CAMERA: Olympus Trip 35
FILM: Agfa Vista 200
On a cold winters day in 2015 I travelled to Cambridge for the first time, taking a shaky hand and a low film speed with me. I think the allure of £1 film was misguided, and many of my rolls of Agfa Vista 200 came out with camera shake. Also at this time I was shooting my Olympus Trip 35 on Auto, not realising that the light meter was broken and that it actually works better to adjust the aperture rather than leave it be. Regardless, there were some shots from this roll that I liked, and the one of the sculpture is a particular favourite of mine all these years later.
I fell in love with film when I was in high school. I was lucky enough to be taught in the darkroom, reciting aperture and shutter speeds as a class for hours and fumbling around in the dark trying to find the test strip I just dropped. It was a place where my passion for art grew, as it was where I encountered Man Ray, which led to Dada and Surrealism and the whole world of art, which lead to me taking a major in art history at uni. For my project on Man Ray I had to create some work inspired by his style, so I chose photograms.
A photogram was the first thing we made in my photography class. Our teacher led us into the darkroom, paired us up around the enlargers and told us to take whatever we had in our pockets out and to put it on the sheet of paper and expose it. Everyone had their own photogram on day 1. So when I saw Man Ray’s ‘rayographs’ I saw how diverse the method could be, with interesting and surreal results awaiting me.
I have to admit, I didn’t push it too far and as a fifteen year old girl I only had access to certain items – jewellery, magazines, old toys. But at the time I was pretty pleased with the results, and so was my teacher. At the end of my high school life they were knocking out the darkroom to make a second digital studio, and my heart broke. I was the only one who was actually using it for film by this point, everyone else in the class was in there to listen to music, make out or just skip doing any work entirely. It was a shame, I learnt so much about photography by starting from a photogram, moving to a pinhole with a coffee tin and then finally to an SLR. I have some prints from my time in school which I’ll share in a different post, and although they aren’t all amazing photographs or photograms they are prints I will cherish because we all have to start somewhere.
CAMERA: Polaroid SX-70 Sonar Autofocus
FILM: Polaroid Time Zero Instant Film
I bought my Polaroid camera on eBay in December 2007, just months before Polaroid announced they were shutting down their instant film production, so I was disappointed to say the least. However, my old SX-70 came with 6 shots in camera and 1 box of expired Time Zero film (12/05), so I was ready to shoot straight out of the box. It was a whirlwind of learning for me as I had never shot this kind of instant film before AND the film leaked chemicals all over the rollers so I got some awesome, but unexpected, results. Once I had finished these films I waited for the new Impossible films to materialise, which I will cover in another post. Over the years I have reached for my beautiful SX-70 less and less, mostly due to high price per frame of the film which I just can’t justify in comparison to a roll of 36 shots on a 35mm film, or even buying Instax film cheap or in bulk. So for now I will just look back fondly on a time when Polaroid meant Polaroid, and leaky film was a joyous thing.
CAMERA: Leica M3
FILM: Kodak Ultramax 400
When I was lent the Leica M3 I was so excited by the results I had in black and white that I wasn’t sure that it would do colour as wonderfully. Oh, how I proved myself wrong! I went to one of the usual places I go when testing out a camera or film, Kew Gardens. It was time for the Orchid Festival and having shot in the glasshouses before with my Holga, and having the images come out a bit dark, I was interested to see how the shots would come out with a bit more control over shutter speed and aperture.
I haven’t shot too much with this film and I was delighted at the colours that came back, helped by the sharpness and accuracy the Leica provides. I have also been trying to gain more confidence in taking photos of people as my comfort lies in plants and architecture, so the Leica helped in the quietness of the shutter to get closer to my subjects. One even waved, from afar though so isn’t immediately obvious in the photo.
CAMERA: Olympus Trip 35
FILM: Fomapan 400
Having lived mostly in the west of London since I moved here 4 years ago, the east of London is somewhere I only travel to if I have a lot of time. For a city that hosts an extensive transport system it always seems to be a massive effort to make my way from west to east.
Recently I did just that with an aim to take photos in the Docklands. I got out at Canary Wharf and wandered down to Millwall dock, taking in the sights, sounds and curious assortment of people who live there. It seems to be a real mix of well lived in flats and empty, ugly, towering blocks which appear inhabitable just by the sheer amount of glass they are cased in. As a place once bustling with trade it seems strange that it’s now a gentrified and slightly cold place where one can walk their fashionable dog on the weekend.
CAMERA: Lomography Lomokino
FILM: Kentmere 400
When the Lomokino was first announced I was excited, and I backed it on Kickstarter. When it arrived I tried it a few times, after which it sat on my shelf collecting dust for years. I found it to be difficult to handle, mostly because they then added a removable handle later, and an absolute pain to edit the frames into short films. It felt like the input far outweighed the output, and so I shelved it to same myself the time and frustration it caused.
