Supersampler is one among the multi-lensed lomo cameras that seemed to have taken a backseat to give way to the prominence of LC-A+, La Sardina, and Fisheye – three of the heavily advertised and marketed LSI products in a multitude of clones, colors and promo packages. But, frequent visitors to my lomohome would probably have an impression that many of my multiple exposures are taken with at least a multi-lensed camera like Pop 9, Actionsampler, Oktomat and, of course, the queen of them all, the Supersampler. This article is my tribute to the latter's wonderful analogue charms.
I am a freelance artist, educator and consultant working in the area of human rights, arts, culture and development. And yes, I am a prolific lomographer like many analogue photography enthusiasts around the world who have taken this passion to an insatiable level. Here are a few links to know more about me and what I really do:
My very first SuperSampler was a green Dalek. On our first encounter, I was immediately fascinated with the shooting capabilities of this toy-looking plastic camera that in the span of four years doing lomo, I have bought and used four units — averaging one per year. Whether a SuperSampler has only a short lifespan of one year or not is something I will not cover in this sharing but that can be an interesting topic of investigation in another article.
Anyway, let me state here quickly some of the awesome characteristics to love about the SuperSampler. This pocket-sized plastic wonder is so light that you can carry it anywhere you go. It takes any 35mm film but slides are my favorite feeds for it. There is no focus setting required but it shoots nicely within the range of 0.3m to infinity. Unlike other cameras that are not forgiving to even the slightest movement when shooting, this unassuming gadget is precisely made to capture motion, allowing the lomographer the essential freedom to shoot in myriad of fashion. Your subject can be in motion or not, or you as photographer can be moving or stationary in relation to your subject. You can even hold the camera and wave it through the air as you take your shots. In fact, others would experiment capturing random images by simply throwing the camera up in the air upon clicking the shutter button. Definitely a crazy camera to suit anyone’s wild side. But this camera loves a lot of light and a perfect companion in sunny outdoor activities. We just have to explore the world around us to find lomographic inspiration best captured in four frames through the SuperSampler .
A Pre-Lomokino Camera
It shoots in two speeds: quick shot at one photo every 0.05 sec to capture practically the same image in all four frames which is best when subject is moving at fast speed; or the slow shot at one photo every 0.5 sec to have images of the movement across the four frames when you wish to capture the changing position of your subject across a space. The latter makes the SuperSampler, in my opinion, essentially a precursor of the LomoKino with all its four panoramic plastic 20mm lenses that is great for making cool movies. So when you do not have yet a LomoKino, your SuperSampler can be a good alternative to film your future award-winning movie.
Here is a very short film in the style of stop motion animation using some of my earlier supersampler shots taken vertically:
Modification Through Destruction
After some time of shooting with the SuperSampler, I came to a point of finding the bars separating each frame unattractive (well, not the case when I’m doing multiples). Perhaps, I was just wanting to explore what else to do with it. So I made a fearless decision to remove the internal mask. That decision was a point of no return. Once destroyed, I have to deal with a maskless SuperSampler thereafter (or I have to acquire another one if I want it back to default). I did the same thing as outlined in this tipster:
“The SuperSampler Extreme Cut
My bravery was rewarded with interesting results with images overlapping quite seamlessly. I got rid of the vertical dividers and got cool fluid surreal images. And I love it! I have observed that the mask helps to control the level of exposure and that having it removed, one has to be cautious not to overexpose the shots. I do this by avoiding subjects that are against the light or background that is too bright. But then, these are hard to avoid when shooting without thinking and sometimes I get photos that are a bit washed out in certain portions yet still awesome overall.
Fabrizio Soler of LSI asked me a daunting task to write about my technique in creating SuperSampler multiples. The mere thought of it gives me a nervous feeling as I am perhaps expected to spill out some earth-shaking ways how I make them. The truth is I do not think my shooting style is any different from or more outstanding than that of other lomographers. But I guess my wild mind, eclectic choice of subjects, my daring-ness to experiment and take risks, my sense of horror vacui, my Filipino values and Asian sensibilities are part to blame. Anyway, let me walk you through some interesting discoveries I made in my quest to push the possibilities for my SuperSampler. Hope you will learn something from my experience and I look forward to your sharing as well.
Perfect Match To Other Cameras
If you are into multiples using varied cameras, the SuperSampler will complement any 35mm camera of your choice. So, abandon your fears and experiment creating doubles with SuperSampler using other cameras in your lomo arsenal. Either you shoot first with it or last—it does not matter as long you know the basic principles of shooting multiples.
First, underexpose whenever possible. Your four-lensed wonder comes without an ASA setting and AFAIK, cameras like this will shoot as if ASA is set at 100. If the complementary camera you are using has an ASA/ISO setting, set it a step or two higher than the films ASA whether shooting first with it before the supersampler or the reverse.
Second, shoot darker images before the brighter one. Your second image will manifest in the dark part of your first shot. Doing it the other way around (shooting brighter then darker) will simply sacrifice your second shot which is likely to be washed out by the bright areas of your first shot. The point is never to overexpose your shots when doing multiples (not unless that is your creative intention). I love doing SuperSampler doubles with Fisheye, LC-A+, Colorsplash, Horizon Kompakt and Super Fat Lens. But really, any 35mm camera will be a match made in heaven for producing wonderful SuperSampler multiples.
