A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy writes about experimenting with different ways to get multiple exposures with different cameras.
One of the things that happen when you become an avid Lomographer, I think, is that you start spending hours looking at what other Lomographers are doing: You look at the Magazine tipsters and Photo of the Day. You start following this photographer and that photographer… People post pretty amazing images and you start to wonder, “Well, how do you do that?”
I had been doing multiple exposures in camera for years before I posted my first image on my LomoHome. I had been creating a sort of double exposure by “sandwiching” two negatives together, one in color and shot strictly for color and texture, one in black and white and shot for the “proper image.” And I had gotten my fair share of unintended multiple exposures, starting a roll and not finishing it, sprockets jamming, camera errors galore. See below:
But when I started looking at different LomoHomes, I discovered there was a whole world of multiple exposure photography that I didn’t know existed. There were films shot once then mailed and swapped across the world. There were multiple exposures on the LC-As and the Lomo'Instant done on the spot—just touch a button or move a switch and voilà! You had single exposures, multiple exposures, whatever you wanted, all in one roll. And, very intriguing to me: Photographers that would shoot their film once through a camera, rewind it, and then shoot it again, in a different camera or the same one. Many times this process involved playing with silhouettes, but sometimes it didn’t.
This whole universe of multiple exposures seemed to hinge on the concept of “what if”. What if I shoot an entire roll through a 50mm SLR, for example, and then put the film through the Sprocket Rocket and get a new set of images showing the sprocket holes? What if I shoot a roll of 35mm on my Holga 120 pan, rewind it, and send it to someone halfway across the hemisphere and see what we get together? What if I shoot a whole bunch of film using a whole bunch of cameras, so that I cannot possibly remember what roll has what, and then reshoot everything? This latter instance was what I call my “multiple-exposures” attack.
Between the end of October 2016 and early this January I shot A LOT of rolls (color, b&w, 35mm, 120), put some on a separate bag to take to Buenos Aires with me, then grabbed random exposed rolls every time I went out the door and put them through some camera. I knew that each individual camera has a different lead into frame #1, so it was unlikely that my previously exposed frames would align perfectly with the ones of the 2nd time around.
Should I overexpose, just to make sure I got a properly-exposed image the second time? Should I forget all about trying to make it tidy and allow the whole experiment to be random? To tell you the truth, it was hard to keep track of all these rolls I was experimenting with, so I decided to just go totally random. I will do the same with the rolls I am taking with me to Argentina, where I will be by the time this article is posted on Lomo. (Hello from Buenos Aires, friends!)
By now I have received all of the rolls back. Some thoughts and conclusions: Maybe practice will make perfect! I found a lot of missed frames, blank stretches of film, places where there was no double, verticals on top of horizontals. But I was also delighted by some images that seemed like pure poetry to me: surreal and vaguely hypnotic. Every time I look at them, I am reminded of a friend’s comment when she saw my first website: “But those are the mistakes! Those are the photos we threw away before anyone could see them!” Precisely.
This is what I think I am learning from this “multiple-exposures” attack:
- Shoot entire rolls that are either all horizontal or all vertical and make a notation with permanent marker on the roll itself.
- If I decide to overexpose (I think in the LC-A 120 it’s a good idea to set the light meter one ISO above what I’m really shooting), also make a notation on the roll itself.
- It is a good idea to shoot lots and lots of your loved one’s silhouettes, for example, or somebody who is willing to be your model. Shoot them with color, black and white, 35mm, 120, redscale, purple, turquoise, your entire arsenal. Rewind those rolls carefully, make notes on them (for example, "silhouette/vertical"), put them on a special box or bag apart from the rest of your film and keep them safe. Then run those rolls again when the wild flowers come out in your area, in the fall when the leaves have turned, or when you find a startling and compelling background that you think will work with your silhouettes.
- If you are photographing something that is too important to you or a place you are not likely to be able to revisit, make sure you have an extra camera and plenty of film to shoot it “straight". So that if your multiple exposures somehow disappoint or do not come out the way you had envisioned them, you still have some nice, plain shots to remember it by. Your baby’s first smile, your trip to Timbuktu, witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall or its contemporary equivalent, not the time to try multiple exposures! But if you do, have a sensible second camera loaded and get the shot.
Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.