In line with his experience in the US Army as a journalist, Atlanta-based documentarist Rydell Tomas Jr. took 12 rolls of the Lomography Color Negative 400 35 mm film to capture the life in Afghanistan.
Rydell is a man on a mission -- to raise awareness and address cultural issues uncommonly tackled through the 35 mm film medium. He started shooting on film a few years ago after buying his first DSLR camera. Eventually, he developed a habit of relying too much on the digital medium, that the editing process has become tedious for him. After his first project American Dream, he started using film and settled on the slower and thoughtful pace. As a journalist who was covering serious and sensitive issues and matters such as an American soldier's story, he liked the fact that he could take his time more to think things through with composition for each exposure.
He was deployed to Afghanistan with the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team as a journalist in early 2019. Now, he returns to us with his accumulated work in the field:
"It’s a lot different than the States. Most of the things we take for granted are viewed as luxurious in a country like Afghanistan. The people are very genuine, but our social norms are very different. I started making my documentary project after visiting a few provinces. Most people back home don’t realize there’s still a war going on. And although the country is in conflict, most of the locals are regular people. I just wanted to show the general public there’s more out there than war and conflict."
There are no other words needed to describe the results of his work apart from being raw and authentic. As with documentary photographers, it's a must to be able to visually communicate these realities -- objectivity being prioritized. His documentary photos are composed in a way as if the audience themselves are encountering the characters of his series, be it with bazaar merchants, Afghan commandos or American soldiers.
"I feel like a good photograph is a genuine photograph. The moments leading up to making that picture are what makes it 'good'. You should be able to connect with your people because they’re giving you a moment of their life. Something they may never experience again, so you have to cherish those special moments. They’re doing you a service, whether you realize it or not."
To be able to achieve authenticity on analogue, the documentary photographer used the Lomography Color Negative 400 for each shot. While it was his first time to experience the film, Rydell did not fuss too much on how the photographs would come out so long as the story would be able to translate vision into pictures, but was pleased with the results:
"Lomography 400 was really enjoyable to shoot my documentary project on. This was the first time I had worked with it, but I was happy with the results. At first, I wasn’t entirely focused on how the images would turn out. The story was the most important aspect of this project, but I would definitely work with Lomography Color Negative 400 again if given the opportunity."
Rydell is still in the process of finishing his documentary on Afghanistan and is looking forward to finding more work in the country by accepting commissions and applying for grants to collaborate with a publisher. He's also set in releasing a photo book or holding an exhibit soon, to be able to tell the stories he's captured on camera to a wider audience: "I would really like to create a photo book and hopefully host an exhibition at an art gallery. I feel like prints and books are the best way to enjoy conceptual projects. Documentary projects are my main focus, and that’s what I want to give my all of my efforts to. I’m really excited about the future, I can see myself making work for a very long time."
And so, we're looking forward to more of the stories around the world that he'll be taking through analogue.