We stumbled upon Canadian analogue photographer Merima Amirem's stunning work while recently browsing the #heylomography tag on Instagram to keep up with the community, and we were not disappointed! Merima's experimental work looks like stills out of indie movies from the '80s and '90s and she was kind enough to sit down with us to share all about how she developed her colourful and imaginative style.
Hi Merima, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
Thank you for having me Lomography Magazine! I'm an artist and a self taught film photographer from Windsor Ontario, just south of Detroit.
I develop and scan my own film at home which has become an important part of my creative process. I learned everything I know about cameras and film from the internet, and a lot of experimenting over the last three years. I’m heavily inspired by movies and cinema, paintings, poetry, and people.
Your Instagram bio states, "Light painting in the dark" with a film emoji— why shoot light painting and long exposures on film as opposed to digital?
I shoot film for all the same reasons it’s still around. The colours are incomparable, and so is the dynamic range but ultimately I’m a romantic like most of us are.
There's so much room for error at times that getting the 'perfect shot' almost always feels like some sort of divine alignment whether light painting or double exposure. It used to make me nervous to try but I’ve learned to embrace the uncertainty and to experiment freely.
I love unexpected results, and serendipity, and just letting go of expectations. I used to be so precious with film since it always feels like this finite resource, but its meant to be used and loved and created with.
How did you discover light painting?
I discovered light painting on YouTube! I found these tutorials on how to light paint using polaroid and that really sparked an interest in me. So I started using polaroid film to test out early concepts since the results were more instantaneous than having to process a whole roll of film to see results. After I was slightly more confident, I started using long exposure techniques in my work more often.
Night photography is one of the things that inspired me to pick up a film camera in the first place! Theres this cinematic quality to film at night that I just love, and I don’t shoot with an external light meter, so it was a must for me to be confident in shooting in lower light. The polaroids definitely helped.
What gear do you use for your experimentation with light painting, long exposures, and double exposures?
I use my Polaroid One Step Plus camera with a tripod for polaroid film long exposures. I have two 35 mm cameras and a Mamiya 645 camera that I use depending on my mood and circumstances for double or long exposures. The process can be very different depending on the camera I’m using, but I use the same lights with all of my cameras. I have an inexpensive set of LED lights that are RGB and rechargeable, which I use on most of my shoots. I like shooting outside or in unconventional locations so having portable light is very important to me. My two main lights are an RGB Light Saber and a hand held square RGB light that either my camera assistant, tripod, or model holds up while I shoot.
Can you walk us through your shooting process?
If it's an experimental shoot or a test shoot I have a couple pillars I go by: switch up the lighting often and try to make use of the whole frame.
Since I’ve been shooting mostly at night with a couple of hand held lights, there’s more options for different kinds of light. I remind myself to change the lighting set up so there’s variety on the roll. I’ll find a location to shoot based off of the models personal vibe and the styling. I feel like a visual story naturally emerges from those things. My favourite shoots are the ones that end up looking like an indie movie because there's a natural character to the location and colour story that makes you want to know more.
How does Lomography film compliment your style of shooting?
I really enjoy the look of the the LomoChrome Purple and Turquoise films which I plan to shoot more with this summer to create more abstract photographs, as well as the new LomoChrome Color ’92 which I haven’t tried yet but am very excited to shoot on. Lomography is very cool brand to exist because of its contemporary emulsions and deep understanding of the film community. Their products are created with artists in mind who love those staple qualities and even flaws of analogue that make the medium so special. I still use my DigitaLIZA 35 mm negative holder to scan my negatives in with film boarders. They know what the people want. The fact that experimenting is highly encouraged definitely also compliments my style.
Do you have an all time favorite shot on our film?
Theres a double exposure shot I took with my 35 mm on Lomography 800 from a few months ago— its one of my favourite night shots because of how well the colours turned out in such low lighting. It was a last minute test shoot and we shot with a single handheld light and a flash well into the night with the stipulation of only using only one roll of film.
The whole shoot looked like something out of a low budget film and it vaguely reminded me of something from the manga artist Juni Ito's "Tomie" who is one of his most iconic characters. I used to be an avid manga reader and learned a lot about art and story telling from artists like him or Satoshi Kon, a master of scene transitions. My favourite double exposures are the ones that look like a transition scene — like you happened to pause a movie as one scene began melting into the next one. I've since then used those photos to make cyanotypes and experiment with sun printing.
Do you have any advice for those interested in getting more experimental with their shooting?
Try and do as many different things on a roll of film as you can! Bracket shots if you’re unsure about your exposure, but don’t fall into the trap of having your whole roll of film look ‘the same’. Take your time, and check your corners before pressing the shutter button. It’s okay to take longer to light something then it is to actually shoot the photo, you’ll probably be happier with the result. Take advantage of the communities that film creates— join online forums and groups because you can learn a lot just by being involved in spaces where people are passionate about their craft. You will always learn something new and get connected with people you otherwise might not interact with because of distance.
Can you share any upcoming shoots or projects?
I entered the world of super 8 this year and began shooting a short film that I would like to finish by the end of the summer. I'm also working with NFT artist Nate Talbot to document his 3-D scanning process for his digital art series, which has been super cool to watch. I have a photo series in collaboration with another local creative and stylist Jesmyne about femininity, lore and myths that I will be turning into large format prints.
I’ve been taking the extra step of printing my work lately either as photographs or creating sun prints like cyanotypes, and would like to host an art show before the end of the year. Darkroom printing is also something I’m really interested in getting involved with.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I’m planning a road trip in the United States to hit up some still existing analogue photo booths and recording the process. They’re hard to find and I’ve had to do some serious research to find the ones still running. They’re so rare and it’s such a niche community of people that still maintain and protect those photo booths, I have nothing but respect and admiration for those still keeping it up. I think the more popularity in photo booths the better and that’s kind of the aim of the trip, to visit them before they’re (hopefully not) gone for good.
From what I’ve learned Chicago and Colorado have a bunch so those are probably the first stops, but that’s just what I could find from the internet, so any leads would be super helpful!