We try to welcome every new year with a blank slate by filling in our future plans, wishes, and goals. Before we move forward, let's give ourselves a little breather and reflect on our past selves, the artists that we were, the things we've done and haven't done and how we'll pick ourselves up from where we left off. Artists, a little meditation might just take you in the right direction. We invited Lomographers Philippe Multeau, a.k.a. frenchyfyl, Hoang Quoc Hoan a.k.a. chivasregal and Paul Monroe, a.k.a. pmonroe to share their own assessments as artists.
The Artist That I Am Today
Photography has always been spontaneous, quick and two steps ahead out of other mediums ever since the dawn of its history. Even though it remains one of the youngest art mediums today, so much has already happened within the photography realm, be it in the cultural, technological and aesthetic aspects. Lomographer Philippe Multeau, a.k.a. frenchyfyl revisits how far analogue photography has come. As he looks back, he couldn't help himself but feel proud of how much has changed since then. Ten years ago, it would have been unimaginable for film photography to stay for good, as most of the time it attempted to break into photographers, many would deem it as a simple passing fashion. It's pretty great for film photography to be finally taken seriously:
" Today, as we enter a new decade, the return of the analogue is now a reality that nobody calls into question. So, analogue photographers or musicians who release vinyls feel respected again. I'm reassured: the next decade will be analogue, it's certain! The “future is analogue” motto has never been so true at the moment!"
It's also worth noting how several photography companies compete for their respective markets, always offering what's new, better and innovative. Photography styles here and there come and go. How does the 'artist' take himself further into the future?
Being the conceptual photographer that Hoang Quoc Hoan a.k.a. chivasregal is, he feels that there's more to photography lately than simply taking images. Lately, he considers humanity and how photographic technologies that come around influence the world. The next decade will be another explosion of digital technologies. Thus, Hoang thinks, photographers should be more conscientious with their creation -- both with process and material. Everything now has meanings.
"Today, when talking about photography, we should not understand it merely based on its original meaning (not simply taking photos), and in the future, it will play a special role in the human life. And, for us, the photos or images with deep content, clear messages or ideas expressed by impressive visual effects, interesting will be more valuable than words, many times. I think that in the present, the past, or the future, photography or visual arts will increasingly influence and even change the world. I feel really excited about the future to come. At that time, the object or the topic for me to find inspiration, to exploit in order to create the images, will be richer and more interesting."
As we move into the next decade, it is important that the artist keeps their feet on the ground, to be realistic and persevering. We just have to keep doing what we love and keep going.
For photographer and teacher Paul Monroe, a.k.a. pmonroe, 2019 has been a year of living in the moment, believing that 'tomorrow is not a promise.. today is a gift'. Paul's approach to film photography is gentle and inviting -- allowing sceneries, cities, and beaches to open themselves up to him. As such, his artistic journey for the past year (and for the decade) has been all about seizing every chance, and constantly feeding his creative curiosity. As such, he wouldn't be calling himself an artist-photographer any time soon, not until he quenches his thirst for the analogue arts:
"I wouldn’t call myself as an artist-photographer per se, but rather someone that simply feels curious. I’m curious to see how a specific film will render through an old particular lens or camera. I’m curious to see what will happen when I cross-process this film or that. I’m curious to see if vintage expired films will still turn out decent results or not. I’m curious to see how my artistic ideas can capture a moment in the way that I actually imagined. I’m curious about distant lands and their cultures, and how I can explore and reveal them aesthetically on film. And with an almost infinite amount of things that happen every single day, I’m also curious about what I will randomly encounter out in the world when a film camera is in my hand ready to shoot. With whatever I capture, it’s frozen in time never to happen in that exact way again. That’s so cool, and what makes film photography so incredibly unique."
As film photography moves forward, there are more boundaries that analogue artists must break. The future looks very promising for Lomographer artists.
The Treasures We Are Proud Of
Philippe's year has been full of excitement and novelty, noting how much film photography companies have spoiled him this year. The new LomoChrome Purple formula and the return of the Kodak Ektachrome, and the available lenses for his Leica camera expanded has given him more opportunities and shots to take.
What we love about Philippe's 2019 favorites is that they are also about his favorite people in the world. He's most proud of his very raw and honest shot of his wife looking at their son in the background.
"I love this photo! It was taken with the Leica M7 at a large aperture which explains the total absence of depth. My partner was getting out of the shower and I took the picture very fast, without thinking. We can guess my son in the background."
He also loves his shot of his son wearing a carnival mask at the little wooden shack in their garden. He used a roll of Lomography X-Pro Slide 200 loaded on his LC-A 120, emphasizing the iconic Lomo look further.
