Come one, come all. Lomography has partners all over the world to help serve your analogue needs. If you're from France then it's your lucky day! We're featuring our Paris-based stockist Maximilien Steinberg of Nation Photo in today's installment of Lomography Partners.
Can you introduce yourself to the Lomography community?
Hi, my name is Maximilien Steinberg and I am the founder of Nation Photo. Back in 2003, I opened a small lab in Paris in partnership with Kodak. After some hard years when digital changed the business, the small lab became a lot bigger as more people who also loved analogue photography joined me. We teamed early in 2007 with a local Lomography representative to build a community of analogue photographers in Paris. We grew at a very fast rate with the help of great photo contests and great people. Now, Nation Photo is a growing business comprised of 25 people, 3 labs, and a website. We're still growing with many projects far beyond the scope of the film lab.
What does analogue mean to you?
It’s hard to make a short answer... I would say that it connects me to activities for which you could take time to enjoy things. As a kid, I remember having time to listen to a whole album on vinyl, just enjoying all the details, the work of the musicians, and the sound engineer... And when it’s about photography, then it connects me to all the nights I spent in my bathroom processing films and burning/dodging paper when I was a student. I was just always amazed by the magic of the image appearing on the paper in the trays. It also connects me to the good memories with friends and family when taking my time to think about how to take the best photograph of this great moment or this incredible place.
What does Lomography mean to you?
I discovered Lomography in 1995 when friends told me about this Austrian company that was selling the great LC-A. At that time, I wasn’t really interested in such a creative way of taking photographs, but later on, in 2006, my friend (and now associate) Olivier Lepetit put a Holga in my hands and showed me the pictures he made out of it. I was really amazed by the power of the photographs he made with a simple plastic box.
Why do you choose to work with Lomography?
Then in 2007, I met Peter Bösch, the Lomography representative at the time, and the energy and the fun he was able to put in every event made it easy to spread the movement—everybody was having fun taking pictures differently—it felt more creative and free. It was a no-brainer for me to work with such talented people.
What is your favorite Lomography product and why?
I really love the LC-A 120, it’s such a great camera for portraits, not in the common way you would think of portraits because it’s a wide-angle camera but you can easily catch the perfect moment filled with fine details and create stunning pictures on medium format film. The incredible accuracy of its automatic exposure system makes it simple and the compact size is a big plus.
Are you doing any creative projects right now in the store or personally? Please tell us more about them.
Unfortunately, with the Covid crisis, we are unable to organize our annual photography contest but I hope we will soon get back on track. Each year we used to offer more than 300 people the chance to shoot with a camera for free. The film and the processing were free too and a jury of talented professionals would select the winners. We have done it 12 times in 14 years and it’s maybe the achievement my team and I are proudest of.
What does the future of analogue photography look like to you? How will this impact your store in the next ten years?
It looks bright. I think we now know that people, especially the younger generation, are very interested in analogue photography. Taking pictures on film is different and thanks to Lomography too, a lot of people are now aware of it.
I was a bit worried some years ago that all the industry will disappear because of the sales drop but, even if it’s not and probably will never be again what it was in the late 90s, the public is again here for analogue photography and I hope it will be enough to maintain all the needed industries to provide films, chemistry, and machinery to process them.
What hardship did your shop/lab have to face during the lockdowns and what kept you going through these hard times?
On the personal side, it was horrible, we are a kind of small family at Nation Photo. Sharing the same passion for photography and being separated brutally for such a long time was very disturbing.
Financially, the most difficult point was the rent. We had to pay for it without having any income during a 3-month period and everybody was trying to secure their business without knowing when the crisis will end. It was a stressful experience.
On the other hand, being in lockdown with family was also the opportunity to have quality time with loved ones. That was my relief during this crisis.
What's the most annoying thing about running an analogue lab?
Keeping machinery in working order.
What's your favorite memory from the lab so far?
Having processed a roll in an old camera for a very old lady and discovered that the baby on the photographs was her with her dad and sharing the emotions she felt discovering the photographs.
What's the weirdest thing you have received when developing films?
Someone sent weed instead of films when ordering mail processing.
What would you do if you didn’t run a photo lab?
Probably directing for theatre or movies.
Official Name: Nation Photo
Began Accepting Film for Developing: 2003
Address: 26 place de la Nation 75012 Paris
39 rue des Lombards 75001 Paris
8 rue de la Py 75020 Paris
Services offered: 35 mm, 120, 4x5, 110, 126, 127, 8x10 film developing in C41, b&w, E6, Ecn2, scala
Film lab staff: 25
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