In our first introduction of California-based street photographer Adali Schell, we learned how not to live life on autopilot, and instead be fully aware and completely in the moment. He achieves this simply with a camera in hand, ready to embrace all senses and capture moments in a split second. We wanted to continue seeing how he views the world, this time ultra-widely. During his trip to New York City, he set out with our Atoll Ultra-Wide 2.8/17 Art Lens mounted on his Leica M4-P and some Lomography film to do what he does best. He's not afraid to get up-close, personal, and expressive with his shots - that's his key to living life!
Hey Adali, welcome back to the Online Magazine! What have you been up to?
What's up Lomo friends! Thanks for having me again! I just got back from a two-month-long trip to NYC and the Midwest, and I’m in the middle of moving into my first apartment on the Westside to be closer to school after having grown up in East Hollywood. More importantly, I am in the middle of releasing my first ever zine comprised of Los Angeles street photography (which is now for preorder!) and I’m planning to have a separate solo exhibition of new work in NYC sometime soon. I’ve been feeling very grateful and excited for everything in my life - I am very lucky.
What prompted you to try out our Atoll Ultra-Wide Art Lens? What were your first impressions?
After being fortunate enough to visit the Lomography HQ in Dumbo, I was kindly offered to test out the new 17mm 2.8 Atoll Ultra Wide Art Lens with my favorite Lomography Color Negative film. Upon first feel, I noticed how smooth the Atoll is - there’s nice tension on the focusing knob, and the aperture doesn’t click into place. Rather, it moves in the same way as you would focus, which ultimately allows for greater freedom and precision with your exposures. It also has the correct on-lens markings and measurements to zone focus - very helpful to this practice we call street photography! The lens has a great minimum focus of about 8 inches which I was very impressed by as most M mount lenses need more distance. But most importantly, once I saw my pictures with the lens, I was completely amazed at how there is next to no distortion! Even at 24mm, most lenses fisheye, yet the Atoll renders the world oh so wide and evenly. I don’t understand how it looks so good, I am still shook.
What camera and film did you use it with for this series?
How did you go about using the Atoll Lens to fit your photography style?
As mentioned previously, I was getting really close to my subjects - closer than I’ve ever gotten. Trying to imagine just how wide the lens is was pretty baffling when photographing, and the pictures it can render feel almost too good to be true, solely in terms of the Atoll’s technical capabilities. Especially on the street, photographing 8 inches away from my subject was an interesting exercise! I realized that I could put myself in the frame more easily than I could with what I normally use, the 28mm, so I started taking selfies of myself going about my day. I visited the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum in Times Square and did Tefillin not once but twice on the way there (does that make me a bad Jew? I’m not sure.)
We love the up-close and personal angles of your subjects. With it being street photography, how do you manage to stay unnoticed?
Thank you! I felt that many didn’t even realize that they could be in the frame as it is so abnormally wide - it must’ve appeared to them that I was photographing over their shoulder or something like that. However, in the way that I tend to photograph the street currently, I normally don’t try to shoot discretely anymore.
"I like making myself known, smiling, waving, and communicating with the people I’m photographing. I believe it makes me and the subject more comfortable, and creates a more respectful and transparent environment, which I think results in stronger and more palatable pictures because I’m not nearly as anxious about everything that happens when photographing secretly."
What other wide-angle lenses have you worked with? And how does the Atoll compare?
I’ve used a plethora of wide-angle lenses, from the Voigtlander’s 21 mm, 25 mm, and 28 mm, to the Nikon Nikkor 24 mm and others.
"The Atoll is by far the widest lens I’ve ever used and relatively physically large in its size which presents its challenges, but the potential and extremity of this depth create such wonderful possibilities that any other lens technically can’t create, and that to me is ultimately what makes this lens so special."
Would you recommend the Atoll Lens for other styles?
While the Atoll qualifies as an extreme lens, I think it is quite practical. The way it renders the world isn’t overly dramatic, yet it has a distinct flavor to the pictures it makes. I think that every photographer could benefit from using this lens - for reasons such as understanding what different focal lengths do to depth and subject, and also simply to practice getting closer and filling the frame with necessary information!
Lastly, how do you like to challenge yourself creatively?
I feel like my constant creative challenges are akin to all my personal challenges. Photography has been the single greatest aid to all of my agita - it makes me never want to say no to life as the camera births reason, day after day, without fail. It has also shown me how there are (in my incredibly blessed and privileged life,) very few truly bad experiences, because with any experience comes unique opportunities to photograph.
"A camera in hand brings a resolve to not wanting to get out of bed, to not wanting to say yes to life. A camera in hand rids me of any apprehension to approach life freely and excitedly. A camera in hand, searching for soul and clarity and instinctual visual sense is the way in which I navigate every corner of my personal life - there is no difference between it and I; I inform the camera, and the camera informs me. Life in absolute wholeness, entailing all that is good and bad, is enough of a challenge."
Be sure to follow Adali on his Instagram!