Amidst the dark and harsh reality of the pandemic, the colorful world of Lomographer, visual anthropologist and film soup chef Patrice Baunov a.k.a. _baunovart_ flourishes beautifully. Spending most of the time experimenting with alternative processes and film effects, Patrice has built a repertoire akin to a film soup kitchen, where recipes will always be unique with each other as he takes anthropological visual storytelling to the next level. Take inspiration and learn more about his Lomographic artistry as we get to know him.
Firstly, how are you lately as a film photographer?
I’m doing quite okay despite the current global situation. Of course, I’m affected by it, too, but luckily, my job provides me still with a steady income which allows me to use the additional time available for other creative purposes related to analogue photography. Finally, I had the time to pursue some photographic processes which I always was thinking about but never really found the time to try them out. So I started experimenting with camera-less, alternative processes like cyanotype, lumen prints, and emulsion lifts which always fascinated me. It truly is a lot of fun to play with those techniques. But of course, I spent most of the time on my film photography stuff – I still have lots of films to develop, to scan, and to upload, as well as structuring and organising all the negatives; it’s a never-ending process. Surely you know what I’m talking about ;) Furthermore, I started planning and reaching out for new collaborative projects, and started submitting to more open calls. So I’m trying to make the best out of the current situation for being and staying a film photographer.
When did you first start concocting film soups?
I think I started trying out the first film soups just a few months after I discovered, in general, film photography for myself. The first film soups date back to the summer of 2015, just shortly after I started shooting film in February of the same year. Here in the Lomography Community, I stumbled over an article about film soups, and immediately I was intrigued to try it out myself. Since then, there was a time where I was more actively concocting different film soups and a period in which I was doing them less. But a recent trip to Barcelona, visiting and participating in the Exp.20 (International Experimental Photo Festival), reawakened the desire to play with film soups.
About your latest film soups — may you give us a summary of how you came up with them? What were the key ingredients?
My latest film soups came up by the above-mentioned reawakening to be a little bit more experimental again. Since I started focusing to shoot mainly medium format in the last 2-3 years, I decided to try to find a way to make film soups with 120 film. As you might be able to imagine, the process of “souping” 120 film is a bit different and maybe slightly more complicated than the process for the more commonly used 35mm films but yet not impossible. The problem is that you can’t just drop the 120 film in any vessel with liquid and let it soak – the backing paper would probably get destroyed and the film unwillingly exposed. The 35mm canisters make this a whole lot easier, and therefore more preferred for creating film soups. But there’s a work-around for 120 film: a film developing tank. In there, you are rid of the backing paper and you have a light protected vessel to soak your film in any liquids you’d like.
“This diverse background in Social Sciences combined with the documentary opportunities of analogue photography in particular, and my passion for creativity and art, made me identify myself as an artist with an anthropological approach towards my experimental photography.”
I would say the opportunity to interact with every single step of the photographic processes and to modify them with small or big alterations attracted me in particular to the experimental art of analogue photography. Experimentation is possible from the very first moment until the very last – from loading the film until making a print. It is a tangible process of creation that allows almost infinite possibilities to modify and play with. Most of the photographic processes are determined to invite for experiments, and when I started discovering just the beginning of those opportunities, I immediately fell for it. And by far, yet I haven’t tried out everything I still want to experiment on and with.
You identify yourself as a visual anthropologist. May you share to us what this means for you?
Hehe. Yes, based on my studies in Psychology, Pedagogy, Cultural Anthropology & European Ethnography, and Film Studies, I identify myself as an autodidactic visual anthropologist and even created the pun “arthropology” - a mixture of art and anthropology. This diverse background in Social Sciences combined with the documentary opportunities of analogue photography in particular, and my passion for creativity and art, made me identify myself as an artist with an anthropological approach towards my experimental photography. That means for me that I create an artistic way of storytelling, documentary, photographic diary of my environments, travels, experiences, and observations – which I plan to publish in the future as a series of anthropological photo books complemented with text. I’m (yet) not working in the academic field of visual anthropology but nevertheless I like to see myself as a “visual arthropologist”.
How do you marry 'objective' photography genres like documentary photography with experimental photography?
Photography is a wonderful tool for preserving and documenting the moment which otherwise will be just a memory, either in our mind or, if you write them down, in letters and words on a paper – while a photo is a more or less actual (I wouldn’t say objective because framing, composition, etc. is very subjective) visual representation of the moment. So analogue photography enables me for the visual documentation of my observations, and it allows me, as an artist, to experiment with modifications and manipulations of the photographic processes. The resulting photographs that I create could be classified as experimental documentary photography.
Could you share to us the challenges you've encountered in pursuit of your photographic style?
My biggest challenge was, and still is, to focus on those things and techniques that I do already good and to continue to perfect them. Ironically, exactly this challenge made me understanding that my style is experimental documentary photography. My urge constantly to focus on something new, to try out something different, to use every time another expired film or photo paper and to use different kinds of (sometimes expired or overused) developers, together with a huge variety of cameras, made it not easy to finally find my style. But I did because yet one thing was always consistent: I still wanted to document, to see part of the images that I tried to capture in those moments. I did not want to be too abstract, I wanted to create an artistic, dreamy, nostalgia evoking photographic documentary. Consistency and focusing were challenges, even though I was all the time consistent in my chaos. Now that I have found my style, my favourite cameras and films, I face the challenges to find exactly those films that I want to have – some specific films produced in the GDR and USSR. Yet it is possible but it becomes harder every time, so I’m preparing constantly for the challenge to find alternative ways to continue pursuing my photographic style with different methods.
Please share some tips to the community on how they should approach film soups!
First of all: Don’t be afraid – relax and just do it! In order not to be too afraid, I strongly recommend not to use the only film of your wonderful, precious holidays if you make a film soup for the first time – better use a film with photos that you can spare for this experiment.
Decide if you want to soup your film before or after you shoot it – both are possible. In case you soup it before shooting, make sure that the film is properly rinsed and dried (you really don’t want it to get sticky in your camera). If you soup your film after shooting, make sure, too, that your film is properly rinsed and dried before you give it to the lab for developing (because the labs are also not very happy if your whole soup will spill their chemistry). In order to avoid sometimes unpleasant experiences with the labs (even though many are totally cool with developing of properly prepared souped films), I recommend to develop the films by yourself, which by the way is a lot of fun, too.
Lastly, what's next for you?
The next thing for me to happen will be the launch of an online shop with the artworks of my wife and me. Especially because of our recent creative productivity, we decided that finally it is time to make selected artworks and photos available for purchasing - it is nice to create but it also would be very nice to sell something every now and then.
Furthermore, I want to push forward the artist collective Berlin Mafia which I’m running together with the Lomography community members @antoniocastello, @zonderbar, and @juliashropshire, and a few other Berlin-based artists.
Another thing is continuously to submit several of my artworks and series to different open calls for projects and exhibitions. I already had several projects planned and organized for this year but due to the current situation, plans and projects have to be changed and re-arranged for 2021.And last but not least I’m planning on releasing my first photo book by the end of the year but there’s still a lot of work to do on it.
Besides that, for me always the next thing is simply the next experiment I might fall for.