For most artists, being in the midst of a pandemic meant that the flow of inspiration and aspiration was more disrupted, but not for these ardent shooters! Canadian photographer Merlin Boissonneault arranged a photowalk with two lucky winners of an online giveaway to shoot out in the streets. Felice and John got to test out the Simple Use Reloadable Camera out in the sunny, COVID-safe streets of the city with Merlin. We talked to the three photographers to discuss their work and experience with the Simple Use Cameras and how they played around with Purple film!
Hello all! It’s great to have you here at Lomography! First off can you all introduce yourselves?
Merlin: Hello, I’m Merlin, I’m based in Toronto, but I am originally from Western Canada.
Felice: I’m Felice Trinidad based in Toronto, Canada.
John: Hey! I’m John Moran; I’m a portrait photographer, predominantly shooting on film, residing and working in downtown Toronto, Canada. Although I was born and raised in Calgary, AB Canada! While portraits are my bread and butter & catalyst to sublimate my hermit tendencies into greater connection, you will also find documentation of spaces as well as creative expression through abstraction of ideas projected from my inner experience across my work.
How long have you been taking pictures?
Merlin: I’ve been taking photos since the mid-’90s but didn’t get deep into film until about 4 years ago.
Felice:6 years now; 3 years since I began film photography.
John: Commercially, since 2016 at age 19. In general, for personal work, I’ve been photographing consistently since the age of 12.
How did you get into it, and why do you still shoot film?
Merlin: When I moved to Toronto, I was struggling with climatizing to the city. I started experimenting with Polaroid and that led me down a deep rabbit hole into the film world that has resulted in shooting many things from instant film, 35 mm, 120, and large format. I keep shooting film today because of the different stocks available and the feeling that I get from them. I have not been able to find something that feels the same shooting with digital.
Felice: I have always admired the aesthetic from things I’d see from Tumblr and fashion magazines and wondered how to achieve that effect. I continue to shoot film today for its authenticity, the ritual process of taking your time and valuing each shot, and the delayed gratification of shooting now and seeing your results later.
John: My earliest memory of finding film was at the aforementioned age of 12 during a road trip my family and I took from Calgary, AB to Los Angeles, CA which if you know is a very long way by car for a rambunctious child. I was an inquisitive kid who voraciously read and annoyed my parents with a barrage of questions around just about everything and I’m pretty sure they just wanted silence in retrospect. Somewhere during the trip, they got that peace finally when we stopped at a gas station where I saw a Kodak disposable camera on the rack. I naturally was curious and asked my Mom if she could buy it for me. At that point, she gave in and just thought it would be a short-lived distraction from the questions. Little did she know she was enabling a lifelong obsession with recording light on film and beyond. That whole trip I was glued to the viewfinder of that camera, reveling in its simplicity and tactility. And now getting the wonderful opportunity to use the Lomography Simple-Use line, it all comes full circle. I couldn’t be happier that film is more alive than ever not to mention the great community it enables. Film has brought a sense of belonging and I’m sure you can relate.
I really learned the fundamentals of photography in Junior high (Grade 8 here in Canada) though via a very limited Canon Rebel DSLR which I was allowed to rent from my library. Unfortunately, it slowly drained my love of photography but also gave me that invaluable foundation of knowledge. I still kept up with it regardless. But that magic I experienced with the disposable camera didn't come back until a few years later in high school when I found an old Nikon FM for sale, finding film again but now with more creative control of an SLR which escalated to me taking darkroom courses at my local community college. I’ve already rambled too long to give a cliche answer on why I shoot film, but simply put, I love film for the same reason I believe we all do.
Can you tell us a bit about the LomoWalk, how it went, if you already knew the others?
Merlin: The LomoWalk came about after chatting with Lomography about collaborating for a promotion. Lomo provided me with 3 Simple Use Cameras to give away on my Instagram, so I ran a promotion to do a LomoWalk with someone and a plus one. John was the lucky winner; I had met him before in the community, but I had not met Felice. The walk was great, it was a beautiful day and I feel that we all got some great shots.
Felice: I was fortunate enough to be invited by John (@rollsofyou) and Merlin (@merlindb), both of whom I’d never met before but were acquainted with through Instagram. For location, we decided on a quieter neighborhood on Toronto’s east end that had a nice mix of urban and nature-like scenes. We allowed spontaneity to dictate our path, and stopped at any place we found picturesque.
John: I had known the work of Merlin Boissonneault and Felice Trinidad for at least a year before going on a photo walk with them, chatting a bit with both over DM from time to time and following their work casually. I finally met Merlin in the summer of 2020 on another photo walk by serendipity and we stayed connected, eventually entering in his giveaway where I also tagged Felice, which culminated in us all winning the giveaway which made this photo walk and interview happen as a catalyst for us all to finally meet in person.