Paul's year was filled with exploration and experimentation. Despite being busy throughout the year as a teacher, Paul took most of the opportunities to explore and experiment in Vietnam, Japan, Australia, the United States, and finally South Korea, where he and his family resides. His most treasured moment of 2019 was the day he took Ridin' on the Range, a simple yet beautiful shot of Paul's homeowner riding out his motorcycle into the horizon, and the photo have quite a heartwarming story to tell.
Paul's move to South Korea did not come without challenges, as the first night was Paul scrambling for a place to stay. With the help of his sister, his family managed to move into a home at the beautiful Korean countryside. By stark contrast, the next day was just full of blessings. That afternoon, Paul was sitting on the front fo the porch of their new home. He took a shot of the owner taking his motorcycle out for a ride. Additionally, he worried for the home owner's safety on the way, as the largest and roughest winter storms in South Korea were creeping in the skies. Eventually finding out that the owner made it back home just in time before the hail was all the more beautiful day for him.
"I remember feeling so incredibly relieved and happy that we had found such a peaceful place to stay on such short notice. What makes this photo also quite interesting to me is that it was actually the first shot that I took on a new pristine vintage camera (Miranda RE-II + Auto Miranda EC 50mm f/1.4) that I had cheaply obtained at a second-hand shop just days before. It hardly had a scratch on it, but I wasn’t entirely sure of its capabilities or if it fully functioned. However, I slung in a roll of Kodak Color Plus 200 while sitting on the front porch and snapped this first shot. What a beaut! Even though one side of the photo appears darker than the other (probably due to the shutter not having been fired at 1/1000 in decades)."
Meanwhile, Hoang's year has been cumulative and research-invested especially in his area of expertise with conceptual photography: " I have to research and practice to get more yet different experiences or knowledge. For example presentation form of ideas, conductors or materials to contain the idea, etc. Therefore, in 2019 I have not completely focused on creating or producing complete works."
His favorite shot for 2019 was an image taken at the Tenryu-Ji Temple, which pays attention to natural composition. The shot is all about creating frames. For Hoang, the setting piqued his interest due to the Japanese frames and the colors coming from the leaves outside. He immediately noticed the two people on the left frame, and thought all the elements surrounding them were perfect for a photograph. However, Hoang quickly realized this area is a pretty tourist hotspot in Kyoto, hence tourists often kept going in and out of his camera frame. While he had a tripod, he couldn't use the slow-motion trick in the situation as he couldn't exactly know when his subjects (the two people in the image) will leave. With patience, he finally got the perfect shot. After more than an hour's worth of waiting, two people in the left doorframe remained, sitting still together, just with the perfect distance:
"Those two people, the door frames, colorful leaves outside,... everything seemed to really freeze in the stillness moment. At that moment, I seemed to have become an audience that witnessed other things moving (tourists, the light ...), just only the two peoples and the motionless frames of the doors. I seem to have seen the flow of time, youth and life pass outside the door frames.
Hoang then named the shot, Where Time Stands Still, a moment, experience, and a 'priceless gift' for Hoang.
Hoang's also mentioned how proud he is with a recent film swap project during his trip to Thailand and Japan last year.
The Experiences To Learn From
Of course, as with all our acquired achievements, we've also garnered plenty of what we would personally consider as 'failures'. Worst photographs? We don't think there's such a thing! However, we still believe that it's important that we artists address the things that we deem as our 'shortcomings'. Acknowledging our mistakes, our blunders is the most important step in overcoming our insecurities.
What Paul considers as his 'worst' image is Remembering Castlevania, a tilted shot of a staircase found in Granbury, Texas. The vintage staircases immediately reminded him of the Nintendo game "Castlevania". While the image's actually pretty cool in other people's eyes, Paul thought the shot may have been better if he retained the natural angle or to take the shot much closer, peering up the stairs.
Artists react to their personal mistakes in two ways: to be accepting or to be negating. Either way, mistakes have their way of creating fear among us, disabling us in taking the next step further. Sometimes, Paul feels the same -- feels fear, holds him back. Thus, for 2020 and the next years, Paul hopes he would be able to trust himself more:
"As I use many vintage cameras without a working light meter or even those with one, I sometimes feel the need to bracket several shots because I’m afraid that I may not get what I imagine on the first. However, I’ve noticed that whenever I do this, it’s the first shot that almost always appears to look the best. Therefore, I need to trust in my ability to judge the correct aperture and corresponding shutter speed without much worry."
