Photographer Luca-Mercedes Stemer is no stranger to the Lomography community. We’ve spoken to her about HONEST. (a print magazine about analogue photography that she founded) and she also shared her Lomo'Instant Wide postcards from Sicily not so long ago. This time, she took the Petzval 58 Art Lens to the woods to capture these mysterious photographs.
Hi, Luca. Thank you for sharing your new photo series, Stranger Things! What was the inspiration behind it?
Thanks for having me. The inspiration behind it was the Petzval Lens itself. I didn’t realise there was a TV series with the same name (still haven’t had time to watch it argh), but the lens itself gives this out of this world, stranger things look which i really love. I had a hard time shooting with it the first time, the setting was just not right for the lens (very clean, shot on white cliffs in siciliy), so I left it in my office for a couple of weeks. Then I decided to take it along for a wedding i was booked for, and ended up using it for a few shots in the woods – which turned out great. I did start to understand the lens and asked the amazing Sigrid Renner to go into the woods with me. I was wearing a beautiful gown from ROEE the weekend before that, and thought that’s just perfect, a bit dark, a bit out of this world – and asked them if they are up for a little editorial story. So basically, first there was the lens, then failing, and then it all came together very beautiful.
How did you prepare for the shoot? Did things go exactly as you envisioned it?
Well, I charged my batteries. Haha. The prep was the first failing of using the lens, and understand its strengths and weaknesses and what it can be used for best. The rest was a walk in the park, amazing light, the perfect model & 2 beautiful dresses. I first was thinking of doing an end of summer shoot with a lot of colours, bananas hanging down, lollipops … you get the idea. But then I decided to go with something darker, more dreamy – which I feel is perfect when using the Petzval lens. (I will try to do the other shoot in Cape Town in a few weeks though, let’s see how it works.)
What was your first impression upon seeing the Petzval lens?
Elegant, a little tricky, excited to shoot with it.
Tell us what it’s like using the Petzval Lens. In which photographic situations do you find it most suitable?
I’ve seen a few fantastic series with it already, and wanted to challenge myself nailing the focus (when suited, not that a picture necessary needs that) with a digital camera & this lens and create something mystic. As i shoot a lot on film, I am used to manual focusing, but it is much easier with the view finder of analog cameras. I think it is great if you want to create a moody, out-of-this-world, dreamy or “of old times” look. Totally clean backgrounds are not for it. I do look forward to challenge this though and create something happy and colourful, so we will see. The only limit is your imagination I guess :)
Do you have any tips or advice that you would like to share with future Petzval users?
Don’t get frustrated when you first try it, it needs a little bit of practice and understanding what it can and can’t do, once you managed that it is a wonderful lens I am happy to have in my camera bag. It’s fun and exciting to explore working with a lens like this. Oh and don’t be me, I lost the aperture rings in a muddy creek, never to be seen again. (They can fall out pretty easily, I tape them on now if I am in unforgiving terrain haha).
What are you currently working on? Any projects that we should watch out for?
I am working on a book about Laundromats in NYC, my next exhibition “desert hearts” & the 3rd Issue of my analog photography print Magazine HONEST.. (We will still take submissions until the end of November, so don’t hesitate submitting on our website).
Model & Make Up: Sigrid Renner