Lomography community members Toby Mason, a.k.a. fotobes and Hodaka Yamamoto, a.k.a. hodachrome have been collaborating on films swaps for many years now and always create amazing results. We asked Toby Mason (aka fotobes) to talk to us about the latest project with the LomoChrome Purple and a technique known as exposing-both-sides (EBS).
Hi Toby, you've been film swapping with hodachrome for a few years now, how did that come about and why do you keep doing it?
I came across hodachrome’s work on Flickr around 2010, and immediately fell for the colours and creativity of his work. We started talking through Flickr and then Facebook, and luckily there was a mutual enjoyment of each other’s photography. I hadn’t experimented too much with film swaps at that time, but I felt that if there was someone who’s work I’d like to share a frame with, then it would be Hodaka! So, we tried some UK and Japan international film swaps. Each time that we decided to do another swap, we challenged ourselves to do something different and more creative. So, we have tried normal film swaps, film-soup swaps, EBS film swaps (where one shoots on one side of the film, and the other person shoots on the reverse side – exposing both sides), Trifecta film swaps, where rolls of film went between me in the UK, Hodaka in Japan and Graziella Ines (Grazie) in the USA. This swap took around a year to complete and achieved some really cool results. By way of contrast, we also did a 24-hour film swap, when we met in my hometown of Brighton. We hung out for a few days, enjoyed some beers and shot lots of rolls of film, which was great fun! So, we keep doing swaps because we enjoy each other’s work, we are good friends and mostly because it’s fun!
You recently decided to do a film swap /reversal with the Lomochrome purple film. How do you organise this kind of project (in terms of technical specs and preparation)?
We have worked on EBS film swaps before, using Colour Negative film, and individually we have used LomoChrome Purple for self-swaps and have also tried shooting on both sides of Lomochrome Purple. We both love the results from this film, so we decided to try this film out for a film swap. We shot two rolls of film – Hodaka shooting on the “normal” side of the film first in Japan. Luckily Hodaka is very experienced in a dark room, so once he finished shooting each roll, in a dark room he took the film out of the canister, reversed it and wound it back into the canister (being careful to ensure the film was the right way up). When loading the film in the first place, we always carefully mark on the film where it sits in the LC-A, so that frames align when shooting the second time.
What is it that you enjoy about a film swap project?
In a word: serendipity. The magic of shooting film is the slight unpredictability, and the excitement that this can create. When working on film swaps, we don’t discuss what’s on the roll of film until after it’s developed. I love the experience of getting film developed that originated in another corner of the world and seeing what that other photographer saw. But seeing that in a frame that combines with something that I’ve seen. The results (when they work well!) appear magical. Sometimes even a seemingly mundane shot can be brought to life with whatever else appears on the same frame. Hodaka and I try to create a fusion of each photographer’s own nature, scenery or culture - we find this endlessly fascinating – it’s something that we always try to achieve!
What tips would you give for someone wanting to try this project out?
Make sure that you confer with your collaborator, to ensure you’re shooting at the same exposure and using the same cameras. This should ensure that one image doesn’t dominate the other. Carefully mark up the film position when loading, and even take a camera phone picture of it loaded, so that the second person can be sure to load in the same position. This can be fiddly to do but is worth taking time to do correctly. Nicely aligned frames make a big difference! You can even practice this doing film swaps with your self – these can achieve nice results. And finally, keep trying! Even getting 2-3 cool images from a film can make it all feel worthwhile!