Scouting through the world wide web, and fighting against the algorithm is not always a victorious task. However, sometimes you get lucky and manage to encounter people that produce interesting works, even better when it involves experimental analogue endeavors.
That's how we met Roberta Biondi. We had a lovely chat with Roberta about her love for analogue photography, film soup and film swaps.
Hello Roberta and welcome to the Lomography Magazine. Can you tell us about your background, and how you got started with photography?
I shot my first film photographs when I was 17, with an old camera and a black and white film that I found in the basement. I was taught how to develop the film, and the effect that this experience had on me, its mystery, the fear of ruining it, the image slowly appearing on the paper, everything made clear to me that this was the beginning of my longest love story. The photos were very simple: some urban landscapes, a couple of portraits and some cats, but I fell in love with the grain and with all the possibilities that this new journey could potentially bring to me.
I then got a camera of my own: my beloved Nikon FM2 with a 50 mm lens. I also collected a few toy cameras, my favorite is definitely the Fisheye, that I used for my latest film soup experiment. A couple of years after, I left my hometown and I’ve spent many years working, studying and traveling in several places, taking my cameras with me and collecting as many expired film rolls I could find in flea markets or photo shops, or from people that didn’t want them anymore. The twisted colors of those rolls motivated me to try something different and to tell my stories not only through an image but through its colors and the technique I used. That's how I started experimenting.
What inspires you in photography ? And why shoot film?
What I like about film is the uncertainty of what the photos will look like. I love the care and attention you put in every shot: I feel that I take more seriously the moment of choosing the image and the composition, knowing that I have less available shots than with a digital camera. Shooting film is a way to take all the time I need and to learn to pay more attention. It's a way to accept failure, but also to surprise myself. And what about the emotion of choosing which film to shoot next, the ritual of putting it in the camera, and the feeling of waiting for it to be developed? The art of photography gets more tangible, and it's always so intense.
We can see a lot of film soups in your works. Regarding film soup, what are the techniques that you are currently using?
I always love making new experiments. What I find fascinating in this technique is that you never know what your film is going to look like and which effects the ingredients you chose for it will have on it. I’ve tried several recipes and souping times, and I’m still in an exciting learning phase. My favorite recipe so far was very simple: dish soap, vinegar, lemon and salt. The photos were shot during a trip to Cádiz, their aesthetic is so dreamy and the colors turned out pastel.
I also tried to make soups with dried flowers and some fruits, with red and white wine, with tomato sauce, and (yes!) even with menstrual blood. This last soup ingredient was more for its symbolism than for its real effect on the film chemicals, but it felt quite empowering to break the taboo and use it for artistic purposes. What will come next?
Which one is your favorite technique for experimental photography?
My favorite technique is definitely double exposure. I started playing with it, because at a certain point in my life I was feeling lots of overwhelming emotions coming from different events I was experiencing. I had an urge to tell this somehow, but a series of images wasn’t just enough, and that’s why I thought that I could transmit on the film a small part of how I was feeling by superposing two or more shots.
At that moment I was living in Lisbon, a city that absorbed me, and I started superposing images of it, because never in life like in that period I wished I could be everywhere in every moment in that city, to take all it had to give me, to not let go even the tiniest bit of it. I then started applying this technique to many other contexts, from the reportage to the portraits. Some of my favorite shots are from people’s portraits double exposed with an element of nature that represents them.
You have taken part in many film swaps collaborations. What attracts you about film swaps?
I have always loved traveling, and I’ve moved around a lot, making new friends that were difficult to see again. With some of them we kept in touch through emails and letters, and I had the idea to propose to them a film swap, to meet somewhere, in a certain way. Our cities met each other in the shots we created, and the emotion of waiting for the other person to finish their round of shooting, seeing what comes up in the same frame, the beauty of discovering how two completely different places looked together in the same image, are priceless.
I continued doing film swaps also with closer friends, looking at different elements of the city, or telling our personal stories about it, with our own styles and points of view. And I sometimes do film swaps with myself. I shoot a film and then keep it somewhere for years, and then shoot it in a different place, and the results are magical and unexpected. It’s like a travel in time that puts together some pieces of my sometimes chaotic life.
What's coming up for you in the future?
I have some new ideas about experiments with film, but I also would love to apply the techniques I'm learning to a reportage work. My work has always been autobiographical, and I'd now love to tell other people's stories. I'd also love to learn about new techniques and alternative processes, to continue surprising myself. I'm also planning to do some mini expos and markets around Barcelona where I live now, and I'm so excited about this.
Keep tagging your work with #HeyLomography, we love to see your works on socials. You can follow Roberta on Instagram at _robertabi