Vancouver-based artist and Lomographer Sam Joseph, also known as @coma_vision, is a well-versed artist who started out his artistic journey drawing and painting which eventually evolved into music and finally analogue photography.
Hi Sam, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Can you please tell us about yourself and your work?
Thank you. I live in Vancouver, BC and work mainly with cross processed medium format film. Before focusing on photography I was recording and performing with the band Animal Bodies, and before that I was drawing and painting. I don’t work from concepts but I recognize that when viewed as a whole there’s a common theme around dysregulated thoughts and moods that’s somewhere in most of what I do. I hope it doesn’t present itself too forcefully though. My focus with art has always been about reaching people as much as it’s been an outlet. So it’s important for me to leave space open in the work for people to connect with it in their own way.
What has inspired you to focus on shooting mostly queer and trans subjects?
The simplest answer is that it’s just easier to find people to work with from my own circle and community. The other side is that it’s important for artists within a community to support each other and share opportunities. That’s good for the individual and good for the community as a whole. My work doesn’t try to be about queer issues but it touches on themes that a disproportionate number of people in this community know well and understand.
With all that said, the most important thing for me is to work with people who understand what I’m doing and can bring their own unique sense to it. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to work with some really talented and creative artists and models who get it and whose input and collaboration has been integral. There’s a few key people I’ve been able to work with repeatedly which I’m so grateful for because their force and collaboration has really become an invaluable part of what I do. When I’m able to work with people over several shoots I get a better sense of what they bring which ends up informing future work and makes the process feel stronger. I’ve been very fortunate.
Why do you cross process your film with ECN2 chemicals?
ECN2 is a lot of fun to work with. The developing process feels kind of like when a video game moves to level two and things start dropping just a bit quicker and it starts getting just a bit harder to keep up. My experience with it has been that it makes colors more vibrant and saturated. I like the look of cross processing in C41 but I’ve never liked the unpredictability of it. With ECN2 I’ve found that I get results that are predictable and rooted in a fairly accurate color rendition but with just a touch of fantasy. I find that the effect varies depending on what film type you’re using but it works great with expired slide film.
What is your current camera set-up?
I've been using a Kowa Super 66 for the last couple of years and I love it. I have a Pentax Spotmatic for 35 mm and got a Pentax 6x7 for medium format but it broke down not long after starting with it. I picked up the Kowa to use until the Pentax got fixed but I’ve only been using the Kowa since then. Part of what I like about it is the 6x6 format. Composition within a square border feels pretty natural for me and it makes me think of 2007 and that square, cross processed Lomography look that characterized the time. This camera isn’t punk rock enough to be a true Lomographic Society style camera but I’m really comfortable with it and it’s built like a tank. Any piece of equipment that can survive 50 years and keep doing what it’s meant to do has my respect.
Your photos have really interesting colors and lighting. How do you approach setting that up?
I think about the color and lighting a lot leading up to a shoot and usually spend some time sketching out how to accomplish what I’m imagining. Most often I’m just using a key and a fill light with lots of separation lights on the background to fill in the colors I want. For double exposure layers I often print up transparencies and shoot them on a light table.
The colors surrounding the figures are important and I spend a lot of time metering and taking notes before a shoot to help me get exactly what I want. I don’t like bracketing shots. I prefer to just take the time to make sure the light and exposure is what I want the first time. I have tons of respect for people who work quickly and take chances but I haven’t been able to make that work for me. Consequently I’m an extremely slow photographer. I feel terrible for the people I’m working with. I’ve started telling everyone not to expect a photo shoot and to think of it more like going to have their portrait painted.
I was shooting tons of LomoChrome Purple on 35 mm a few years ago. When Metropolis came out I wasn’t sure how it would fit into the heavily color focused work I’ve been doing but its become my favorite of the two. Finding space for colors that the film boosts amongst the ones that become subtle and desaturated has been a good approach for me. It’s an interesting and subtle way to balance color in a composition.
I’m in love with the film Suspiria. It’s a 1977 horror about witches by Dario Argento and its known for its soundtrack by Goblin and the extremely vivid colors throughout the film. I think I read that he used an antiquated three strip color process that The Wizard of Oz used to get the bright colors he was going for. When the remake came out in 2018 by Luca Guadagino they went in a totally different direction with the two defining characteristics of the original. The music was toned way down and all the vivid color was drained from the film in a way that maybe managed to reflect the subject matter a little closer than the original. I’ve thought a lot about suddenly taking a totally different approach to the way I use color in a similar way. I’m not sure if I’m done with the bright colors just yet but when I am I’ll have a fridge full of Metropolis ready to go.
Do you have any tips or tricks for shooting with LomoChrome Metropolis?
Redscaled Metropolis is really beautiful. Flipping 120 for redscale is an ordeal and I’d be happy to find some tips around how to do it efficiently but either way it’s worth the effort for the effect you’ll get. I overexposed two stops.
Do you have any tips or tricks for shooting with LomoChrome Purple?
If you develop LomoChrome Purple in ECN2 you can get technicolor level red saturation. It almost looks painted on. Roses and lip stick look amazing. Even without the ECN2 processing it’s a really vivid film. The purple effect is really cool but it handles other colors very nicely too.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can share with us?
Coming up in 2022 I’ll be part of the Eastside open studios from November 17-22 here in East Vancouver along with dozens of other artists in the neighborhood. I took a short break from shooting to focus on putting together some submissions and proposals for 2023 and to make prints but I’ll be shooting again and getting started on a new series this week.