of it.

Today Keith and I wrangled out the last details, he and Jon created the gallery and the story cleared the copy-desk and went live sometime after normal people have left the office. We caught a couple obvious problems off the bat but it wasn’t until I got home that I realized a serious error had been made– hopefully no one reads the damn thing before that was fixed. So here it is, feel free to check it out.

Once again I have to thank Keith for everything. He takes time to put up with my amateurish nature and invests a lot of care in improving my abilities. Jon also put in his time making the gallery. I’m obviously indebted to everyone I spoke with and pestered about little details and things I should have asked the first time around. Most surprisingly there’s been some irresponsible talk that I get to be paid for this because it became a gallery. When I was told this I assumed that it was going to be on the front page but this isn’t the case, so I’m not sure why Wired would bother paying for something they would have had for free that isn’t going to serve as eye-candy. I’ve still got a lot to learn.

UPDATE: Oops, spoke too soon:

The Real Sell Out 2