London-based Paul Johnson Rojas caught our eye with his unique style of lo-fi photography. Every nuance, dust mark, grain, light leaks, and sprocket holes are surreptitiously kept in each photo, adding to the natural and glorious aesthetic that can only be achieved when shooting with film. We talked with Paul about his body of work, what makes him choose this creative direction and how he found shooting with the LomoChrome Purple film.
Hello Paul, please introduce yourself to the Lomography community.
Hey, my name is Paul and I am a filmmaker but over the last few years, I have taken an interest in film photography.
Your photos have a specific grungy, grainy feel to them, is this an aesthetic you consciously set out to achieve?
I think that was one of the reasons why I took such a particular interest in film photography. I find real beauty in the imperfections that you get from film. When I started doing some of my first portrait sessions I was using expired film with very low ISOs indoors. I was extremely underexposed and asked my lab to push the film by 4 or 5 stops.
I thought at the time that my results were going to be terrible, but in the end, I actually really liked the results that I got and other people seemed to find it interesting too. From then on I kept pushing what I could experiment with. From freezing/burning polaroids to sprinkling dust over my scanner, I find it fun to see all these strange results I can get.
Have there been any big influences on your work over the years?
I'm a big cinephile so my biggest influences have always been the films I watch. From the aesthetics of cinematographer Leon Shamroy to Christopher Doyle.
I guess with my film background the thing I want to achieve the most with my photography is to tell short stories within one still.
How does using film play into your aesthetic? Do you work with what it gives you or are you able to manipulate the film to get the required outcomes?
Although I love shooting on film, and it’s pretty much all I use in terms of photography. I am definitely not against playing with inorganic techniques in post. I love to smudge my images in Photoshop, or further manipulate colors. I love how much you can stretch film, and I actually think the results are much more special than when you are manipulating digital images.
How did you find shooting with the LomoChrome Purple film?
This was my first time shooting with LomoChrome Purple film. I had it stored for quite a few months as I was waiting for the right moment to use it. I was on a shoot with my model friend, Marie Osman in a beautiful studio in North London called Shutter House. I took my roll of LomoChrome and I’m so happy I did as it was the perfect place to use it. There were beautiful flowers in this old vintage-styled studio, and although I wasn’t 100% sure how things would come out, I just had a gut feeling that it would work. And actually, when I saw the results they were better than I ever imagined. Can’t wait to shoot a new roll!
Do you think film photography is coming back in vogue and if "yes" why?
I think film photography will never die, there is certainly something very special about it. And anyone getting into photography, in general, should shoot on film, just because it teaches you good discipline and makes you think about every photo you take. I would love to see film photographers keep pushing the boundaries more, just as they did during surrealist movements in the past. There is such a variety of films that people can get their hands on and so many different ways of experimenting through the process stage to the scanning. I think if people keep pushing the capabilities of film rather than relying on just the fact that they are shooting on film, then the results are limitless.
What's coming up in 2021?
I will continue working on my film and music video career. I have my first feature-length film that I shot in Peru going to festivals this year. In parallel to this hope to continue shooting film photography and experimenting as much as I can with new ideas.
See more of Paul's work via his Instagram page pol.ocho