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!
“Float On” by Brigette Bloom is a personal work in every sense of the word. For one, it is an ode to a special spot in a desert near her birthplace. Another thing is that she has incorporated a part of herself in it – literally, as she had soaked her film rolls in her own urine before exposing them.
Bloom is a 27-year old photographer who recently moved “from the desert to the ocean,” in Hawaii. She had the idea to create “Float On” after noticing that people began wandering around her “sacred” spot in the desert, where she used to walk with her dog everyday at sunrise. “It just felt like it wasn’t our secret refuge anymore,” she said. “I knew it was time for me to ‘float on’ and find new places. This series is my way of saying thank you to the desert, and a farewell at the same time.”
Although Bloom has been soaking her 35mm films in various concoctions for a long time, “Float On” marked her first attempt at incorporating urine into her work. “I didn’t know at the time if it would even turn out [well]. Like everything I’ve done before, I just tried it and see what happens.” Her series “Coyote Spit”, “The Warmest Sun”, “Born Into Beets”, “The Air Links Us”, and “Strange Fruit” were also done using soaks.
Her very first foray into film soaking, however, was an accident. Bloom had washed a pair of pants without knowing that a roll of film was still in one of the pockets. But instead of despairing over it, she decided to just go ahead and develop it anyway. “As it turned out, I loved the results even more! They added so much feeling and texture to the images,” she said. From then on, Bloom has been on the lookout for film experiments and methods. “Your site (Lomography) was actually the first one I came across that gave tons of different examples and tips regarding film,” she revealed. "I remember bookmarking your page and going back often to get other ideas for how I could experiment with my film.
“This was probably five years ago, and I thought it was so ironic and amazing that you would be contacting me to talk about this specific series. Because in a huge way, it was inspired by you guys!”
Making pee (film) soup
Bloom’s process for “Float On” is quite simple. She even graciously walked us through the process, which can be read below:
1. Get a roll of film (expired or new – either is great!). Tip: I always soak it before I shoot because it tears the emulsion apart.
2. Pee in a cup.
3. Soak film in cup for a few hours. I’ve done it anywhere from 4 hours to three days, when I forgot about it. The effects will obviously be more dramatic the longer you leave it in. It also depends on the film you have – if it’s really expired, it will look completely different.
4. Rinse the film in water afterwards, just to get a good rinse.
5. Air dry anywhere from a day to a week. I had always lived in the desert when I soaked my film so it dried within a day. But now that I live in a very humid, tropical environment, I leave my film in a bag of rice which seems to be doing the trick.
6. Once the film is dry, run it through your camera like usual. The film will have a little resistance when you wind it through since it’s been sticking during the drying process.
7. After you’ve shot the roll, develop – and voila!
On praises, criticisms for ‘Float On’
Not surprisingly, “Float On” was met not only by praises but also by criticisms particularly from netizens. However, Bloom simply takes it all in stride, saying, “to be honest, that’s life. There are always going to be both ends of the spectrum – people loving or disliking what I do.”
She elaborated at length:
“I found it very funny and interesting because when the feature started getting out on the Internet, I had people who were so disgusted by it. And then hours later, I received messages from people saying how inspiring it is. The photos didn’t change, just people’s perception[s].
“It’s all in how you look at it, and I love that! Art will always be subjective and there is no right or wrong. It just is. I do like that it makes people feel something, enough to want to voice their opinion. Everyone’s got different tastes – it makes the world go ’round!
“Regardless of what is going on around me, all I can do is keep creating from my heart and following that inner knowing. I really can’t take the criticism or the praise personally because it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
A word of advice in doing film experiments
As someone who frequently “messes around with film,” Bloom strongly encourages others who want to take a dip into film experimentation themselves to just do it. She suggests trying out her method, in which the urine can be replaced with other liquids such as lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, wine, kombucha, gin… “or just throw it in the dishwasher or washing machine.” However, she reiterated that things might not always work as expected, but that this is just part of the whole trial-and-error process.
“I think soaking your film in general is a good lesson in teaching un-attachment,” she laughs. “It’s definitely helped me not to become too attached to the outcome. There’s always a part of me that wants the images to come out and hold onto an idea I have of them. When I spend hours shooting something I’m really excited about, of course I want the images to turn out,” she said. But on the contrary, Bloom finds venturing into the unknown “incredibly freeing.”
She explains, “I do the work and then I just have to step back and let it take on its own direction. It’s out of my control – and that feels really magical in its own right. So I tell people to be patient and keep experimenting. The images that are supposed to show up, will. Just enjoy the process and be playful with it all.”
Furthermore, Bloom suggests that if you’re working with soaked film for the first time, you might want to shoot “something that you wouldn’t mind losing.” She also keeps a notebook to keep track of her soak mixtures, steeping time, and reactions.
But for her, the pee soak remains her favorite. “I use it so much that I can work with it and experiment more than any other type of film soak. It just fits my personal liking and I love the diversity of it. Plus, it’s free!” she said.
Meanwhile, Bloom is currently working on a “huge project” set to be unveiled by the beginning of next year, the details of which she still keeps under wraps but reveals that it’s “one of my biggest photo dreams come true!”
All information and images in this article were provided to Lomography by Brigette Bloom. To see more of her work, you may visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Instagram. For a more detailed tipster on her pee concoction, head on to our Tipster section here.