Madhavan's Magic Realism In Film Photography

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Magic realism is a genre of literature and art where the real world and mystical elements blend together, creating a blurred line between reality and fiction. Madhavan Palanisamy, who goes by the username @madhav, is a Lomographer who uses 35 mm and 120 mm analogue photography to express his personal style of magic realism in his work. His artistic vision is influenced by cinema, old archival magazines, and his brother's encouragement. He combines these influences with his own artistic flair to create unique and creative images.

Maddy's ability to switch between masterful portraits and outlandish, dreamy photoshoots allows him to take full control of commercial work as if it were his own personal projects. Today, we have the opportunity to talk to Maddy, and learn about his local analogue community, his love of Lomography, and how he showcases his unique style in all of his projects.

Credits to @madhav

Greetings Madhavan! Can you introduce yourself to the community and tell us how you started your analogue journey?

Hello! I am Madhavan Palanisamy. Friends call me Maddy. I am a photographer and visual artist working across commercial and artistic projects. I live in Chennai, India.
Growing up, my dad used to buy a lot of international and Indian magazines - about art, cinema, literature, politics, and culture. I was drawn to the texture of the images. I also accompanied my dad and his friends to the screenings of classic world movies. Movies of Godard, Charlie Chaplin, Satyajit Ray, Bergman, Kurosawa, and others screened with an old projector. Though I was very young, those visuals made such a big impact on me in terms of their atmospheric density and storytelling, which is one of my main sources of inspiration. My dad also had an Agfa Click III, a 6x6 plastic camera.

My elder brother, who is also a photographer, later introduced me to film cameras. Also specifically to 50mm and 135mm focal lengths. Initially, I used a Zenith then a Minolta X 300. I used to do a lot of photography in college and post-grad. We used to finish a roll of film and sit all night in the lab that develops and prints overnight and go home grinning at 3 AM. That was fun. I studied marketing and worked in advertising. I used to shoot analogue on the side, just for fun or for agency-initiated projects. After the steam ran out for me I quit my job. There was a deep longing to create images so I became a photographer. I had to learn digital and how to create images commercially.

Credits to @madhav

Can you tell us about some of the gear you use when shooting analogue? What are the films, cameras, and other accessories you like to use?

I like the Contax G2, with the 28mm and 45mm, and its amazing TLA 200 flash. It is one of the most beautiful things I own. It can be used to make poignant images as well as in-your-face images with flash, depending on what you are going for. I like the versatility of that. For slower and serious workflow I mostly use Mamiya RZ, Rolleiflex. and Hasselblad. I tried the Kiev 6Tl for its beautiful lenses but it keeps breaking down. I am always trying out new cameras. I use a bunch of point-and-shoots like the Canon AFM, Nikon LAF, Contax T2, Yashica T4, and Mju-ii. I also use a lot of Lomography cameras like the Lomo LC-A+, Diana F+, ActionSampler and Oktomat as well as other interesting cameras like the Olympus Pen, Reto/ Nimslo 3D, Samurai, etc. I went nuts for 3-4 years and I collected a lot of cameras so I am a bit embarrassed to talk about it more.

For films, I like Colorplus, Gold, and Ultramax for casual 35mm shooting. Portra 400 sometimes - especially when it's 120 format. I love the Lomography Color Negative 400 and 800. I like both Hp5 and Tri-X for black and white. Respooled Kodak XX motion film for BW and 500 T for color. I love experimental films like the Revlog Kolor, Lomo Redscale XR, and LomoChrome Purple. I like to use analogue to create something different than digital. It's not that I feel one thing is better than the other but I would like to explore the emotion of the analogue to lead me to unknown textures and atmospheres.

Credits to @madhav

How would you describe your style of photography?

I love cinema, editorial imaging, poetry, and magic realism. Some of these streams would be present in my work.

You mix commercial work and personal projects, but your commercial work still has your distinct style. How are you able to navigate this?

Thank you. I am glad you see it that way. The intention has always been to create a set of images that interpret the brand’s desire and voice. But at the same time, make it personal. Sometimes it works out well that the client’s vision and what I can create are in sync. Also, since I didn’t have the time to assist or learn photography formally, I developed my style by improvising using continuous lights and not using too much Photoshop for retouching. In a way, it’s a limitation but it helps in differentiating my work which I guess is a bit more rough around the edges.

