When it comes to experimental analogue, life can be full of surprises. Belgian-based Lomographer Lars Bauwens a.k.a. @vuori recently rediscovered an old and expired film and shot with it, unknowing that he already presoaked it in lemon juice 10 years ago. Lars went on to capture the usual things he would — his family, memories, portraits. After he home-developed the film, the roll resulted in some psychedelic and colorful compositions. Get to know more about Lars and this series in this interview.
Hi Lars! How are you lately and how's life as a photographer nowadays?
I’m great, I’m a man with billions of projects all the time so sometimes it’s a lot, but luckily it’s all my own choice so I’m great, thanks for asking! Apart from just taking pics as a hobby, I’m not really a photographer (not anymore), because of always doing it as a job for others, I kind of lost the love for photography in the last few years. I’m still a videographer and that’s also still my biggest passion to do as a job, so I’m good with that!
May you share with us how you got into film? How did it all start?
Well, I was cleaning up my place two months ago and wanted to get rid of all my analogue cameras that people gave me the last 15 years or so -- most were given to me because “you are a photographer and you can maybe do something with it”. I found more than 15 cameras in different boxes and closets and just before I wanted to give them away for free on a giveaway Facebook group I also found finished film rolls that I shot around 10 years ago, I just remembered when I saw them. nine color rolls and two black and white rolls. Also found some packs of unused rolls as well, ready to give them away as well. But I first went to a local photo store to develop those nine color rolls… 90 EUR for development and low res scans!! And most of those pictures were crap! That was a lot, so I decided to buy a Cinestill Monobath Df96 to develop those two black and white rolls because it costs even more to let them develop those rolls. And life is cheaper doing a lot of DIY, right? Haha.
When I experienced the magic of developing films myself I was immediately hooked! So I checked which of the cameras were still usable and I ordered a bunch of Lomography Earl Grey, AgfaPhoto APX and Ilford film stocks, because I had that Monobath and I didn’t want to throw it away after two rolls. I also bought a second-hand Plustek OpticFilm 8100 and some CR2 batteries for my Canon EOS 300. Of course, and I think I’m not alone in this, those rolls didn't stay long in their package and I ordered another 30 rolls of Fomapan 100, 200 and 400. After using some very old color rolls that I found while cleaning up I, of course, started developing color films as well. And here I am now, two months later, and shot/developed more than 30 rolls of film already.
It was mentioned in the film soup album that you presoaked the film 10 years ago in lemon juice. If you can recall -- what were your first intentions about that particular roll of film, years ago?
The last roll I found was an Agfa Vista 200 in a canister with an X mark. When I opened it I saw that the film leader looked a bit greasy and dirty but I didn’t really remember what was “wrong” with it or if it was already used before, but I never heard of retracting film from a canister so it couldn’t be like that.
I did remember that I read something about destroying film before using it around like 10 years ago and that I tried it on a roll. Didn’t know if it was already called film soups back then but I clearly never used it after preparing it. So anyway I just put it in my Canon EOS300 and started shooting with it, mainly double exposures.
You only shot the film just recently -- what was the photoshoot about and what were your initial plans for the series, prior to remembering that you used a presoaked film?
I used the film roll as any other color film I had, shooting some nature, family pics and -what I like most- some trial shots with a friend, new ‘band' photo’s for our audiovisual collective called Up High Collective. Because I told him about my new 35 mm film addiction and especially how cool analogue multiple exposures are we wanted to try to shoot some visuals — we made colorful visuals with oil liquids and filmed those- on his computer screen and put his face in the dark parts on the second exposure. It was all just a test to see if it was usable for better pictures a few days later.
What was your first reaction when you saw the developed shots?
I was amazed when I scanned them! I literally said WOW a few times and I was really excited! I sent him the scans straight away and he was also very amazed by them. And when I saw the weird dots on the pictures I somehow remembered that I used lemon juice to soak that film roll so many years ago. Especially on those trial pics, we made the effect was the most pleasing, on some family pics with my young nieces I was a bit odd though! Hahaha.
Please share with us, have you learned or gained some insights about this happy coincidence?
What I learned most about film soups, or even expired film, is that it’s way cooler than any post-processing you can do on pictures or even video. Because when you do post-processing, you start with the picture and the you add effects (light leaks, grain, cracks, filters) all in function of your main picture. While with this, what I call pre-processing from now on, you don’t know what ‘damage’ is on that part of the film roll where you will burn some image while pressing the shutter, and that’s so cool if you ask me! It’s like having no full control over the result, even tho you might know what effect your film soup is going to give.
Any piece of general yet helpful advice for film shooters out there? And what's next for Lars?
I’d like to encourage all film shooters out there to go experimenting from time to time! It doesn’t hurt anyone and you learn quite a lot from it! I understand that most “pro” film shooters are against all these film soups or what else they hate, but it’s a lot of fun to try some “pre-processing” on an analogue, chemical product because for me it’s like letting go of the full control and it takes some guts in a way. Time for some more “adding a picture on an effect” instead of “adding an effect on a picture in Photoshop, Lightroom or Instagram”!
Life is an adventure, right? Let’s be adventurous!