Translocating My Subjects
Shooting portraits of the people I meet in the places I visit is a sheer joy for me. As I am not into the habit of making a shotlist, I simply label my roll with key words about my shoot – usually it is either name of the place, event or group of people. Then, I love shooting a second layer with my SuperSampler at a different place and time. That way, my lomographs will become portrait doubles where my subjects are translocated in a different setting. More often than not, the second setting is a lot different than the original to effect a stronger contrast not only in colors but also in textures and meanings. In a way this is much like taking portraits in a studio with pull-down painted canvas background. But instead of a synthetic background, I shoot actual places and that makes a lot of difference in the resulting portrait doubles.
There is much thrill in the randomness of combining a portrait with another location and time. You know the subject was not there at all that time but then it triggers you disprove the hypothesis that one cannot be in two places at the same time. With your translocated multiples, it is possible.
Old Becomes New
Browsing at photographs in magazines and books is a hobby of mine. It feeds my dream of having my lomographs published someday. This wishful thinking motivates me to create multi-media art out of old portraits of famous celebrities whether long dead or still living. I use anything like crayons, oil pastel, watercolors, papers, CDs, feathers or any available material of interesting colors and textures to transform these portraits into a kind of collage. Then, I shoot singles or doubles of these creations with my Canon A1 or my LC-A+ before adding the final touch with street vignettes using of course, the SuperSampler. The results allow me to see from a fresh perspective a different Boy George, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Priestley, Mick Jagger and James Dean. Reinventing the old to give birth to something new in a way is honoring to the soul of the past with the zest of the contemporary. Indeed, old becomes new.
Crazy Art In Transit
As a freelancer I am only employed during projects and not in-between. And when projects come in late I am forced to live on a tight budget. Much as I would wish to travel to many beautiful places worldwide and do lomography like many who are jetsetters, I have to contend myself for now in bringing the world over to the realm of my imagination. Dreams give free tickets to all places imaginable. The art I create being expressions of my dreams becomes my Louvre, my Cristo Redentor, my Acropolis, my Pyramids, my Manhattan, my Shangri-la—my paradise. I make art out of anything I find interesting and capture them forever in films.
Photography has given me the license to dream big and be extra creative. The gorgeous models in fashion catalogues and the billboards along EDSA (Manila’s busiest thoroughfare) become my muses who often appear in my multiples. The SuperSampler has been a convenient travel companion in riding buses, taxis, jeepneys, tricycles and pedicabs as I make my way to my everyday destination. Other passengers usually get curious as to what I am doing pulling a string, clicking a button and then hearing the sound as each lens fire up. And they remain clueless about what is really happening as I simply point my camera to my subject and shoot without looking at the viewfinder. Actually the tiny detachable rectangular black rubber viewfinder that comes with every SuperSampler has no practical use for me. To view through it every time I will shoot will be cumbersome. SuperSamplers, I think are made to promote freedom and playfulness which I enjoy while shooting in transit and capturing the final layer of my multiples. Just be careful when extending your hand or head outside the bus window as speedy trucks can decapitate you.
My art juxtaposed with street scenes suggests movement, change and life. No wonder, whenever I look at these multiples I find the main subject(s) pulsating with life and energy.
With the original built-in mask removed and the process being irreversible, the modified SuperSampler has increased likelihood to overexpose as opposed to the one with the mask still intact when used for multiples. As the lenses fire up one after the other the overlap of exposures most specially in areas that used to be the dark lines will tend to overexpose. As a remedy I resorted to creating an improvised mask using strips of black paper curved into a snake line following the original dividers. That way, any likelihood of overexposure is remarkably reduced, if not completely eliminated. As this DIY mask is not fixed, there is a tendency for it to be loose and get out of alignment as you shoot from frame to frame which is actually a value added thing. Instead of the stiff verticals, such misfit can produce diagonal and curved dividers that are visually cool, fresh and unique.
Coloring Your Multiples
My multiples are an acquired taste. Either you love them or you hate them on first impression. In the first place, I never intended them to be eye candy of relaxing colors and minimalist compositions. Horror vacui (fear of empty space) characterizes most of my lomographs. They are often visualizations of chaotic order and orderly chaos. Just like the chaos in my room and my work desk that ironically provides me a sense of tranquility. I guess my creations are an enigma of the dual presence of war and peace — like the violent storm and its peaceful eye all together. So people gazing at my lomographs may either see the chaos or the order or hopefully both. I prefer the latter to be my lomographs’ effect.
Lately, I have been exploring multiples above two — ie., triples, quadruples and quintuples. The more layers there are, the more elements are integrated into the sum. But I always hope people see my lomographs as a whole and not just a sum of the parts. My favorite elements to combine are anything vintage, colored lights, neon signs, written or printed words, old portraits (paintings or photographs), graffiti, Warhol art, moving cars, other street scenes and anything that inspires me at the moment. I give premium to colors that stir excitement and textures that make me feel with my heart when searching for interesting subjects to shoot.
Many of my recent multiple exposure explorations have the SuperSampler as adding the final icing to the cake, so to speak. I usually take street scenes to provide my multiples the final textures of the commonplace and use this process also as a way to add a range of colors with the aid of color filters. I suspect this coloring-through-filtering with my SuperSampler shots helps in making the previous layers more dramatically visible and without which there could be a tendency to overexpose and washout each other. Reds, purples and blues are great but I minimize use of yellows and greens.
With all these praises for the humble SuperSampler, may you all find encouragement and inspiration to explore how indeed it is a super camera to behold. Go forth and shoot your SuperSamplermultiples! Best of luck!