Our imperfections can make us stand out from the crowd. The scars, blemishes, marks, all of it. We all know that to be true here in the Community. We just love the little surprises that life has in store for us and that is why we were more than ecstatic to discover the work of film photographer Marlee Meghan Banta.
Marlee brings a different kind of vibe to film photography with her exciting and sometimes psychedelic double exposure photographs. Her world is one of wispy flares, faint light leaks, and blending of images that can take you to a dreamy wonderland. Marlee's work is the reason why we shouldn't stop exploring and experimenting with our photographs. There are still a lot of beautiful photographs that are yet to be taken.
What do you do and what got you interested in film photography?
I’m a tattoo artist for money and a film photographer for the soul. I’ve been shooting 35 mm film rolls since I was a kid — around 12 or 13 years old. It started with just a point-and-shoot and advanced to what it is now. I think what initially drew me towards it was the need for something real, still and beautiful in a world that felt vast and inhuman. I clung to my images for that.
Your work is a wild mix of experimental, evocative, and creative photography. Your photos — wonderful beyond words. They have this dreamy and psychedelic feel to them that leaves much to the viewer to interpret. How did you discover your photographic style?
Wow, thank you. Such sweet words. I think it started off simple, as I said above. It was just my way of holding onto the good in a way that felt how it felt in my head, which was a little hazy and grainy to begin, hence why I used film in the first place. Over the years, “happy accidents” like light leaks or accidental double exposures started to occur and felt even more in line with what I felt and how I remembered things. I started to purposely mess with my film by soaking it in wine or something or shooting a whole roll of hazy light refractions off of mirrors or water. The outcome of bright colors, scratchy light pools, or sparkly haze became even more in line with “the realness” I always wanted to take hold of/the way things felt in memory or even just in my head. I was finally able to convey my emotions to the memory I was capturing.
What do you look for in a frame before you take the shot?
I am definitely most inspired still by moments of loveliness, nature, and humanness if that makes sense. I guess also beauty and truth. I still look for the moments that feel pure and real in this world and try to capture that.
What do you wish to get across with your photographs? Why do you take photos?
I just want to make something honest and put it out there. Everything that makes me want to live is raw and honest and there really isn’t enough of it either. There are SO much advertising and bizarre societal constructs. Sometimes it’s definitely a diary sort of documentation of my feelings and bonds with other human beings.
I also want to show the beauty of nature too. I want to remind people of good things and what that makes them feel. I want to remind people to feel. Plus, it keeps me from going mad. I need to keep grasping at the simple magic. It’s really always there, and I guess I must capture it to remind even myself of that.
Your level of understanding of how images blend is amazing. How did you develop your skills?
Thank you! Lots and lots of years of totally ruining film. I am almost 25 and like I said, I started when I was 12 or 13. I just underexpose the layers I want to show up faintly now. I honestly still mess up a lot of photos but the ones that do come out are so treasured because of that.
We love how a lot of your images just echo freedom — especially when it comes to the female form. Was this a particular thing you were going for in your shots?
Oh, cool! I love that. I think in my search for grasping for realness I am also trying to find a place of freedom not always reachable or fleeting. Maybe we are all looking for that. I just treasure the times where we feel uninhibited despite all the painful stuff happening in the world, and god knows there’s so much of it. Obviously, we have to face reality too but I know we have to appreciate the beauty in between.
I don’t know if I am necessarily trying to show freedom through the female form. Maybe subconsciously, as a reflection of my own existence in this world as a female. I will say I AM grateful to be able to have a platform to show women/humans of all body types in my art and if I capture freedom through it, all the more wonderful.
What inspires you to create images?
All the feelings.
What is your favorite camera + film + lens combo? What do you like about it?
I don’t know if I have one, actually. I’ve been using the same beat-up Nikon N80 for years. The lens has plastic chipping all off the rim. I like that I can throw it around, honestly. I want to not have to worry about breaking it. I just buy the cheapest film or seek out expired stuff too. I’m always open to trying any film.
Do you have upcoming projects or shows? Please invite our readers.
Nope! Unfortunately, I haven’t been active in trying to get my work out because LIFE but I will certainly post about it on Instagram if that changes.
What does a perfect day look like for you?
Ooh, good question. Music, laughter, friends, nature, a mountain lake, some food... I don’t know. I’ve learned that the good things aren’t all that complicated really.