Hoang's one regret for 2019 though was being unable to carefully preserve a treasured photograph of his wife and son during their Japan trip last November 2019:
"For me, photography is not only a way to show the photographer's worldview, but also a tool to capture our emotions. That trip was very meaningful to my small family. When shooting, I tried to control everything. However, unfortunately for me when the roll of film has been expired since 2014 and I have not preserved it well. That carelessness didn't allow me to correct it anymore, and that's bad!"
He wishes that he will be able to get more creative this year by mastering the basics of the photographic principle.
Failure is subjective and is never the same for two people. Such is with Philippe's image of his son and wife, light leaks almost eating up the entire photograph except for the faces of his subjects. Sometimes, even images that we consider 'worst' can actually be a turn of surprise. "This what is great with analogue: sometimes, even the worst failures product nice surprises!" he says. For Philippe, the most important to keep in mind is to don't think, just shoot, and have fun, the very essence of Lomography.
Just keep doing you.
The Changes We Undergo
The artist is always self-conscious. Paul noticed how he became more thoughtful about each shot and developed his patience for the last couple of years. He would often fly through rolls of film, shooting everything neat that he saw: " I mean, there were indeed photos that I took my time on, and also some awesome in-the-moment quick-shots, but the majority of each roll was like a Wild West shoot ‘em up with a lack of aim or distinct theme."
He also believed getting involved the "Film Club" in Texas has given him a lot of joy in teaching students about film:
" To see their smiles and joy upon receiving their own camera to keep and use is far more valuable than the cameras itself. I’d do it again and again if I could. Perhaps in 2020, I will be able to start another Film Club at the new school I teach at."
Thus, Paul suggests fellow photographers to always have a loaded camera handy wherever, whenever you go. Exploring, experimenting and being curious is key to improvement.
Throughout the years, Hoang has realized he will never let go of the analogue grind. Having started photography since 2009 and film photography in 2012, film has been his main tool. His perception of film has changed indeed -- for the better.
"To me, it has always been one of the best materials to present/ perform/ show the photographic works in general, conceptual photography pictures in particular. I think it is also one of the very important elements in getting the most powerful visual effect. And, sometimes film photography is also my inspiration (especially when I compose conceptual foto concepts with the 120mm film, I also shoot with 35mm film to make "database rolls of film" with highly detailed notes attached. And then, I will swap films with them and hope that with a little luck I will have interesting photos.
Tomorrow is Not a Promise, Today is a Gift
Not only we're bidding goodbye to 2019, but we're also wishing our farewells to a very iconic and important decade to film photographers. For artists here in Lomography, we always try our best to make sure we spend our days fruitfully, and the coming days will have more in store for the analogue artist. Hoang plans to keep on focusing on his beat in conceptual photography, and possibly showcase his work to the public eye.
"All roads lead to Rome, so perhaps like many photographers in the world, I want to get more experience and focus on composing conceptual photography using the human body. In addition, perhaps I should think about attending some conceptual photo projects or hosting a personal photo exhibition, maybe."
A new year (a new decade!) means another year of taking chances and challenging ourselves, nurturing our creativity. It also means we're given another chance to expand our horizons. Paul will be going to a few small trips in Japan, hoping he will be able to try out a myriad of films and lenses while exploring places and meeting new people.
"In addition, some plans are in the works to go on a road trip all throughout California later in the year, and also perhaps go on an adventure in Northern Italy where I’m sure many great photo opportunities await."
For 2020 onwards, Philippe is set on experimenting and spending more time with a black and white film and is excited to finally burn a roll of the very much anticipated LomoChrome Metropolis -- and he'll keep photographing with people, both strangers, and familiar faces:
"At a time of inward-looking attitudes, we need warm, conviviality more than ever! For 2020, Lomographers, show us people who are happy to live together! In 2020, I intend to start processing my black and white films at home. I know that it is not that complicated, I just need to find time to start! And I wait with growing agitation for the new LomoChrome Metropolis film!"
Lastly, take it all in ease, one step a time. There is no rush to immediately evolve into the best version of yourself as an artist. The journey to get to your goals has always been more meaningful as we learn from experiences.
As Paul would put it, "...'tomorrow' is not a promise, and so I must try my hardest to enjoy the gift of 'today' as each day brings many special opportunities to serve and help others, as well as explore one’s own creative endeavors," and we couldn't have said it any better.
Huge thanks to Lomographers frenchyfyl, chivasregal, and pmonroe for opening up their own experiences as seasoned artist photographers! How was the year 2019 for you as a photographer? What are you looking forward to for the next decade? Share your thoughts by commenting below!