Sometimes I wonder about limits. The limits of exposure – not strictly photographically speaking, but rather the number of images the human eye can spot, process and assess. What are our precast or learned definition of what’s worth a second look and what isn’t?
When it comes to film photography, one thing’s for sure: I have a soft spot for bright, bold, unusual compositions. And if you throw some interesting perspectives, multiple exposures and an interesting choice of film stock – I’m looking at you, Lomochrome Purple! – into the mix, we’ve got a match.
Ben Battaglia‘s photos were pretty much calling out Bingo! in that respect, so it was only fair to enlist the compadre from the Southern English seaside town of Bournemouth for a little Q&A. Here we go!
Let’s get the obvious one out the way: How and when did you figure out that shooting on film was for you?
I was initially introduced to shooting film while studying for my photography A-level in 2009. The course focused on darkroom and we were required to shoot, develop and print black and white film at the college. So when I started I bought myself a Canon 500n, which is a pretty simple automatic 35mm camera. I never really dug into shooting manual or learning much about my camera then and just shot on auto. Once I finished the course I rarely picked up my film camera, and maybe shot one roll a year, if not less.
I can’t remember exactly what sparked me to pick it up again, I think I just watched a YouTube video of someone visiting a city I was going to be visiting in 2017, and they just documented themselves shooting film there and shared their photos. One issue I had with my existing film camera was that it’s pretty bulky and annoying to carry around all day, so seeing this video pushed me to buy a small point and shoot to use. I also saw some people on Reddit doing really unique things with double exposures which was a big inspiration for me, so got myself a camera capable of multiple exposures. So I’ve only been frequently shooting film for just over a year, to be honest. But since then I’ve learned a lot more about my camera which has allowed me to produce unique images I would have never taken with a digital camera. Film has such a unique look that can’t be replicated any other way. There’s so much room for experimentation, and I love the surprise of seeing your photos for the first time and seeing things you forgot you took a picture of.
What’s your general setup and what’s on your list of cameras or film to dig into next?
At the moment I’m using my Canon A1 for everything. It had been top of my list for a while because it has a built-in multiple exposure function. So at the moment, I want to see what I can do with this camera. I’d love to get my hands on some colour infrared film, or some Lomochrome Turquoise if they ever make more. Before I got the A1, I was using a Canon AE1 Program and a Nikon L35AF. I’d like to try shooting medium format at some point and have been looking into the Pentax 67ii and Mamiya 7, and like the idea of getting something that looks and feels more like a 35mm slr.
Do you self develop or scan your film?
I don’t develop my film, but I do scan it. I bought myself a dedicated film scanner a while ago which has definitely allowed me to have more control over how my photos end up looking. Before, the lab I was using would just scan everything on automatic. And because I was sending them a bunch of experimental films, they didn’t really scan very well a lot of the time or had auto colour correction which meant the images weren’t even close to the negative. I’m also pretty impatient and didn’t like waiting for them to email the scans back to me. It now takes me under an hour to get my films developed! I’d definitely like to start developing at home at some point as well.
You’re pretty experimental with your work that results in some dreamy, trippy results. What’s the appeal of CineStill or Lomochrome Purple for you?
I’ve been a huge fan of Lomochrome Purple ever since I got my first roll back from the lab. It’s truly a unique film, there’s not really anything else like it. Once you start to get your head around the colour shifts and learn which colour changes to what, you can shoot it much more intentionally. I’ve been experimenting with adding more layers to the already unique film by using prism filters and multiple exposures to create images that are more complex.
I’ve only shot Cinestill a handful of times, but again it’s a really unique film that has a pretty recognisable look. Living in the UK during the winter months, it’s dark by the time I finish work during the week so only really get the weekends to shoot in daylight. So I’m definitely drawn to faster films like Portra 800 and Cinestill 800T this time of year. I’ve rated Cinestill at 1600 ISO, developed as normal and still got good results.
Your multiple exposures are phenomenal. How do you compose yours? Entirely planned out or spontaneous creations?
Thank you! There’s a bunch of tutorials online for double exposures which will tell you to look for a silhouette for your first shot, then a texture for the second one. I follow this thinking sometimes, and it can produce some really interesting images. I try to use imaginary points in my viewfinder to line up my first shot, then picture those in relation to my second shot to get things in the right place. On the other hand, there are times where it’s all totally random and accidental and I just want to see what happens. The first triple exposure I took was just an accident but actually came out looking kind of intentional.
What’s your favourite shot you ever took and why?
For now, one of my favourites is this shot taken in my home city of Bournemouth, UK (above) I always have this idea in the back of my mind that I need to go somewhere new to photograph something interesting. A lot of the things in my city I’ve seen so many times, and there’s always an extra appreciation for things you don’t know personally I guess. So when I got this roll developed, it was rewarding to see that I’d managed to capture something I’ve seen hundreds of times before in a different light. I shot this one on Lomochrome Purple just as the sun had set. The sky was a bright blue to orange gradient and the lights had all been turned on. The colours came out really nice for the shots taken in this light, and because it was a long exposure the clouds started to blur and the people in the shot are all in motion. I’m definitely going to be exploring more long exposure and low light photos with this film.
Find more of Ben’s work here and give him a follow!