I moved recently, and so did the Lomokino (for its 4th time, I always kept it!) and I looked at it on my shelf, put there for no reason other than it had nowhere else to go, and I thought about how I could use it without the hassle. I decided to put a black and white film in it, as now I am developing it myself it’s a less cost-prohibitive process. I decided to use it as one uses a multi-lens cameras, think Octomat or Supersampler (I’ver never used either but would like to try someday). Below are the results, a little mangled from a fight with the ancient developing reels I used to use (now replaced with new ones that work!). I don’t mind that I ruined the film a little bit, after all this was a test.
I don’t know if I’ll try using the Lomokino again. It was still difficult to use and control, it just feels like the camera is moving so much in my hands as I turn the crank, and it was too hard for my brain to remember which way the film was moving to build the shots in the right way.
CAMERA: Olympus Trip 35, Holga 120CFN
FILM: Fomapan 400, Kodak Portra 400
Ghent may not be high on everyone’s list of places to visit, but as someone who has studied art history I knew I wanted to visit it for a while. Like an art historian’s pilgrimage, I wanted to see the Ghent Altarpiece, painted by Hubert and Jan van Eyck. I learnt about it early on in my studies, and had always thought of Ghent as a place to tick off a list of places to visit just to see a single work. It is currently being restored, so the bottom panels in St Bavo’s Cathedral are (very good) facsimiles, but you can also visit the Museum of Fine Arts to see into the conservators studio and see the panels there. It was so interesting to see them working on the panels, and while I was there a woman was cleaning a section on the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, very close to where the lamb is. For me, that was a highlight of the year!
Other than the wonderful art in Ghent I fell in love with the charm of the city. The streets and canals are beautiful, the noses delicious, and the carmelite convent where I stayed was a serene and convenient place to base myself. Unlike in Brussels, the convent was quite close to the centre of the city, and just up the road from the picturesque castle, so I could retreat into the quiet of my room if I was tired during the day.
In Ghent I found:
a delicious chocolate shop where you can see them making the chocolates downstairs (and it smells heavenly
a small but heavily stocked shop selling old postcards, stamps and, well, I didn’t have time to rummage through everything!
visited a soup cafe that came highly recommended – it is truly amazing, you get fruit and rolls and a million things in your soup like croutons and meatballs and cheese…heaven!
walked around the Design Museum which was interesting in terms of how they display their collections and exhibitions (my work brain never leaves me)
and I walked around and around, down the canals and up the streets, taking as many photos as I could.
I really feel like Ghent could be a place I revisit, time and time again, and I will definitely be back in 2019 once the Ghent Altarpiece has been restored and returned to its home in the cathedral.
In terms of the photos I took, I feel like I’m really getting a better understanding of how my Olympus Trip 35 works, even though I’ve had it for years! I feel these photos, as well as the ones taken in Brussels, are better than what I’ve shot before, which motivates me to use it even more.
CAMERA: Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic
FILM: Fuji Instax Mini colour
Another weekend, another aimless wander. This time I was a bit more successful and took many more photos than expected. I wandered around the City of London, to revisit some places I had seen on my lunch breaks and just to see what else would take my fancy. I went from Euston through to Smithfield Market and down to St Paul’s. I stopped for about an hour in the lovely garden on the site of Christchurch Greyfriars Church and was joined by a strange little bird.
I find the city on the weekend to be quiet and peaceful (if you avoid the touristy areas) and it gives you more time to stop and consider what is around you as during the week there is just too much going on around you.
Throw your minds back to 2007, and how difficult it was to buy anything online in Australia. Now imagine that you are 16 and don’t have a credit card but you really want this weird plastic camera that sounds like it was named after a Swedish milkmaid. That was me, looking to get a Holga from Lomography.
There was one Lomography shop in Australia at the time, and no stockists in Perth. I had to PRINT a form, fill it out with my mum’s credit card details and POST it over to Sydney, then wait for my first film camera to arrive. I had used the 35mm SLR’s at school, even my teacher’s precious Mamiya to get a taste for 120 film, but this one I could take with me anywhere and really get into using film.
It arrived, I put in the film that came with it and got shooting immediately. I had no idea what I was doing but it was great to get the film back full of overlapping frames and multiple exposures.
I haven’t always reached for my Holga, opting instead for easier to use and develop 35mm cameras, but I’ve come back to it ten years later and still love it.
CAMERA: Holga 120 CFN
FILM: Fuji Velvia 100
Shot & developed in July 2007
|CAMERA: Holga 120 CFN, Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic
FILM: Kodak Portra 400, Instax Mini colour film
Brighton was one of those places that people talked about all the time and is super easy to get to from London, yet it took me over 3.5 years of living here to actually get down there. I took a Friday off work which promised to be gloriously warm and sunny and hopped on the train with my cameras in tow. I wasn’t overwhelmed with the desire to take photos but it might have been because I was just so damn hot! It was a lovely place to visit but I might try going in winter because it was too hot (this coming from an Australian!).