A Quick Chat With Washi Film Creator Lomig Perrotin

5

If there's one thing about our interview with the creator of Washi Film, Lomig Perrotin, that stuck, it’s that we shouldn't let the recent decline of film options slow us down with our passion for film photography. Right on, Lomig.

We’ve featured one of the latest amazing film discoveries to ever hit our desks here at the Lomography office – the Washi Film. And recently, we got in touch with *Lomig Perrotin*, the brains and hands behind the manufacture of such promising film alternative.

We talked to him about his take on film photography, the future of analogue and got him talking about his Washi Film in detail. Read on to find out more about Lomig and his passion for analogue photography in this quick chat!

Hi, Lomig! We’d like to thank you for finding the time for this interview! We’re excited to feature you again on the magazine.

Hi, thank you for giving me this nice opportunity to talk about my works.

You may get this question in a lot of interviews but still we’d like to ask: how and when did you start shooting on film?

I never really had a choice when I started shooting on film because during the time when I began to take pictures, film was the only way. My father is an amateur photographer and an enthusiastic collector of popular cameras (especially the Indo-Fex brand which could be considered as the “French Lomo”), so I was lucky to grow up surrounded by all kinds of camera. I remember that as a child, when I was going to summer camps, all my friends were using disposable cameras while I was using strange ones like “Disc Camera” which made me feel like James Bond!

I began to take it more seriously in 2000, after a journey in Northern Ireland with two friends. We were only 18 and tried to make some kind of photo statement about the troubles over there. After that, I began to use my father’s enlarger and that was it: I was hooked for good.

What makes analogue photography special for you? Is there anything specific about shooting on film that makes it particularly stand out?

I really like to be able to act directly with simple lights and photographic material. But in a way, this materiality is already escaping you as soon as you create it. From the moment you shoot until you make the film process, your pictures physically exists but you still can’t look at it to verify their reality, which mean they are real and not real in the same time, like Schrödinger’s cat! Analogue photography is really paradoxical and I like that, because you can touch it physically all along the process, but in the same way it deals with a good part of chance and luck. So every picture you shoot on film is like a small leap of faith.

I also strongly believe in photography as a tool of conservation and transmission. If I shoot today on slide, I am pretty sure that people in the next hundreds of years would be able to see the original picture without requiring any complicated tools or software. For now, analogue photography is the only technology to guarantee such a level of security. Today digital cameras are outstanding in terms of image quality, but the systems changes so fast that there is already a lot of data loss.

Your hand-scratched images offer different visual impact on your works. What got you following that direction?

Since more than ten years ago I was interested to make a photographic work about the worlds of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, an American science fiction writer of the 20th century. But his vision is so powerful and oniric that photography alone would not be enough to represent it. I like to explore the limits of the photographic medium so I used the cliché-verre, a technique of etching the photographic material to create a mixed negative, blending the realistic aspect of photography, with the graphic effects of drawing.

Your hand-etched works have a dark feel to them. Can you talk us through your creative process when you made them?

First I read the text of Lovecraft, looking for a scene or an idea that caught my interest. Then I imagine a picture and make preliminary sketches to decide which elements will be shot on film or drawn on. After processing the film, I make a rough copy of each picture on tracing paper and make my final sketches. And finally I scratch and paint the film to create the final negative that I can print through an enlarger. It’s a very long process and of course, rejects a lot of pictures, even if I had worked for days on them.

Do you have personal rules that you apply to your own work? Please share them with our readers.

Most of the time, you will find that I don’t always have my camera on me. I almost never take any picture if it’s not for a specific project or purpose. Usually when I come across a beautiful scene that I would take a picture of, I prefer to wait and watch than to shoot it. There is a lot of literature in photography about the “decisive moment” when you have to shoot. I must say that I am really not in that trend. I am much more interested in all the moments when you are not shooting. I am like a monk who prefers to observe the silence rather to break it.

What is your take on photography as an art?

For me being a photographer and an artist mean that using visual impressions is the best way for me to communicate my feelings and ideas to others. But it does not mean that all of my feelings and ideas are interesting. I am an everyday normal guy, so most of the time I have nothing to say and I can spend months without taking any pictures. Sometimes I don’t even process my rolls.

For me the act of taking a picture is a kind of magic: a power that we should use carefully. After all, when you are photographing things, you are creating memories, which mean you give to your subject a kind of immortality and in the same way you create an evidence of its future disappearance. As Roland Barthes explained in his book “La Chambre Claire”, photography is always connected with the idea of death and oblivion, maybe that’s why I’m careful with it.

Which artists inspire you in your work? Any artists that we should follow?

