Environmentalist and Lomography community member Michelle Faulkner talks with us about her film photography, environmental efforts, and shooting with our LomoChrome Purple 35 mm film in Taos, New Mexico.
Hi Michelle! Introduce yourself to the Lomography community.
Hello! My name is Michelle Faulkner, but on the internet, you might find me as Squirrel_Friend. I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I moved to Portland, Oregon at 18 years old to get my degree in Environmental Studies, which I just finished last June. Being in a long distance relationship for the past two and a half years, I recently moved to Brussels, Belgium for a few months with my partner, which is where he is from. Starting in 2019, I will be traveling to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, New Mexico, and Colorado over six months to help build self-sustaining off-the-grid homes made out of garbage, formally known as Earthships.
How did you get involved with photography?
I have always had fun taking photos since I was young, as long as I had access to a camera. I met my partner in Costa Rica studying Spanish for five months about two and a half years ago. I had this underwater camera that I was having so much fun with until I broke it. Starting his studies off as a film major, my partner was impressed with my photographs. Later that year he gifted me an AE1 film camera, but not only because he thought I would have a lot of fun with it. Being in a long distance relationship after leaving Costa Rica, we wanted to photograph the moments that we were able to have together, which was about every three months or so. A digital camera allows you to click click click away as much as you wanted, even without intention. Film photography requires more thought, more intention, and much more energy put into each shot taken. Film has been able to more accurately capture the true sentimental value and intimacy of each moment. Film made our physical distance more tangible. I haven't been able to put down my AE1 ever since.
What do you like about shooting with the LomoChrome Purple 35 mm film? How is the experience different than other films you've used in the past?
I can really enjoy some black and white photography. But I have to admit, I am in LOVE with colors. I love to play with colors. It is the first thing you will notice about my wardrobe and the physical matter in our world that I am drawn to most. I almost always shoot in color film. The few times I had shot in B&W, I usually ended up painting fun colors on the photo prints. I always have so much fun playing on Photoshop changing the hues of a photograph, making it look unworldly. As soon as I discovered LomoChrome Purple 35 mm film through my friend who works at Shutterbug (the photography shop in Portland where I would get my film developed during college), I searched intensely in shops all around for a chance to get my own paws on it. It took me a few months before I discovered the soon-to-come new stock of LomoChrome Purple 35mm film on the Lomography website.
I immediately put in my pre-order and patiently (actually impatiently) waited. No need for Photoshop-play when the film handles the magic itself. LomoChrome Purple 35 mm film takes me to that unworldly place I had been searching for. It embodies a new kind of energy that I am intrigued to interact with more often. It creates an alternate reality that we often do not imagine. I love how LomoChrome Purple 35 mm film pushes the boundaries of the perception of our realities.
What was the concept you had in mind while making these photos? Tell us the story behind them.
After graduating from college, I took a month-long intensive course at the Earthship Biotecture Academy for the month of September to learn the in’s and out’s of building Earthships in Taos, New Mexico. Taos is often known for its art community, but if you are there for more than just a day or two, you will soon become aware of one of the biggest off-the-grid communities in the world just 20 minutes from town on the Taos Mesa. This is a place where people are voluntarily pounding dirt into used tires and stacking beer cans to build homes while reducing our heaping mounds of trash. These self-sustaining homes are made out of more than 50% recycled materials and catch rainwater, which one can use four times. They can also grow food, contain their own sewage, have thermal mass so you don’t need to heat and cool your home, and use solar and wind power for electricity. The windows face south, utilizing the guidelines of our earth instead of the guidelines from man. As you could imagine, this type of home attracts the strangest crowd of humans.
The architect who started the Earthship movement, Michael Reynolds, is the furthest thing from conventional. He told us stories of how he built his own pyramids out of recycled materials to be magnetically aligned with the earth. He would strap himself to the top of the pyramid for hours on the night of a full moon to gain access to the amplified energetic atmosphere, as the magnetically aligned pyramid acts as a cosmic antenna. For some reason, Taos Mesa also seems to attract a lot of junk. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of abandoned cars and buses there were. One local couple got creative and turned an old bus into a coffee and ice cream shop.
The Earthship community to me feels apocalyptic. Fields of abandoned junk, homes made out of trash that utilize only the sun and wind for energy, and a bunch of incredible hippies covered in dirt, which is my favorite part. The Earthship Community took me to another world. You can see I took a photo of the sunset reflecting off of solar panels, but I turned the photo upside down because it then looks somewhat like a satellite looking down on an Earth-like planet. This made more sense to me. As climate change is inevitable, the earth is changing. Therefore, we must adapt. A new perspective is needed.
The LomoChrome Purple 35 mm film film couldn’t have been more harmonious for the hard-to-capture essence and energy of the Taos Mesa experience. I wish I had taken more photos, but I was completely lost in being in the moment, which is why I was so excited that the few photos I did take were with my LomoChrome Purple 35 mm film. I had felt I discovered a place that I never wanted to leave. I almost thought I couldn’t leave at all. I will always have a big chunk of my heart left on the Taos Mesa. But as I mentioned earlier, I am happy to have the opportunity to travel to a few countries in 2019 to help build more Earthships. Starting in January, I will be in Puerto Rico helping with a humanitarian build to construct a self-sustaining and hurricane-resistant community and education center on the east side of the island. I dream about a world where everyone lives in an Earthship. They can be simple and small or they can be extravagantly large and fancy to fit the needs of survival and even the needs of greed.
Who or what inspires your photography?
Colors and perception inspire my photography. You THINK you knew what you saw. But what if you looked at it through a different lens? Now, what do think you see? As shitty as humans can be, the infinite energetic beauty of a human can also really inspire me. I truly believe humans are a beautiful disaster that I can’t keep my eyes off of.
What have you learned so far through your photography and where do you hope it takes you in the future?
I used to not put in too much energy into my photography since I knew someone could always do it better than me. But then I realized how silly that is because nobody in the world shares the same experiences as I do. Therefore, I had to learn that it’s not about rank. It’s about authenticity to yourself. I plan to take the time to take more photos of the Earthship life during my 2019 travels. I will always continue taking portraits of people I find beautiful.