Fashion and portrait photographer Alia Romagnoli creates work that explores the visual identity of South Asian culture and LGBTQIA+ communities. She creates intimate portraits that are bursting with color and joy. With so much celebration of color within her work we decided to send Alia some rolls of LomoChrome Purple 120 Film which she used to create a series of photos and collages that look at nature and her relationship between London and India. We talked to Alia about these photos and why she loves to shoot with medium format film.
Hi Alia, please tell us about yourself.
I’m a photographer from India but am based in London now. I love fashion and portraiture and a lot of my work focuses on color, set design and storytelling. My personal practice has explored a variety of subjects ranging from narratives within the LGBTQIA+ community as well as South Asian stories both in and outside of the diaspora. I’ve been primarily studio based with a ‘DIY’ approach to my work, often using intimate spaces to create sets and environments, however, I have recently been exploring other aspects of my practice and venturing into natural spaces. This has been really exciting and I’m grateful to be able to continue this exploration with this project and LomoChrome Purple.
What did you choose to shoot and where did the idea of the collages come from?
During the pandemic, I moved back home to India and rediscovered my love for the outdoors. As a child, I always thought it would be something I turned into a career but as I grew older, I explored a path into film and then photography. Having the time to really feel the stillness and quiet of the South Indian countryside, pick up birdwatching, and find inspiration for my work through the landscape around me transformed the way I viewed making art and the way you could tell a story.
When I moved back to London earlier last year, I started to go in search for these spaces that offered me this grounding and feeling connected with nature, Hampstead Heath being one of them. On days when I needed a break from the busyness of the city, I would take my binoculars and camera and go in search of grey herons and Indian ring neck parakeets. The changing of the colors also brought me a lot of joy - watching the leaves grow on sparse trees, then change to a vibrant green, a deep orange, and finally fall again towards the end of the year. The series of images aims to capture a vignette of my days at the Heath and the small special moments that now influence my practice more and more.
I have always loved mixed media and playing with collages and incorporate this a lot in my work whether it’s through the use of frames, illustrations, and sketchbook pages. These initially were inspired by Indian folk art and Mughal miniature paintings that told stories within stories, techniques I’ve tried to adopt in my own personal projects. Now, the use of collages comes from wanting more fluidity with my work and presenting pieces even if they don’t feel ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’ it’s meant to look like a finished thought but still a work in progress.
How did you find the results of the LomoChrome Purple 120 film?
The first time I ever used LomoChrome Purple, I focused more on portraiture, it was a portrait of my sister with a hibiscus flower in her hair shot at home in India. I found myself wanting more textures in the image which is why I felt shooting landscapes lent itself well to the project.
It was at the start of autumn and you could really see the colors changing in the leaves. Something about capturing this in various shades of purple allowed me to see the image in a completely different light. It felt like a page of my sketchbook or even a purple version of a cyanotype. It was an opportunity to use a film stock I haven’t used in a few years and give it new meaning.
What's the appeal of 120 and what advice would you give to someone wanting to try this format?
I’m biased to medium format in all honesty. I love how big it is as a negative and the overall quality to get a high resolution image. I think having less frames to work with in a way made me more mindful of composition, what subjects I wanted to shoot and how the 10 images on the roll could each individually be unique but also tell a cohesive story when looking at the strip all together. Because I had fewer images to work with, it made the selection process so much easier and allowed me to think more about experimentation and how each photograph could live or be presented.
I think if you’re someone who likes to take their time on composition and shoot at a slower pace, 120 is for you! You have more to work with on a frame by frame basis and are able to be more mindful of the work you’re making. I think it’s really helped me invest more time in planning individual shots and is a process I enjoy working with.