Here’s an interview with a Lomo Amigo from Finland—- Environmental Artist and Photographer Polly Balitro.
Name: Polly Balitro
Profession: Taking Portraits
How long have you been a lomographer?
I first got to know about Lomography over five years ago, while I was studying photography; a friend of mine from the academy got herself a Diana and I was fascinated by what she was doing with it. At that time I was shooting only with my Nikon FM and I didn’t own any medium format camera, but only worked with 120mm film in school; I remember thinking it was wonderful you could purchase a medium format camera for such little money, so I got myself a Holga – it was an orange one. A couple of years later though, when I moved to Helsinki, I gave it to a friend. Then my sister gifted me with a Diana Mini and we have had a lovely time together so far. I don’t exactly know what you mean by “being a Lomographer”, but I had started to take an interest in photography when I was 17 and I have learned to take photographs with analogue cameras first – that is probably why I have never completely warmed up to digital. I respect Lomography immensely, because it is promoting analogue photography in what is now a digital world.
What’s the most unforgettable experience you’ve had in analogue photography?
After all these years it’s too hard to name only one, so I am going to talk about a quite recent unforgettable experience I had – I wouldn’t say it is the most unforgettable, but definitely one of the most unforgettable. It all happened last year, while I was in Northern Lapland with a group of friends from university; one fine day we decided to go “hunting for reindeers” – as in trying to find them to take photographs of them, nothing to do with real hunting! The three of us, all with our cameras at hand, climbed up and down the mountains until we finally spotted a couple of animals, a male and a female reindeer. The female left before we arrived, but the male stood still long enough for us to take quite many shots; it was an incredibly perfect moment! We were all shooting with film cameras: one of my friends had a Horizon, the other a Minolta and a Diana Mini, and I my Nikon FM. Soon enough the reindeer – that had some impressive antlers on his head – got sick of the clicking and clacking of our cameras and decided to start running towards us. Fortunately we managed to get away unharmed and with quite a few beautiful reindeer’s close-ups!
What’s your favorite analogue camera? Why?
If I had to choose one favourite only, then I would say my Nikon FM; it was a gift from my dad when I started studying photography – with a set of three lenses! – and I have used it since, brought it with me to Finland. She is a wonderful companion for my photographic excursions, fairly light and super easy to use – though that is probably just because we have known each other for years now. Also, I have recently bought myself a Hasselblad 500 C/M: she is a beauty and we get along quite well, but I don’t think she will ever take my Nikon FM’s place – there is only one true love in a lifetime, is there not?
Why did you move to Finland? Are you fascinated from this country? Do you think that the “North Europe’s culture and lifestyle” have influenced your works? How?
I decided to move to Finland because I wanted a fresh start after finishing my photography studies. I had always been fascinated with Northern Europe and I had done already quite a bit of traveling there before actually moving to Helsinki. I have been living in Finland for more than three years now and my fascination towards this Country has grown and possibly changed; in some ways I have become accustomed to Finnish culture, but in some others I am still a foreigner here. When I think about it, I consider myself quite lucky to be in such a particular position: Finland is my home now but it is still mysterious enough for me to get inspired by it. It certainly does influence my work, Finnish landscape especially is very dear to me.
Can you speak about your experience as photoblogger, by telling something about your manifesto and the thoughts behind your works?
When I first started my blog Passer Domesticus in 2009, I was mainly blogging for myself; only a couple of years later I begun understanding the importance of sharing my work online and the blog became the perfect way for me, as an artist, to have a dialogue with my audience. My work has evolved so much since I have started taking photographs, and even since I have started my blog, that I sometimes find it hard to relate myself to what I was doing only a couple of years ago; nowadays I believe my work to be quite straight forward – mainly photographic series of places which I visit and find revealing and registrations of certain moments and details that I encounter. Only one thing hasn’t ever changed, and that is my love for analogue image making.
What about your “Konstruktor Experience” in Lapland?
My Konstruktor and I had spent barely a month together before setting off to Lapland, but we knew each other quite well already, as I had taken many test rolls with her around Helsinki in August. The weather in Northern Lapland can be pretty unforgiving and I was concerned about the lack of light, but my Konstruktor did wonderfully well even when the weather turned out to be worse than I was expecting it to be. It had been rainy and foggy for all of the three-day hiking, but a Lomography Color Negative 800 did the trick. Overall my Konstruktor experience has been surprisingly pleasant: at first I was worried because of the fixed aperture and the obligatory choice between Bulb and 1/80s for the shutter speed – when used to more complex functioning cameras like my Nikon and Hasselblad it is quite startling to have to deal with something as straight forward as the Konstruktor – eventually though I have understood that it’s in fact this simplicity that makes it great. It’s all about choosing the right spot and shooting – I love how spontaneous that is! And she is so wonderfully light to carry around when you are hiking! I guess we have become quite close by now, after all I was the one putting her together piece by piece, and that was challenging but at the same time rather revealing.
Can you choose and share 2 to 3 analogue photos to post with this article and tell us why you chose them? Is there a story behind them?
I have chosen some photographs between the ones I took in Lapland; it wasn’t easy to select so few of them, because I have taken so many, but I feel like these ones could well represent the extraordinary mood of the place. Northern Lapland looks incredibly bare compared to the rest of Finland and somehow that makes it more fascinating. The best time of the year to travel there, in my opinion, is autumn – which starts already at the beginning of September: this is the time that Finns call “Ruska”, a word that could be translated as “autumn galore”, when the land turns into those beautiful earthy colours and the mountains become red and orange. Here you can see a few images of Ruska I took with my Konstruktor and my Hasselblad 500 C/M – the first one loaded with a Lomography Color Negative 800 and the second one with a Lomography Redscale exposed at iso 200. The reds of the Hasselblad photographs are incredible – Lapland looks like Mars! By the way, it’s me in the first photograph and that shot is a courtesy of Jacopo, my boyfriend and fellow-traveller.
Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects?
I have been working for a few months on a project dedicated to Iceland; I had the pleasure of visiting it in June and travelled around the whole island in ten days. It had been a life-changing experience, Iceland is truly as beautiful as everyone says it is and more! Needless to say, I fell in love with those incredible landscapes – so different from Finland and from anything else I had seen before – and got back home with a total of 14 film rolls to develop. Jacopo – who is often accompanying me during my photographic excursions – is also very passionate about photography and took a numerous amount of polaroids of those breath-taking Icelandic landscapes. Together we are designing a coffee table book that is going to collect all of our best shots and a selection of writings of five brilliant Icelandic poets, that have decided to collaborate with us. The book will be called “Iceland, Rauður Grænn Blár” and we are soon going to launch a campaign to promote it via Indiegogo – make sure to support us!
Any advice for young artists out there?
I’m not sure if I’m in the position to give any advice here; being an artist is not always easy and certainly not always lucrative, but what if there is nothing else you are actually able to do? What if there is nothing else you really want to do? I know this may sound extremely overrated though, do what makes you feel happy!