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 shares her images and thoughts about taking a totally new type of shooting to her native Buenos Aires.
Whenever I travel back to Buenos Aires, I love to take whatever “new” cameras I am shooting with, especially if I have never shot with those particular cameras in a city that is so deeply familiar to me. I usually start thinking about particular shots with certain cameras way before I get to my Mother’s apartment in the leafy neighborhood of Belgrano, north of downtown.
But a few weeks ago I had a distinctly new experience. I photographed Buenos Aires with a new medium that I had never used there before: an instant film. I’m a newbie to instant photography, which is how I came to arrive down South carrying some 10 cartridges of Fuji Instax Mini film for my Lomo'Instant Wide camera, feeling more than a little nervous about the whole thing. Would the instant film get too warm in transit, too x-rayed? Would its 800 ISO be too much for the bright mid-Summer light in the Southern Hemisphere? Would my Mom complain about how much space it took in her refrigerator?
Was the 800 ISO of the film, about which we have no choice, too much for the bright sunshine of Buenos Aires in February, mid-summer? Well, yes and no. One thing we all notice if we have photographed in big cities for a certain amount of time: one side of the street is usually in bright light while the other side of the street can be in deep shadows. One thing the Lomo’Instant Wide offers is the exposure compensation button, so during the day I was mostly shooting everything at -1 compensation value. If something was way too bright even for -1 compensation, I tried to come back to the place at a different time, when there would not be direct sunshine on it. Some times it was not feasible, and the overexposed shot I had was the only shot I would have, as in the case of the image above, shot at the Caminito area of la Boca.
On the other side of brightness spectrum, I got to shoot with flash with my instant camera for the first time ever. Back in the States, there had never been an occasion that called for me to use the instant at night, and I have never been much of a flash user anyway. But this time I was in Buenos Aires for Carnival (There will be a separate, extensive article abut this!) and I really wanted to see what happened if I shot instant film while watching the preparations of carnival performers (murgueros, in Argentinean slang), and suddenly I realized it was getting too dark and what was coming out of the camera was blurry and maybe this was the time to try flash!
It worked really well when I was close enough to the subjects, as when I shot three outfits hanging in wait for their people. But after the parade itself started, I ended up with too much dark matter around a little central figure, I think. Another issue I keep butting against with the Lomo'Instant wide is that I find it hard to frame accurately. If it’s a general shot from a distance this is usually no problem, but when trying to frame this wonderfully whacked-out Citroen, my framing powers deserted me.
One thing is for certain: There is nothing like the kick of seeing the print immediately. Analog shooters live without the immediate gratification of seeing the shot one has just taken in the back of the camera and we like it that way. But there is something absolutely awesome about seeing the print you imagined in your head materialize itself in your hands minutes after having taken it. I particularly loved this immediacy when it came to shooting street art, or when I was I was able to give a “twin” of this print to the owner of the old Jeep I had been photographing with every camera I had at hand. He had been extremely gracious in allowing me full rein, after I assured him I would not be selling the pictures of his “baby” commercially or for advertising.
For the record, my Mom did not complain about how much space the instant film was taking up in the refrigerator. I think by now she has gotten used to seeing very strange things show up in her fridge coinciding with my arrival: a couple of boxes of color infrared film mysteriously wrapped up in black baggies, chrome and color negative in 35mm and 120… What are a few boxes of something in foil going to hurt, right?
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.