It went great! We decided to explore suburbia in this colorful Toronto neighborhood known as Leslieville. We all shared our stories, gave each other some relief from the pandemic, and we lucked out because it was such a gorgeous fall day with full-blown fall colors, perfect for Lomography film! We had all shot Lomography film quite a bit but never the Simple Use line. It felt like we all knew each other right away, film always seems to connect people like that.
The process. You start shooting a film anticipating the result, but you marry the medium when you fall in love with the process.
How was your experience shooting with the Simple Use Camera?
Merlin: I’d never used the Simple Use Camera before... I got one that's loaded with LomoChrome Purple which was a bit of a surprise when I got the film back -- but also kind of exciting because I’d never shot purple before and really enjoyed it.
Felice: It was a great experience to take away the bells and whistles of higher-end cameras to rely on a disposable camera for the day.
John: The cameras came loaded so we just got straight to shooting which was really convenient. I found it to be ergonomically perfect for my hand and intuitive except for rewinding the cameras at the end and loading it with a new film which took a bit of figuring out as it's inverted from a normal SLR loading experience but you quickly figure it out. You soon understand the limitations and it becomes an extension of your eye from that point forward, leaving energy to create boundlessly. I observed that we all sort of shot in ways we wouldn’t such as shooting flash during the day with color gels and even combining the gels for unique tones and colors which was fun! We even composed in ways we wouldn’t normally as well, being more liberal and reliving that early naivete of photography. It reminded us gearheads to just slow down and that photography doesn’t always have to be resistant. You can just pack any camera and go sometimes and it's refreshing.
What did you like about it?
Merlin: I really enjoyed how simple the camera is, it is very easy to use. I liked being able to experiment with the built-in gels for the flash. The camera is a pleasure to use, and it has become one of my favorite cameras to use. I’ve put almost a dozen rolls of film through it so far.
Felice: I enjoyed the ease of it being lightweight, simple to use, and stocked with colored filters to play with.
John: I liked how quick the flash reload time was, how small and unobtrusive it was (almost reminiscent of my beloved Olympus XA but with even less to think about). Like a rangefinder but without the patch, just a sports finder basically but surprisingly the shots came back all composed as I saw in the viewfinder. My favorite thing is that it’s not a boring old Kodak Gold or Ultramax disposable but a LomoChrome Purple one. We were just spoiled! No post-work needed, the colors just came out so vivid and the tonality was ethereal off the bat.
How did it fit your style?
Merlin: I like how quiet the camera is, most of my work is street or candid photos and the Simple Use Camera is like a little ninja with its super quiet shutter. It’s great for shooting photos from the hip to document daily life.
Felice: I loved the size and ergonomics of it being a discreet camera, easily fitting in a small purse, and being able to whip out whenever I saw fit.
John: It didn’t actually. I struggle with perfection and even though I’d say I’m equally creative as I am technical. But normally I always pack quite a few mediums. This isn’t a bad thing that it doesn't fit my style though, because I want to grow in the direction of bringing less gear to shoots and lowering the number of decisions I have to make overall. This helped remind me that was possible and that I need to do that more. Trust me to create with any camera I have on me that is.
How/Are you remaining creative during the pandemic?
Merlin: I’m not going to lie; the pandemic has really killed off my creativity. My output in 2020 was dramatically lower than in previous years. However, the projects I did work on I felt really good about. Lately, I’ve been going through my previous work to develop some books, I have a book of quarantine photos from the first lockdown in 2020 that will be going up for pre-order soon and will be working on a re-release of my first book and also a couple more photo books to be released later this year and early 2022. I’ve also started doing a weekly talk show called Photography Chat with Merlin that I do live on Instagram every Thursday at 8 pm EST and then post the recordings on YouTube and Apple/Spotify Podcast platforms. It’s been a great way to connect with other creatives and introduce people in the photography community to creatives they may have never heard of or have always wanted to interact with.
Felice: The pandemic has allowed me to be creative with smaller teams on set for safety reasons, as well as inspired me to seek joy in other art mediums such as music and writing.
John: I’ve mostly been using this time to implement systems in my life in solidifying lightroom catalogs and workflows linking them to my external hard drives and
synchronizing them with my analogue workflows. I know, the boring stuff haha. I’ve been doing this to build better habits such as keeping notes on every shoot. I’m also trying to stay off Instagram as much as I can for inspiration and find it within the direct experience and other mediums which is opening me up to so much new art. I also have gotten into Large format film during the pandemic which is keeping me endlessly challenged and occupied! I also have made decent headway in filling a notebook of ideas ready to execute for conceptual shoots once the restrictions lift! I love documenting spaces, but I really just want to get back to portraits!
To check out Merlin's work head over to his Instagram or check out his website, for Felice's work head over to her Instagram and her website, and to check out John's work head over to his Instagram and his website.
written by tamarasaade on 2021-04-01