Caitlyn Stachura (LomoHome: CS1037, Instagram: @c8.lyn) is a New York City-based artist and college student pursuing a degree in gender studies and religion. Although they are planning on becoming an archivist, one of their main passions is analogue photography, specifically focusing on redefining the queer/trans portrait through their work.
In this interview we got to pick the 21-year-old’s brain about what inspires them, their techniques, and their love for Lomography Color Negative Film.
Hello, can you tell us about yourself and your work?
My name is Caitlyn Stachura and I’m a 21-year-old analogue photographer based in New York City with roots in Annapolis, Maryland. As a nonbinary university student and artist, most of my coursework and the images I'm drawn to make revolve around redefining the queer/trans portrait. Every shoot I do, from the planning process to execution, is research in and of itself on how I can reflect through my images how my queer and trans loved ones want to see themselves rather than how the cishet world sees us (and how it's taught us to see ourselves).
How did you discover and get into film photography?
I started shooting film exclusively when I was probably 15 or 16. I inherited my mom’s first film camera, a Minolta X-700, at 13 and fell in love with the grain and tones that analogue photography offers. It feels so cinematic. I find that the process is really meditative for me, too. I developed my own B&W 120 and 35 mm in my bathroom throughout high school and being that present was refreshing. It definitely set the tone for the headspace I try to achieve while I’m behind the camera. Whether I’m using 120 or 35 mm, shooting film (as opposed to digital) seriously pushes me to experiment with a lot of variation between the 12 or 36 frames, and I think that’s sharpened my skills a lot.
What is your usual kit and set up when you shoot?
It depends on what I’m photographing! My go-to for studio portraiture has been my Mamiya 7 with a f/4 65 mm lens alongside my handheld Luxli Viola 5” LED light. If I’m photographing nightlife, I’ll grab whatever fast point-and-shoot I have with a flash. I just recently got my hands on a Contax G1 with a f/2 35 mm Zeiss lens and I’m obsessed with it.
Are you inspired by any specific artists or photographers?
Right off the bat, I can say that Driely Carter has had the most influence on me stylistically. When she was still on Instagram, I remember reading about her process while creating uranium glass tintypes that glow neon green under UV. She’s consistently pushing the boundaries of the medium and doesn’t make excuses for herself in limiting what she’s capable of. That’s huge for me as a young artist. If I have a concept in mind that I want to execute, I’ll play with what I can get my hands on or ‘DIY’ it until I get it right.
My mentor and friend Lauren Lepore is a major inspiration to me. We’ve been working together since early 2020 and have grown from a darkroom in her apartment where we first figured out how to print cyanotypes to a studio space in the South Bronx. I’ve learned so much from her about how to carry myself as a photographer, whether in the studio or outside of a club, to technical aspects of lighting and set design. She stops at nothing to get the shot she wants. I aspire to that.
What is your favorite shot that you shared with us? Why?
I shot this last summer on 120 back in Maryland of myself and my partner with the help of our friend Briana. We drove to a backroad in my neighborhood and lit the shot with car headlights. August there is humid as hell and my lens fogged up immediately—that’s what created the glow around us. I feel like it encapsulates my Maryland summers in a photo.
Where do you see yourself going with your work in the future?
Continuing to photograph fashion editorials, especially for queer/trans designers, is really exciting. I try to emulate that look regardless of where and what I’m shooting, but I love working with a team of artists on set in a cool location. Documenting my family, chosen and biological, at this stage in my life is a focus of mine right now as well.
Could you tell us about your experience with Lomography film?
The first Lomography film I shot was the 120 Color Negative 400. I was so impressed with the saturation of my unedited scans that I knew Lomography was a reliable stock for me. The quality of the 800-speed film is unbeatable for its tones.
What made you decide to start sharing your work with the Lomography community?
As an artist who uses social media as the primary platform for showcasing my work, it’s a breath of fresh air! I feel like I’m encountering so many artists who’d work I wouldn’t typically see with the way the algorithm functions on Instagram. I especially appreciate connecting with an analogue photography community through Lomography.
Are there any specific projects you are working on right now?
I have a few in progress. Nightlife in New York has been a space for me to explore my gender identity and feel seen, so I’m working alongside South Bronx Studios to photograph portraits of genderqueer nightlife-goers in the studio and interview them for an eventual audio-visual installation. The set design and styling of each shoot are directed by the participant, and we create a mood board together. It’s been so affirming for me to work on, and my hope is that I can affirm the people who I’m photographing, too. I’m also currently producing a body of photographs that I’m publishing in a zine at the end of the summer. I’ve been documenting new and long-time friends in their spaces up and down the east coast. It feels timely in this post-lockdown era and as I’m nearing the end of my undergraduate experience. A longer-term project I'm working on involves my experience growing up queer in the Catholic church and playing with nods to that imagery within my portraits.
What’s your biggest tip to people starting out in film photography?
Don’t let yourself be intimidated by not knowing exactly how your shots will turn out. Lean into the ambiguity!