Alison Scarpulla is an enormously talented photographer from the USA who utilizes experimental techniques such as multiple exposures and film soaking to create surreal, evocative and emotional shots. After previously featuring some of her work in the Lomography magazine, we were ecstatic that she accepted our offer to shoot with the LC-Wide to create some brand new photos. Read on for our exclusive interview with the woman behind such amazing photos, which you will see after the jump!
Name: Alison Scarpulla
LomoAmigo Camera: LOMO LC-Wide
Could you please tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. I currently call Cleveland O.H my home. I am obsessed with all things surreal and unknown. I am a nature freak, psychonaut and hermit with a penchant for psychedelia.
How did you first get into analogue photography?
When I was a child I’d take photos with my 35mm point and shoot all the time. These images are mostly of family vacations, my cats, home, and friends. I never thought of it as something artistic, just a way of capturing a moment. I started getting into art when I was a freshman in high school. I was really into illustration and painting. I decided to give up chorus to take both illustration and my first photography course. For my birthday my father bought me a 35mm Canon SLR to use for my class. I didn’t think much of what I was shooting, I would just hang out with my best friend Emily Theobald and have fun taking photos. We developed a lot of ideas together and grew into this photographic team. My teacher and classmates were really intrigued by my imagery, and it felt really great to work creatively through photography, so I just kept doing what felt natural. I would beg my teacher to show me different experiments, and would ask what would happen if I staked my negatives in the enlarger. She would always encourage me but never had the time to show me anything different than what was on the curriculum. It was then that I decided to just experiment on my own, and created my first multiple exposures. I loved the magic it created. I decided then that I would just experiment with any idea I had. I started focusing more on my photography as an intuitive, experimental process and viewing my camera more as a paintbrush. I gave up the rules I had learned about photography and just did what felt natural. That’s where it all started, and when I fell deeply in love. Photography gave birth to the idea within me that I can build my own world and live within a safe cocoon of creativity. It gave me a platform to voice my perspective.
When did you start experimenting with manipulating and soaking your film rolls?
Back in 2006 I was a frequent “Livejournal” user. I would share my photo work, and ideas. It was a way for me to reach out to a community I felt more connected with. I remember following a small group of people who were using old Russian cameras and manipulating their film to look saturated, multiple-exposed and psychedelic. I was incredibly intrigued by these photographs, as they seemed to be breaking all the rules I’ve ever learned about photography. The images seemed so real and more natural and unique than most photos than I had seen in my life. At the time I was shooting a lot of black and white film, experimenting in the dark room and figuring out my style. Working in the dark room allowed me to understand that a photo consists of many chemical reactions, and got me thinking of ways to manipulate the process. I love working with black and white, but I wanted a form of photographic expression that stimulated my love for color. I did a bit of research, saved up some money and bought an old dead-stock Russian LC-A and a box of 90 rolls of film on ebay. The film was half expired Fuji 400. I shot many rolls of film, experimenting with different processes. One of my favorite techniques was shooting a roll, rewinding it almost all the way, and then re-shooting over the roll. Those rolls always turned out so magical and weird. I loved the mystery of what the images would look like. It really showed me how to let go and allow the film to create something entirely of it’s own out of my perspective. At one point I read about soaking film in different acidic solutions. My first soak was with white wine. The drugstore I got my film developed at informed me that unfortunately my roll was destroyed and gave me the roll for free. When I took a look I was stunned that the roll was not destroyed, but rather had the most vivid rainbow colors I’ve ever experienced. I knew I was hooked. Overtime and through trial and error I developed a bunch of different experiments.
Please can you share any information about how you manipulated the photos you shot in this series? What was the process behind them?
When Lomography contacted me to shoot film and soak it for them I wanted to do something I hadn’t done before. I shot the film and decided to soak it in a mixture of things I had laying around my kitchen. I used the end of a bottle of kombucha, stale coffee, and the butts of canned beer. I put the rolls of film back in their original container and poured in the liquid until it covered the film. Then I capped them and had the rolls sit in a window with sunlight. After a few days I poured the liquid out, ran the film under water and put them in a bag of rice. (The rice dries out the film.) This time I decided to try something new, so I added two pieces of bread to the bag of rice with film. I put the bag with everything in it in a light-tight box, and forgot about it for a few months. When I retrieved the film from the box the bread had turned into a powdered blue mold that was growing in the rice and on the film. There was bubbled mold coming out of the canister. I washed the film canisters off and let it sit around for about a year. The film was then processed as regular 35mm film by Lomography. The results are as shown.