The works that inspire me the most were not made by humans… I am very attracted by the pictures taken by deep space probe like Voyagers in the 70s and more recently the photos of Mars rovers like Pathfinder or Opportunity. Those pictures are thrilling and literally beyond everything we know. I also like their purity because, as they are taken automatically by machines, there is absolutely no human ego behind those images which leaves me all the space I need to dream on and make those photos mine.

Closer to us, I really like the films of American director Terrence Malick, and especially his third movie: The Thin Red Line. Every shot of this movie is simply a perfect picture. Every time I am watching it I see new lights or details and it’s always a refreshing inspiration to me.

Given the chance to collaborate with any artist or photographer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I was very impressed by the last retrospective of German painter Gehrard Richter in Centre Pompidou two years ago in Paris. His work around photography is really rich and I would love to create pictures for him to work on.

Let’s get to your amazing discovery – your Washi Film. To put it shortly, Washi Film is a interesting as it is amazing. What pushed you in creating this film alternative?

On the very beginning it was a kind of spin-off from the cliché-verre technique I used for my H.P. Lovecraft project. I was looking for paper-negative that I could use to draw directly on it, instead of scratching usual film. My first try was made on tracing paper but the result was too rough, especially because that kind of paper doesn’t react very well with water. So I tried traditional Japanese paper, which is used for watercolor.

But when I saw the first results, I instantly decided to not try to paint or scratch my washi films because its aesthetic was already strong and interesting for itself. So it became a new project and as I was communicating about it through the internet, I began to notice a growing interest for my washi films. At some point, friends began asking me to make some rolls for them, and a photo lab in Paris became interested in distributing those products if I decided to make it official. So after a long time of thinking and computing numbers, I finally decided to jump and to officially launch Washi Film.

It was a big step for me, a kind of sacrifice because as an artist I was about to literally sell my “secret tricks” to everybody. But in another way, it was a kind of liberation, because I don’t want my art to be just a technical trick. So, burning my ships and allowing everybody to use Washi Films, I make sure that if I want to continue to make art with it, I need to produce something that really makes sense, something coherent with the medium and not just beautiful pictures on a rare medium.

From the first Film Washi prints we’ve seen, the photos look differently from each previous shot. What makes each print unique from the rest?

I produce mainly two different formats: 120 format rolls and 4×5 inches sheet-films. The sheet-films are bigger so the special texture of the film is less visible than on the medium format rolls. On the other hand, the different Washi pictures I present on the website came from different batch of rolls, including some of the very first which were of course very experimental, I do now have a constant production in terms of results and quality.

Are there any new developments or formats for your film? What are you seeing in the future of Washi Film as an avant-garde photographic tool?

For now Washi Film is a one man business and my production is very small and artisanal, but I hope it will grow up and become a small but constant part of the analogue photographic landscape.

I am always looking for new ideas to improve the quality of my products. Actually I am working to improve my process and upgrade my production rates. The Washi Films tends to curl a lot when drying, by changing the coating process I hope to solve that issue and make my films much easier to handle for users. I already have some good results in that field, I need to run few more tests and the next batch of rolls will have a much better quality.

I also have a lot of demand for bigger sizes of sheet-films. I myself definitely want to make 8×10 inches of Washi sheet-films for a personal project but for now it’s still work in progress so I can’t tell you more about it except that the deadline will be this coming September.

You definitely pushed the medium of film towards a new direction. Is there a specific goal you have in mind for Washi Film?

For me, each Washi Film is like a manifesto, claiming that technology like analogue photography are no celestial gift given by some far away gods but practical tools made by real humans. My workshop is only a 1.5 square meter closet, and my own fingers run over each roll of film. This is real, so if we do love analogue photography we can decide to make it by ourselves and create our own way to look at the world. And I am absolutely no exception. Look around the internet and you will quickly find amazing people who produce their own cameras, films, photo papers, chemicals, wet plate collodion or even Daguerreotypes! So, even if big brands collapse we still can continue to live our passion, there is no fatality in that, just our own choice.

With your development of Washi Film and your ardent love for film in your hand-etched photographs, we take it that you are a staunch believer in the effect of film. Is there anything you wish to say to other film lovers out there?

I was born during the “analogue era” and began to make photographs seriously by the turning of the last century, it was exactly the moment when the digital wave arrived for photography so I have seen products and brands vanish, photo labs closing one after the other and prices of the remaining stuff rise. But I really don’t like to hear people complain endlessly about the “good old time of true photography” or about that discontinued special brand of film they loved so much. I really loved Agfa fiber base paper, does it mean I can’t express myself now because I can’t find it anymore? Of course not, because photography in general is just a medium and not an end. I really love analogue photography because of its materiality and because it’s coherent with how I work and how I want to express myself, but that doesn’t mean I am automatically “against” digital photography. You can’t build strong things just being against something.

