Photographer Naninca Lemmens's poignant Distant Bodies, Wired Souls serves as her personal examination of intimacy and romance amid the distance that separates her and her soulmate. In this interview, Lemmens talks about discovering what "home" is and shaping the imaginary world of her series with the surreal colors of the LomoChrome Purple.
Hello Naninca! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine. Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
Hi Lomography Magazine. Thank you for having this interview with me. Originally, I come from Maastricht, in the south of the Netherlands. Born and raised in this small city, I had big dreams to see the rest of the world. I traveled as far as I was able to go and made many friends in different cities. Mainly, I traveled to Amsterdam and Brussels. Four years ago, I made the decision to follow my passion and study photography in the capital city of Europe, which was close to Maastricht and it was easier to travel to other countries. Moving to Brussels broadened my perspectives in life in general. Since then, I’ve never been so sincere and motivated with that choice I made, to become an artist. This year I graduated with a BA Audiovisual Techniques in Photography at the LUCA School of Arts in Brussels. In those four years, I developed myself in many more ways, as I was also able to travel and express myself with various visual techniques.
Can you remember the first time you held a camera? What were your first shots like?
My first memory of holding a camera... No, but I do remember when I got my very own first camera when I became 8 years old. It was a gift from my aunt, a small pink Looney Tunes Tweety camera with a 16 mm film in it. Since then, as I grew older, I had different kinds of analogue and digital cameras in hands to explore. My dad understood that I had an affinity, or more like an obsession with photography, as he was once a kid himself who enjoyed technical things like motor engines, watches or radios. So, ever since I got the Tweety camera, my dad always came home with different kinds of cameras or photographic equipment to try out. Once, he brought me a huge box filled with old analogue cameras and accessories, gifted from an elder man, who was a photographer himself. Most of the things where broken, but the ones that weren’t, I experimented with and treasured them.
When I was 14 years old, my first job was to save up money for the Canon EOS 20D camera. When I achieved that DSLR camera, I started to experiment more with photography as in an art form. I was obsessed with capturing the beautiful memories and portraying the people who came into my life. Photographing everything in my own way, the way I liked to remember it, was the main reason why I did it. My pictures were mostly portraits and self-portraits, situated in a dreamy scenario. I remember that the philosophy behind Lomography and the deviantArt platform played an important role to my beginning as a photographer. That’s when I started to find other young artists, to share photos and to receive feedback, to educate myself about the possibilities of photography and I made international friends that I still cherish. Not only was photography a documentation of my own life, but it was also a medium that helped me escape from reality. I loved to create my own imaginary world, it was like playing dress up for older kids.
What is it about film photography that you found appealing?
What I love about photography, in general, is that it’s art and science, combined together. It’s a medium that comes closest to the human’s visualization of “reality”. Growing up in a digitalizing world, people started to question whether or not film photography should still continue to exist, due to the increased modern science and digital innovations. In my opinion, we should never lose sight of where we come from in the first place, in order to become inventive or original ourselves. Making pictures with film is the best way to understand and appreciate the science behind it. With limited amount of pictures on the film roll, you choose your moments carefully and value them even more, once this memory is printed in a physical form, so your memory is no longer an abstract thing. Film photography is authentic, so I also believe it captures the chosen moments and people in their purest essence. Photographing with film has something intuitive, which can reveal your truest self as a photographer. Why choose those particular moments or compositions? I’m sure we can answer these questions when we start analyzing ourselves, through the most reflective medium that exists. Once we listen and understand our inner voice, we will be able to achieve anything in the world to help others in need.
You recently shot a beautiful series called Invisible Places with the LomoChrome Purple. Can you tell us more about how the idea started?
The Idea grew very naturally. It first started as a big interest towards this particular film. I experimented with infrared film photography before, but it was quite a complicated procedure since I had to be concentrated and very careful with the film, due to the sensitivity of temperature. The final pictures disappointed me, as I struggled many times for a satisfying result. Later, I discovered this infrared-inspired film and I was so excited to try it out, not only to discover places one cannot see with naked eye but also to inspire others to photograph with this film. By writing the article for the Painters Palace, I hoped to inspire others to be creative and to advise about the elements needed for a photographic series.
You mentioned in your article that the series is all about “finding home during a melancholic transition period”. What does “home” mean to you?
Maybe it’s cheesy to say “Home is where the heart is”, but after searching where that might be, the saying made more sense to me. Home, is where you feel comfortable and where you can be yourself, without any filters. And having no “home” or a “steady base” at that time of my life, led me to this series, visually explaining that home is my imaginary bubble I have with my loved ones.
Why did you choose to shoot with the LomoChrome Purple for this particular project? How did it help you rediscover your hometown?
After I shot the first LomoChrome Purple film, I suddenly had an urge to use this film more, but I couldn’t exactly explain why. During a melancholic period I had experienced, due to my long distance love relationship, I traveled a lot and I felt the need to document my emotions and feelings in my own way. That’s why I continued to shoot more intuitively with this particular film. Due to the cyan layer on the film, each weather condition makes the picture look completely different. Even if the sky is grey or the atmosphere is boring, due to the lack of sunlight, the film has the ability to change this dullness into dreamy settings. Especially in the lowland countries and Scandinavia, where the weather is rather emotionally numbing and grey, I needed to escape this soberness and create my own imaginary home, where I felt comfortable in. But, as I already explained in my article for the Painters Palace, I believe that this film is also good for any weather condition due to the sensitivity range of 100 till 400 ISO of the film.
I started to shoot with this film in March 2016 and It took me two years to understand what I was trying to tell myself. After many different selections and analyses of each photograph, it became clear to me: The lomochrome purple helped me to create my own imaginary world and helped me to get through the darker period of my life. The series Invisible Places, as it was originally called, developed itself into a personal ongoing series and the story is now titled Distant Bodies, Wired Souls.
Any favorite photo from this series? What makes them memorable for you?
Each photo from the series tells a little part of the story and is a memory by itself. So, the combination of all photographs satisfies me for the complete anecdote. But as the story continues, my narration will continue in the future, too. To see the full series, you can keep an eye on my website to see how the series and my photographic skills develop.
What’s next for Naninca Lemmens?
I know I have many other stories to tell that are still waiting to be expressed. After four years of technical education in photography, I still have an urge to grow as an artist. That’s why I am beginning a Master in Photography this year, in order to discover more techniques on how to express my true voice in this visual language, where no words are needed. And of course, I will keep on writing articles for the Painters Palace, to inspire others to do the same who want to grow as artists.
All photographs in this article were provided by Naninca Lemmens and were used here with permission. To see more photographs from her series Distant Bodies, Wired Souls, visit her website.