Many of your photos seem to have dreamlike and ethereal qualities. Could you please tell us a bit more about the themes and ideas which influence your work?
I find true spirituality in allowing myself to let go in my work. Rarely do I take a photograph with a concept. Following my unconscious & intuitive behavior is the only way I know how to be creative. I am just trying to represent the way I experience my surroundings. This ‘imagined universe’ is my spirit; my essence. The moments I have captured are ultimately unorganized. It is when the atmosphere unfolds itself that I find the most need to capture it. One can’t plan a dreamlike natural landscape. You must wait, and believe in it, you must be patient and allow it to happen. You could say my work is inspired by dreams, but mostly it is about escape from a confined structure in this state of being. Our world is a utopia. Humans are instinctively loving. We are working towards finding our true nature while the opposite casts spells for us to deny the magic. We’re in a time of human existence where we are the most enlightened yet the most blinded. Through my imagery I am escaping the darkness & the sickness of the world. I am bringing light to the true beauty of this reality. That is where my soul and my inspiration is.
What is it that you enjoy most about shooting analogue photos?
One of the main reasons I shoot film is to embrace the unexpected. I need organic imperfections in my art. I want my work to be natural. It is important for me to work side by side with an organism that has a life of its own. I have no desire to create something perfect. I want the imperfections to be glorified. I want to be in a constant collaboration with a raw energy. I want it to speak through me. Film can never be re-created through a digital equation. To harness a moment physically is one of a kind. A natural process will always have its own spirit.
What do you enjoy outside photography? What makes you tick?
Photography feels like a way of translating what I enjoy most. Nature is my ultimate inspiration and sanctity. It is impossible for me to articulate the intensity I feel from nature’s expression. I enjoy this earth first and foremost. Music makes my soul sing and feel at peace. I enjoy music on many human and molecular levels. I enjoy solitude. I enjoy when time moves slowly. I love the feeling of being completely comfortable with someone. My pleasures in life are simple. I enjoy living, cooking, hikes, crystals, plants, fog, sun, rain, magic, natural healing, walks in old industrial and abandoned atmospheres, graffiti, bon-fires, victorian age treasures, movies, painting, the internet, metaphysics. I live with my partner Nathan Melaragno and four of my good friends. We spend a lot of time together and I am often inspired by their band Ma Holos. We are a family of creators and care for each other deeply. I also work part-time at a 88yr old bowling alley, bar, restaurant venue called Mahalls. My community in Cleveland is very close and tight-knit, they are my support and how I spend most of my time when I am not alone.
What did you enjoy most about shooting with the LC-Wide?
I have always enjoyed the simplicity of the LC-A camera. I like that the simplicity of the LC-A has translated over to the LC-Wide but with added features. My favorite being the multiple exposure and half-frame option. Also, as obvious as it sounds – the fact that it is a wide angle lens really changes the whole experience of taking photos. It allows me to capture more of my environment in a slightly distorted and psychedelic way.
What other cameras do you shoot with?
I am a firm believer of using what you have. I keep it very simple. I have found that artists often over-complicate the tools they need to communicate their vision. That being said, I’ve always used whatever was available to me. I taught myself color film photography on an old Russian Soviet-era LC-A. When my first Canon student SLR broke my best friend Emily gave me her Minolta Maxxum 50 she used in high school. I’ve been using that camera ever since. I’ve also recently been enjoying experimenting with cell phone photography. I see no point in disregarding everyday tools to capture moments.
What’s your favorite shot with the LC-Wide so far and why?
I really like this image I shot with the LC-Wide because I was able to capture this wide and open atmosphere that enhances the photo. The lens creates a more surreal and vivid environment.
The Lomo LC-Wide boasts the newly-developed 17mm Minigon Ultra-Wide Angle lens. This 35mm camera wonder is the perfect companion for your photo expeditions. It produces eye-catching splashes of colour with astonishing saturation and contrasts with the added versatility of 3 different formats. Open up to a new photographic experience with the LC-Wide, available in our Shop.