Lomographer Lena, a.k.a. lalouve, guides us into her enchanting, experimental vision of the analogue arts through her mastery of the double exposure. Her artistic story is truly one that's inspiring and creatively provoking as she goes limitless with film.
Lena's analogue and Lomographic life is a happy accident. It wasn't planned, but something she needed. It was 20 years ago when she started shooting with the LC-A, no clue with experimental techniques, and was still studying art-therapy. Lena was highly fascinated with sculptural works ad installations, and being more of a 'visual' person, she started warming up and having fun with the Lomo camera, but that was just the beginning.
"Becoming a professional photographer was not my intention. Some years later I got a digital camera and my analogue equipment of precisely two cameras (LC-A & Actionsampler) had to wait for a few years until I used it again... Technically I find it incredibly fascinating that negatives do not consist of megapixels but of grain. Still, it makes me speechless every time I realize it. Nowadays every aspect of life - at least in the so-called western world- seems to be unbreakably connected to pixels, data, computers and the web but I neither have a TV nor an own computer so why on earth should I work with a digital camera?"
She then returned to film again, retiring from being a wanderer living in a small van, finding the need to expand her tools of making art. Then she began experimenting with double-exposures, all for the name of art experimentation. With little to zero professional equipment, she stumbled upon a tutorial by Lomographer Hodaka Yamamoto a.k.a. hodachrome and photographs by sobetion and that was how she knew she was about to dive into a creative adventure. Lena said that the Lomography Community has been a great inspiration for her, enrapturing her with other photographers' works as well as filling her with knowledge and support.
"The Lomo community caught me with countless inspiring works of so many talented photographers. I am very grateful for all the inspiration, support, knowledge, skills, and tips & tricks I received here by all you generous & kind souls."
Lena's exposures are carefully crafted and have a painterly quality to them, the compositions even daring to be cinematic. She's very keen on perspective and light, looking for a contrast -- be it with a flower illuminated by a sunbeam along with darker shrubs to highlight her motifs It's important to visualize the image first before pressing the shutter, often playing around angles and perspectives, be it with a worm's eye-view or bird's eye view.
Along with music, books, philosophy, and such, Lena also reiterated that having a community with fellow passionate, quirky, and artistic photographers such as the Lomography community truly helped her grow as an artist. Seeing all of these things combined render even more greatness.
The entire world is the potential -- nature and architecture can easily blend together in her world. She's also a lover of change and possibilities, highly being inspired by these concepts. It is why, for Lena, every double-exposure she gets is what she believes she deserves. Loving the spontaneity, the overlap of two or more exposures lie not on her hands, but on luck and coincidence. In Lena's eyes, double exposures on film must reflect how we live our lives.
"Double exposure for me is like dreaming while I am walking through reality wide awake. To get dreamy photos I have to let go and invite coincidence to influence my work because too much control easily leads to inanimateness. Forces and flows of life set free from regulation show us that everything is possible."
Her eye for color and space makes her photographs very eyecatching, her visual language unique and refined. To make unique double or multiple exposures, Lena believes that focusing on one technique should be prioritized. Leave all the other things behind first -- consistency is the key.
"You may feel foolish or nerdy, you may feel like stuck at times and might have the impression that you don't make any progress. Keep track even though. Go deeper and deeper. Progress will appear in waves and you'll be surprised to speechless at times. This way you surely will find your style, your distinct approach."
Here, Lena enumerated what every multiple and/or double exposure needs, in her own words:
Courage: Learn to let go of your creations and give room to randomness. Don't worry if it feels like walking on a tightrope at the beginning and if it doesn't turn out perfect right away. Trial & error was my best teacher as well. Note that with double-exposed films you should rather not assume that the whole film will be incredibly great. 2-3 fascinating combinations per film are often already a good result with random shots. Please do not have too high expectations of yourself as it leads to disappointment. -And that's bullshit anyway :)
Effort: Often I read the tip that you shouldn't use your most precious film for trying double exposures or any other experiment. But I think this tip is only half-correct: of course, you don't want to risk ruin any wedding photos. Nevertheless, you should always try to capture the best photo you ever shot -always & with every single shutter-release! If you just shoot you pics half-heartedly for an experiment, of course, the results will not be breathtaking. But if you put some effort into a good base (a well-exposed film full of great photos) you will get stunning results. It's a matter of fact in my eyes and I never got disappointed following that advice.
Contrast: Most important is the division of the light and dark areas! The second exposure will only be visible in the dark areas of the picture. The bright areas will 'burn out' by the light and the second exposure will be very pale or not visible at all. Often doubles with landscapes look like 'cut' because the bright sky burnt the upper half of the frame. Apart from dark areas and illuminated subjects you can either make sure to get a good contrast by choosing sharp lines, opposing topics for the two layers, different perspectives and angles and contrary sizes of subjects. Or you can try to shoot very soft doubles with less contrast, less opposing choices.
ISO: For double exposures, you should double the ISO settings of your camera, so that the film is supplied twice with half of the required light. For example, an ISO 200 film is at best exposed twice at ISO 400.
Marking: To avoid black bars in the doubles and to get a clean overlap I mark the first frame with a fine permanent marker when I insert the film into a camera. I use this marker as an orientation for the second insertion of the film.
Notes: As mentioned above I do not make precise notes of the composition of every single picture but what I always do is writing down what I generally captured, which ISO-setting I shot the film with and which camera I used. Initially, I did this for the sake of understanding & learning but meanwhile, it helps a lot to create what I have in mind. Random shooting is fun as well, but I prefer a few little notes and a vague plan :) Precise notes of every single picture help a lot if you wish to keep the whole experiment under control as much as possible.
For more in-depth tipster, Lena wrote an article exposure-from-above-pt-ii about it here in Lomography Magazine.
Last winter, Lena participated at EXP.21, an experimental photography festival in Barcelona, and will return again this year. Lately, Lena is currently expanding her knowledge further with experiments in solitude, a blessing in disguise. No lockdown occurred in her home, and she's already amassing a collection of undeveloped photographs of spring flowers, all waiting for their second exposures. Her other films are also chilling in the freezer, also waiting for their second round. Lena also shared that she got herself a new 35mm camera with a waist-level finder, the Ihagee Exa 1c. Now, she aims she will be able to participate in exhibitions soon.