With regards to commercial work, most photographers tend to use digital because it’s much safer and easier. How do you convince a client to take the risk in choosing a film?

I use digital for most of my commercial work, except for some that involve sustainable fashion, portraiture, or music. My partner Radha, who is a creative director, always insists on shooting on film for her projects when we collaborate. We are lucky to have clients like Aish, who always supports film work - they also believe that film brings about the colors in a better, more organic way. For some projects, we shoot a segment on film (either experimental or some intentional medium-format portraits) and the rest on digital, like one of my recent projects for CSK. I am happy to create in both.

Credits to @madhav

Among your projects can you share some of your most memorable ones?

Personally, I like the project I made with my dad called “Appa and Other Animals”. It was very special to me. He was unwell at that time and I used to visit him in our hometown. I used to carry my camera with me. I was also going through a rough patch in my life. I shot many pictures that time, of him, of the horses that were abandoned in the neighborhood. Later I turned it into a story.

During the pandemic I did a project called "Took Some Pictures And Made A Photograph" These were all collages made using the casual, fun pictures I had shot for testing out the cameras. The collages were chaotic and beautiful - contrasting the silence and gloom that the pandemic brought.

Credits: madhav

Recently I shot some images with my son, Sid, and my soul-sister’s daughter, Kim. A lot of these were born from a set of drawings I made. Those were fun too.

Credits to @madhav

I noticed that you used the Lomography Oktomat! Can you tell us about your experience with this camera?

I bought it a very long back and I was always thrilled to use it. I always bring it when I am shooting an outdoor project. Since it is made of plastic, I get some groovy light leaks as well. I also like the ActionSampler but I end up using this more. It also looks so cool and often gets a lot of attention!

Credits: madhav

What other Lomography products have you tried or are keen on trying in the future?

I have the Lomo LC-A+ which is one of my favorite cameras, especially with the colorsplash flash. I even bought the instant back for it. The Oktomat is great. The ActionSampler as well. When it comes to films, I like the look of Color Negative 400, it's a very beautiful film that gives the necessary warmth but at the same time stays cool. Redscale is great as well. Purple does its own thing but I like it too. Lady Grey has a nice analogue tonality. I also got some Turquoise recently. And I have been wanting to try the lenses.

Maddy using different Lomography Products

Besides 35 mm you also shoot a lot of 120 film. What are your favorite things about medium format?

I like the life-like image, the stillness, and the cinematic quality that it offers. It's a joy to look through Mamiya’s viewfinder and find a movie waiting for you. Also, because we take more time to compose and shoot the image, mostly what you see is what you get. Personally, I find that it's great for bringing about the humanity and beauty of someone.

Credits to @madhav

How is the analogue community in your part of the world? What’s it like shooting film there?

I think it's great that over the last few years, there have been a lot of people, professionals and hobbyists alike who have gotten into film. There is a lot of gear being sold in the community. A lot of support has been coming in the form of WhatsApp groups where you can connect with others. Also, buy and sell gear. Recently, a lot of re-spooling of the Kodak motion picture stock also has been happening which cuts down the film price to 50%. Also an increase in the number of people who develop film, both labs and individuals. The lack of chemicals, standardization of process, and inaccessibility of professional scanners like the frontier /noristsu limits many from starting a lab or running it successfully. I hope that improves in the future.

Do you have any words of advice you want to give to the rest of the community?

Creating memories, revealing something to ourselves, and experiencing life through the practice of photography is far more rewarding than the immediate validation that one might get from shooting film or using cool cameras.


We thank Maddy for sharing his photos and projects with the rest of the community! Be sure to keep up with him by checking out his LomoHome and Instagram. What elements would you add to your photos to make them more magical? Comment down below and share with us!

written by rocket_fries0036 on 2024-02-18 #gear #culture #people #fashion #medium-format #oktomat #india #actionsampler #portraits #lc-a #lomochrome-purple #apac #magic-realism

One Comment

  1. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    Finally I can see the real India by India photographer at lomography dot com 👏

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