Any last words for our readers?

For me, if you want to be a serious photographer, it’s important to study history of arts in general and especially, of course, history of photography. All arts currents are connected together and if you want to understand your own work you have to study what other peoples have done before you. It’s very interesting to see how history repeat itself and I really believe we are actually living, with the digital revolution, the same kind of step when photography took over painting during the 19th century. It makes me very optimistic for analogue photography which, like painting, will not disappear but will be free to explore new horizons. And I’m very glad to be part of this amazing journey.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to talk with you!

You can see more of Lomig’s works here and news on Washi Film here.

written by cheeo on 2014-03-06 in #lifestyle #quick-chat #lomig-perrotin #washi-film #interview

5 Comments

  1. diomaxwelle
    diomaxwelle ·

    Wonderful article. I just love that limbo of Schrödinger’s cat in terms of your images. XD Its perfect.

  2. cheeo
    cheeo ·

    @diomaxwelle I coulnd't agree more with his thoughts about photography, how it is an art and the mental approach in taking pictures. Everything he said is just spot-on.

  3. wufnir
    wufnir ·

    I've use the Washi film, 4x5" with my Harman Titan SF.
    Try it and you fall in love with it.
    Now I'm waiting the next production and the big one 8x10".

  4. cheeo
    cheeo ·

    @wufnir cool! how was the experience?

  5. wufnir
    wufnir ·

    @cheeo
    First, there is a group on Facebook "Films Washi". I'm in and I ask if there is 4x5" in stock. My chance is that I can meet Lomig himself in Paris where he works, so I'm Lucky and have a pack of 4x5".

    2nd, put film Inside holder was not easy. But under red light it's ok, you just need little practice and verify if you can open and close the cache without ejecting the film in the holder.

    3thd, take the picture. I use a nice Harman Titan 4x5" with a 150mm at f/64, because I want maximum details and no fuzzy. Unfortunatly, one film was ejected, I lost it.

    4th, developping film. 4 tray, PQ Universal (1+9) - Water - Hypam Fixer (1+4) - Water.
    I just put the film in each bath. Image appear very quickly in PQ. So I think that the next time I use PQ at 1+19 for the film come slowly.

    5th, suspend the film wait until it is dry, then scan it.

    Actually I've 3, in my lomo, there is 2 quick image with my smartphone (so not so good), soon the 3 scans will be online.

    I've a 120 roll of Washi to finish (6 takes in Paris and the 6 other In Chartres soon) and the next 4x5" are for May or june (access to my laboratory in South of France mandatory).

    My opinion about Washi is that it's a very nice expression of photography.

    My apologies for my poor English, this is not my natural language.

More Interesting Articles

  • Brigette Bloom Talks 'Float On,' Film Soaking

    written by chooolss on 2014-08-07 in #lifestyle
    Brigette Bloom Talks 'Float On,' Film Soaking

    Her choice of soak for her photographic series "Float On" may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it can't be denied that something so unique deserves a spot in the limelight. During a recent chat with Brigette Bloom, the outlandishly experimental film photographer eagerly shared her inspiration for the series, process (a tipster!), and what she thought of people's reactions over her work, among other things. Check out the exclusive interview after the cut!

    6
  • Wide-angle Architectural Photography with the Lomo LC-Wide

    written by cheeo on 2014-06-17 in #lifestyle
    Wide-angle Architectural Photography with the Lomo LC-Wide

    If there’s one thing that the Lomo LC-Wide was made for, it’s shooting wide-angle photos of architecture with its ultra-wide 17mm Minigon lens.

  • A Conversation with the CEO of Ondu Pinhole Cameras, Elvis Halilović

    written by jacobs on 2015-01-19 in #lifestyle
    A Conversation with the CEO of Ondu Pinhole Cameras, Elvis Halilović

    It was our great pleasure to chat with the CEO of Ondu Pinhole Cameras, Elvis Halilović, about his interest in pinhole photography as well as the formation of his company that produces handcrafted pinhole cameras. We found his answers fascinating and we think you will too. Thanks Elvis for being so generous in sharing your story and cameras with us!

    4
  • Shop News

    LC-Wide Elite Kit

    LC-Wide Elite Kit

    The LC-Wide Elite Kit gathers all the accessories you would ever need for your Lomo LC-Wide.

  • My Analogue Bucket List: Faster Than a Speeding Cannonball

    written by bloomchen on 2015-01-22 in #lifestyle
    My Analogue Bucket List: Faster Than a Speeding Cannonball

    The new year is still young, but it seems as if it'll be over quickly. My organizer is already filled with entries until June. 2015 will probably be worse than 2014 when it comes to having time off so I could take some analogue shots. Anyway, there are some photography-related things that I really want to get done. It is probably best to set some goals if I only have very limited time.

