A Film Risotto


From my Lomo-kitchen of international cuisine, I am giving you a big serving of my recipe! Just say “Buono!” if you want some more!

The Risotto Effect – achieved by adding rice grains to a film, closing it up and leaving it to fester for many months. The whole thing literally came alive! The conditions inside were too wet to develop so this is a scan of the negative. The effects you can see were made by mildew spores branching out and eating away at the emulsion.

In fact it’s pretty easy to make boring pictures look interesting. Use cross processing, filters or multi exposure too make your 1000st self portrait look somehow fresh and funky. Or, do as I did, add some LIFE.

The whole experiment started in summer 2006 when we were looking for interesting “analogue” techniques. One of them was to put a roll of film in a pot with boiling water. We had heard about that before but wanted to try it out before announcing anything. So I boiled 2 rolls and gave them to my trusty lab. The next day they gave them back to me, undeveloped, with a note saying that they were unable to develop the film. It had to do with film emulsion peeling off and destroying the chemistry and other films….. Ok, I couldn’t have expected anything else from a professional lab and I did not want to cause any trouble.

But “giving up” is not part of my active vocabulary (just now, after looking it up in the dictionary). I remembered the old trick of adding rice grains to a salt shaker. The rice sucks up the humidity and keeps the salt dry. I took a small zip bag, put in the 2 rolls, filled it up with rice and closed it. I wanted to wait until every drop of water was gone. However, due to the decision that the boiling-film technique was “too complicated”, my little bag of film-risotto eventually disappeared and must have found its way into some storage box.

In April 2007 I moved to a new flat. During the move I came across the little bag again, now filled with some indistinguishable mixture of dust, fibres, and spores. The whole thing went through the process of coming alive and probably dying again in this small environment. My first thought was to throw away this disgusting thing but I decided to keep it for some neurotic reason which also qualifies me for a top position in the Lomographic World Archive.

At end of 2007 I got a new task from the “department of advanced newsletter content allocation” which was: experimenting with film. I remembered the little bag of nastiness and decided to get the 2 rolls of film developed. First of all I had to clean them and this was really disgusting. My paranoia of mildew (especially on food) is quite acute – a great help in this situation. I held my breath for the whole cleaning period, washed my hands 5 times afterwards and almost had to throw up.

As I didn’t want to scare off my beloved lab I gave the ‘special’ film to the film development service in a supermarket. I didn’t expect too much and when I got back the films there were no prints included, instead there was a small preprinted note attached saying something like “printing not possible, negatives destroyed due to being moist”, (“moist” crossed out and replaced with a handwritten “wet” :)

And really, the negatives partially looked like something that could be described as destroyed, but there were still lots of exposed emulsion left. The big surprise became visible when I scanned the negs in. First I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, weird colours, strange reactions on top of some long forgotten images! OMG! the mildew has eaten its way throughout the film, branches and spores everywhere, photo emulsion washed away, colour layers gone crazy… ravishingly beautiful!

….and now one of the pictures hangs in my living room as 1×1.5m print.

written by mandi on 2009-04-04 #gear #tutorials #film #analogue #labrats #tipster


  1. olique
    olique ·


  2. mandi
    mandi ·

    btw. pic nr. 34 says "austrian institute for non-destructive testing" ;)

  3. zark
    zark ·

    Amazing Pictures!

  4. yoscolmi
    yoscolmi ·

    crazy! and great!

  5. stouf
    stouf ·

    YEAH ! I love that organic effect !

  6. oldskool_rider
    oldskool_rider ·

    wow i love shot 45

  7. cinzinc
    cinzinc ·


  8. coca
    coca ·


  9. wil6ka
    wil6ka ·

    Piep Piep Piep / Guten Appetit!

  10. makeyuu
    makeyuu ·

    i have done this thing and i have the roll ready for dev. now but no one wants to develop it!! whattodoo????

  11. mephisto19
    mephisto19 ·

    what a story ;)

  12. bravopires
    bravopires ·

    three times buono!

  13. purplellama
    purplellama ·

    Inspiring! Makes me want to go experiment with film!!!!

  14. cybervixen
    cybervixen ·

    wow :O These are so beautiful!! I think this is the most epic result of a 'happy accident'

  15. metzgor
    metzgor ·

    :-D what a great story and so strange results.. fantastic!

  16. sivy
    sivy ·

    was the rice boiled or steamed? :P i want to have a go myself :D x

  17. kdstevens
    kdstevens ·

    Great gallery!

  18. jaguarwomon
    jaguarwomon ·


  19. kamilou
    kamilou ·

    My boyfriend is gonna love you: you helped me finding an interest in cooking :D great piicures, indeed.

  20. pzjo
    pzjo ·

    this is incredible! WOW. Do you reckon it would work the other way round? As in, shooting the film & getting them develeped, THEN adding the rice for a time?

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