Currently based out of Abu Dhabi, Dina Salem is a Palestinian photographer who finds herself rooted everywhere and nowhere at the same time. As a child, she dreamt of becoming a filmmaker, and always expected to work in the field of visual media, but 2020 had other plans for her. Graduating in the midst of a pandemic, she found herself producing stories from the Arab world in the form of radio documentaries, a new medium for her to dip her toes in. But her visual vocabulary remains an essential part of her everyday life, immortalizing friends, families, and bits and pieces of life on film. With some Lomography Color Negative 100, Dina has been experimenting with some dreamy multiple exposures, creating other-worldly landscapes.
Hello Dina! It's great to have you here at Lomography. First off, can you tell us how did you get into photography?
My older sister, who was really the impetus behind me taking up photography, gave me her digital camera a few years ago and it took off from there. I quickly became comfortable with digital photography and it wasn’t long before I found film and bought my first camera, a second-hand Canon AE-1. I shot my first roll in less than a day and didn’t even take time to consider the type of film I was using, whether I was metering correctly or not, or how I would process my negatives when I was done. I even opted for a roll of Portra 400, under the guise that using an expensive and professional film would automatically give me dreamy and intimate results like the ones that inspired me to venture into film photography in the first place.
Now, in hindsight, all the assumptions I had about film, and photography, in general, were funny and really contradicted a very personal process that I’ve come to admire. It's safe to say that these days my film rolls cost less, but I still feel that rush of loading a fresh roll into the camera like it's my first. Film scares and excites me at the same time. I make more mistakes than I’d like to admit and through those errors, I learn a great deal. Working with film feels dialogical, it makes room for patience, humility, and, most of all, agency. I have so much control but I can also surrender in so many ways and allow the chemistry and the light to do their thing.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I think my physical surroundings inspire me, from the city I am in, to the people I am around. In Beirut, the chaos of the city – something I wasn’t accustomed to before living there – drew me to night photography. Winter in Abu Dhabi invites delicate pockets of light around my house and I find that I am more inclined to take intimate family portraits when I am there. On my first trip to Palestine, I was spontaneously captivated by street photography. I am a relational person and so I think my photographs inherently adopt that character.
Can you tell us more about the pictures you sent us?
Some of the photos are from my trip to Sri Lanka, where I really immersed myself in photography. Others represent memories with friends and family, without whom my entire portfolio will likely not exist.
How did you start experimenting with multiple exposures? What do you like about them?
My first double exposure was the result of an accidental jam in my camera and I was immediately taken aback because up until then I hadn’t realized just how imaginative and
whimsical film can be. Double/multiple exposures are not just two or more superimposed images – although technically they are. They are relational, unruly, and inherently demand a sense of recklessness. There’s a belief that “the artist always controls the medium”, but I feel that I am drawn to multiple exposures precisely because they feel so out of control.
From the pictures you sent us do you have a favorite one?
I always admired the two double exposures of my three sisters running on the beach in Sri Lanka. It was the first time my sisters and I ever collectively travelled together and those two images remind me of a time of tranquility and freedom. I remember chasing after them with my camera on the beach that day to take these, ironically on a gloomy and cloudy day when I was tempted to leave my camera behind.
You seem to have shot quite a lot of Lomography films. Do you have a favorite one?
I admire the versatility of Lomography CN 400, and it really renders color beautifully in almost all settings. But I am always on the hunt for less predictable film, so I have a feeling I will be shooting with Redscale and Lomochrome Purple, and Metropolis a lot more in the future. I find that I always go back to Lomography film because they are some of the few affordable resources for young and amateur film photographers in a creative terrain where the film is still expensive and access are limited.
Do you have any big projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?
Before the pandemic, I had planned on traveling to Cuba and then to Palestine to document the old city of Nablus on film. Those two projects are on hold for now but I am currently in the process of planning and conceptualizing a self-published zine. I think I have more dreams than plans, maybe one day running a local Darkroom in Palestine, or creating a space where film photographers from the region can come together and allow the medium to thrive.