A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy shares some of the images taken with a Lomo’Instant Wide during a recent road trip.
Three weeks. Eighteen states (Okay, some of them only for a few miles but they still count!). Six thousand two hundred miles, a few kilometers short of 10,000. Diners. Old signs. Memphis. Route 66. Does it get any better? A 6-year old doggie that hates photography and a moving car? Yes, that too. Phoebe came along for the ride and it is fair to say she probably hated most of every minute of it. Message understood: People love road trips and she does not.
I am extremely fortunate to be able to travel quite a bit and many times to foreign countries. When you are flying, you usually have to make some tough photographic decisions because you cannot take everything. You would love to, but you can’t. Airport X-ray machines will damage any film faster than 800, tripods have to be extremely light, and carrying your antique 8×10 view camera on your shoulder through Budapest is probably not a good idea. But when you are driving? I will not say absolutely every camera and accessory you possess… but that still depend on how much room you have, right?
Like we patiently explain to our non-photographer friends and relatives, it isn’t just stubbornness that makes us want to take every camera we have. It’s just that this is the perfect opportunity to try some new things, to experiment, to work the kinks of some old cameras. And there’s room, you can squeeze another bag of film between the dog and the cooler, yes? So, in my case, it was an extra bag containing several boxes of Fuji Instax Wide film that I squeezed between Phoebe and the cooler. I really wanted to get better at instant shooting.
I love the old Polaroid cameras that allow you to use that peel-apart kind of film with an instant positive and a negative hidden in the covering paper. But you have to be able to pull the film through (old, hard to move) rollers at a uniform speed and using significant strength—my hands don’t have that kind of strength any more. So I got a Lomo’Instant Wide, which automatically sends out the exposed instant positive without the need to worry about anything. Well, except for the fact that the only kind of film you can use, Fujifilm Instax Wide, is available in ISO 800. That’s it. The Lomo’Instant Wide has a +1 and -1 exposure compensation setting (one reason why I bought this particular camera), so one can move the EC setting to -1 and get a full stop under 800, more or less.
Looking at the images, I have a few thoughts. I am really glad I took the camera with me even if I got nothing in about 20% of the film I shot. I learned a lot more about shooting with instant. Missed shots were my own fault for misreading the amount of light, plus there is such great pleasure in seeing a fully developed image 10 minutes after you took it.
There is always a significant learning curve when you approach a new type of photography for the first time. I saw an extended period of time on the road as a time to allow myself to experiment with instant photography, make mistakes, and evaluate the results. Above, two of those experiments: a multiple exposure of a neon sign at night and a close-up shot of the demented contents of a mini fridge abandoned on the streets of Cairo, Illinois.
In the multiple exposure of the sign at night, I was so grateful that I got anything, let alone a fairly nice and wacky abstract! In the B&W, I gave myself permission to save a shot that I really liked but whose washed-out color made it unclear and confusing. By taking the color away in the computer, I ended up with an image that remains strange but less confusing. I know that a purist would object that there is no B&W film for a Lomo’Instant Wide (and if we all ask together very nicely, might Lomography consider making some? Please?). I know that a purist would object to using the computer to essentially darken an instant shot like the one I got in the Badlands of South Dakota. But I don’t mind!
As you can imagine with a starting ISO of 800, the Lomo’Instant Wide did great in interiors. The first diner image above was shot using the camera’s flash, the second was without flash. In the next shot, taken inside an old store in Tieton, Washington, at the very start of the trip, I was able to take advantage of the camera’s 0.6m zone focusing distance and get all of this “found still life” into my shot.
I tried a lot of night shots during the trip. I was trying hard to get some of my favorite Route 66 landmarks in their neon glory. Not all of them worked, or even came out, but here are two that I was pleased with.
Here are some of my favorite shots taken with the Lomo’Instant Wide. Not surprisingly, they were taken towards the end of the trip, when I felt I was a little bit more aware of what I was doing: trying to photograph in the shade if it was too sunny, getting in close and framing tight when it was possible (as in the stacked signs in Arthur, Illinois), and hoping the gods of photography would be benevolent!
Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.