Over the years we've featured a bevy of film soups using a variety of ingredients—from wine to liquid detergent and everything in between. We've witnessed all sorts of effects brought about by these strange brews, ranging from subtle color shifts to surreal, psychedelic distortions. This is why we love discovering photographers who are brave enough to risk a few film rolls for something so unpredictable!
Meet Clara Rodriguez —a Quality Assurance Engineer and a film photographer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has always loved taking pictures, but it wasn't until 2018 when she got into film.
"I started to work as a QA for video games and also started a beautiful relationship (that's lasting until this day and many more) with Pato, who encouraged me to get myself a film camera and start shooting. So what I did was actually post on my Facebook account if anyone had a film camera lying around and luckily a nice guy gifted me his grandparents' film cameras: a Canon Sure Shot 80u and a 126 Instamatic 56x (the camera that Amelie has in the movie) and from there my journey began. At first, all my pictures looked moved or blurry, I had to get my camera right and practice with it, now I know every camera is different."
In February 2020, before the pandemic happened, Clara won a scholarship for a course on processing and experimenting with film. Her teacher, Camila, studies Chemistry so she knows a lot about the processes. She learned how to develop in C-41, ECN-2, E6, B&W, even Wineol and Caffenol. The experience encouraged her to continue her learnings at home, which provided the convenience to dabble in other "interventions on negatives" using paint and glitter. And then, she unknowingly stumbled into the film soup technique. She recalls that her first film soup was with tomato and orange, but it wasn't so successful.
"For a time I wouldn't go back to that technique until January this year basically; I went to visit friends in Entre Rios (a beautiful green province here in Argentina) and I had brought with me so many film rolls that I thought why not make film soups with a couple of them and share the experience with my friends. We did two film soups but didn't get great results from that either. They were cool but we had a lot of technical problems, as I left them to dry in the sun and that made the negative super sensitive and super sticky as well so it was difficult to shoot. But I really fell in love with the process and the possibilities, especially the possibilities that it has. I'm not limiting myself with film soups. I also embroider on pictures, I intervene the negatives, I boil them sometimes even (results are amazing) but film soup I believe is my first and most growing love."
Though she hasn't personally named her favorite experiments, what comes to mind at the moment is FFF (Fruits, Fungi, and Film). Since it all started accidentally, she didn't really imagine that it was going to turn this big for her, until recently, when she realized that she's in it for the long haul.
She shares a few of her recipes and some insights about the process:
"The experiments started with a batch of, I believe around 6 film rolls, that I souped with the intention of selling souped rolls (I ended up keeping them at the end haha). For those ones I used: Honey - Mascavo Sugar - Bitter Chocolate - Water of Roses - two serums and one body cream. All organic ingredients (this is important) and I called the roll "Cielo" which means sky in Spanish. I exposed one roll and left the others to dry for a week I think, after that time I thought they were completely dried so I put them back on the plastic canister that they come with.
"Inside that canister is where the fun started, of course I didn't know yet but the rolls weren't properly dried so with the humidity they had and putting them in a closed container makes it the perfect habitat for fungis, and that's why it's important that the ingredients are organic. When I took that roll outside the canister it was covered in fungus (it may be said that it was half intentional half not, the soup was intentional but the fungus did surprise me) so I rinsed it with water and shot it. Results were incredible, beyond amazing, and if you zoom in the pictures you can see "structures" like neurons maybe. I think this works because the negative is made of gelatin, so it's also a kind of organic matter that the fungus can feed on. It was kind of great for me when some grapes I had on the fridge went bad; I put them into a jar, tossed some rolls in there, and completed the jar with warm water, which softens the layers of the negative."
She is quick to note that the water can't be too hot, otherwise you can kill the fungus.
"Then I left them in the jars for about 24hs though it depends on the mixture if it's more concentrated the ideal thing to do is leave them less time and vice versa. I did other ones with lemons, oranges, and turmeric, etc. I also tried papaya not so long ago, I smashed the fruit this time and put it in a container with a bit of water, and left the roll in there for like a day or so. Results were amazing as well, though maybe I have to leave the rolls for a bit less time because the majority of them were completely destroyed though the results are amazing they're so abstract. I always keep the jars with the ingredients on them for future soups, honestly, some things are a bit disgusting and smelly but the results are worth it."
After that "accident", she decided to take notes of her experiment and considered other organic ingredients and fungus.
Currently, Clara is preparing a cocktail of oranges, kiwis, and bananas, and considering strawberries and dragonfruits—all the fruits she can find on the market. What has been challenging though, is the rising prices of film rolls.
"I'm managing it quite well but if it were for me I would buy 100 rolls and experiment the rest of the year with different ingredients every time (laughs). I also used other ingredients that weren't fruits like wasted almond okara which is the stuff that's left of doing almond milk (that one was a bit harsh), also a discharge cream with camphor which is also organic. There's another one I made with the vinegar that was left from cooking baby eggplants."
With all the ideas that Clara's been brewing, not to mention her passion and dedication for her art, we're very excited about what she'll come up with in the future.
"It is my kind of art and way of expression. I love all the mysticism it has, not knowing if you completely destroyed the film or if your pictures are going to show but also the effects sometimes have an air of intention as if I put them there on purpose and I think that's pure magic and I am always into magic."
To see more of Clara's photos, please visit her Instagram.