  • Black and White Portraits Shot With The Petzval Art Lens By Hanna Varela

    written by candilsw on 2015-04-17 in #people #lomoamigos
    Black and White Portraits Shot With The Petzval Art Lens By Hanna Varela

    Hanna Varela was one of the photographers who participated in the exhibition jointly organized by Parallel Planets and Lomography Singapore and held last week. She is passionate about film photography and recently took black and white portraits! Here, Hanna talks about her awesome experience with the Petzval Art Lens and her elegantly beautiful masterpieces.

    4
  • Coloring Outside the Lines with LomoAmigo Tim Kerr

    written by jacobs on 2015-02-16 in #people #lomoamigos
    Coloring Outside the Lines with LomoAmigo Tim Kerr

    We recently had the great opportunity to interview our latest LomoAmigo, Tim Kerr. While his repertoire stretches back to the late 1970's and includes that of musician, artist, painter, photographer, skater and many other things, he just prefers Tim! We gave him a La Sardina DIY, which he not only added his own style to, but shot some excellent photos with as well. Rife with candid and thoughtful answers, we expect everyone will glean a nugget of wisdom and leave with a smile.

  • Shop News

    Shoot recognizable images with the Petzval

    Shoot recognizable images with the Petzval

    You want your subject be the center of attention? Petzval lens photos are recognizable for sharpness and crispness in the centre, strong color saturation, wonderful swirly bokeh effect, artful vignettes and narrow depth of field that will make your subjects stand out!

  • Photographers On Why They Shoot Film (Part I)

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-04-11 in #people #lifestyle
    Photographers On Why They Shoot Film (Part I)

    On this day and age when many are incorporating digital gear into their workflows, whether fully or partly, there still are photographers who remain rooted to their analog roots and continue to shoot with film cameras. In commemoration of Film Photography Day happening tomorrow, we have scoured through our past interviews to highlight the reasons these photographers choose to still shoot film.

    2
  • Petzval LomoAmigo: Dale McCready

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-02-18 in #people #lomoamigos
    Petzval LomoAmigo: Dale McCready

    Dale McCready is a cinematographer working in the film/ TV industry and has worked on programmes such as Doctor Who and Merlin. He was one of our supporters for the Petzval Kickstarter campaign and recently used the lens to film for a new BBC drama, which is due out in March. Dale kindly shared some of his Petzval photographs with us and talked about his love for this lens. Read on for the full interview.

  • From Russia with Love: Motorama Shoots with the La Sardina Splendour

    written by zonderbar on 2014-08-04 in #people #lomoamigos
    From Russia with Love: Motorama Shoots with the La Sardina Splendour

    I don't know many bands from Russia but one that I've been admiring for years is Motorama from Rostov-on-Don. With catchy tunes and adorable videos, they took my heart by storm and that of fans from all over the world. Because of their Russian origin, Motorama is of course familiar with Lomo products. Reason enough to let them become our latest LomoAmigos! Enjoy the interview with singer Vlad and check out their B&W photos, taken with a La Sardina Splendour.

  • Shop News

    LC-A+ Starter Pack

    LC-A+ Starter Pack

    With the LC-A+ Starter Pack, Pair the LC-A+ with a 35mm; whatever combo you end up selecting, they're sure to be mindblowing!

  • My Year in Analogue: Something New, Something Old

    written by murdoc_niccals on 2014-12-15 in #lifestyle
    My Year in Analogue: Something New, Something Old

    Hi, everyone! I'd like to share with you my 2014 summary on analogue photography. Some things I did were completely new, while some were my good old habits. This year I learned how to develop black and white film, which I consider my greatest milestone. But the most important thing is that in 2014, I remain in love with Lomography! And the rest? Well, let's see...

    3
  • Flaring Lights for the 4th of July

    written by antoniocastello on 2014-07-26 in #lifestyle
    Flaring Lights for the 4th of July

    What better way to spend your 4th of July than at an Americana Rockabilly event, equipped with your vintage-style all analogue 35mm LC-Wide? Let us show you why the Rockabilly Night Market, hosted by Dances of Vice, was our American dream for that once-a-year awesome night in July when we celebrate all things American.

  • Interview with Mr. Bones, Analogue Dog-Street Photographer

    written by chooolss on 2014-08-27 in #lifestyle
    Interview with Mr. Bones, Analogue Dog-Street Photographer

    Mr. Bones is a North London-based photographer who gives street photography a different spin by focusing on the dogs that he encounters regularly. Check out our interview with the photographer, whose tools of the trade include film cameras such as the Nikonos V and community favorite Lomo LC-A, after the jump.