Brazil-based Júlia Brümmer tells us about her latest project, a fantastical combination between fashion design and infrared photography. She also provides us with some great tips about shooting infrared photography yourself.
Hi Júlia! Introduce yourself and your work to the Lomography community.
Hi! My name is Júlia Brümmer. I am a fashion designer, analog photographer, and conceptual storyteller from Brazil. What I’m presenting is my final fashion school project. I’m obsessed with colors and fantasy and... yeah, that’s pretty much it.
How did you get into photography?
Well, I grabbed my first camera when I was around 3, but that doesn’t count, right? I started for real in my teenage years as an escape for my mental issues (I live with social anxiety disorder with schizophrenic tendencies and PTSD). As my mental condition escalated, my interest in photography went through the same rhythm. When I started fashion school, I also felt the need to express my thoughts about stuff that bothered me a lot (like the typical fashion body type standards) in a different way than just having a conversation, ‘cause you know, pictures speak louder than words. Everything exploded – in a good way – when I decided to migrate from digital to analog and here we are, five years of only shooting film and nowadays, I also am an analog photography teacher. After all of those experiences, I concluded that my point is communication and artisanal fashion photography is my tool.
Tell about your project and where it stemmed from.
So first of all, I had to speak with people from every part of the world to collect information, because the fields that I was exploring were poorly investigated and there weren't many bibliographic references about it (this also includes spending all the money I had on 35mm infrared film in an auction in the USA not even knowing if it was real infrared film, but we’ll talk more about photography later). I reunited everything that is important for me and the general proposal was to develop a micro-conceptual fashion collection. It has five looks and one of them was executed as the prototype. I based myself in the following subjects:
- Fantastic art: This is an area of art that encompasses all the creative representations in the history of humanity that break the limits of reality. I analyzed the work of two guys: Luigi Serafini, who developed the Codex Seraphinianus and Hieronymus Bosch, a renaissance painter that showed delicacy in chaotic themes, such as hell. I crossed information from both and absorbed the concept that I needed (this part also inspired me for the creation of the drawings).
- Fashion history: As I was graduating school for fashion design, I went to study the Queen Elizabeth I and her habits, then crossed elements of XIX century fashion.
- Analog photography: What else would I use to photograph my project, right? I did some explanation about the history, the methods, and some criticism the massification of the digital image industry and then of course, entered in the vortex of infrared media.
- Sustainability and feminism: I got my finger on the wounds of slave labor, massive industry processes, pollution, lack of attention to quality and detail, body dictatorships and sexism. My prototype and all the elements of production were mostly built with reused or scrap materials. My central model is fat (we like to use this word as a form of empowerment, I also identify myself this way), a human rights activist, deaf, and a member of the LGBTQI community. The two others are an African-American model and a girl with indigenous descent from an ancient Brazilian tribe.
These photos have such a unique look to them. What did you use to achieve this look and what did you learn about photography/yourself while using these different materials?
As I said, color is my thing and I wanted to dive deep into that for my final graduation project. Photographically speaking, I had something that caught my eye a long time ago and when I noticed I felt into the rabbit hole, I just knew that it was time for me to try it. I’m referring of course to infrared photography.
Before I even begin, I should say that it wouldn’t be possible for me to create such intricate and detailed work without the help of some angels. First, I have to thank Mr. Dean Bennici (the one and only supplier in the world of the infamous infrared films). His work is unbelievable. He taught me everything about the IR spectrum and how to understand the color shifting processes (his wife is also an extremely talented creator). Mr. Aldo Altamirano (the Argentinian photographer who transformed Central Park into an infra wonderland), Radka Smolíková (an incredible Lomographer -@smolda- and the sweetest person on earth), and my dear friend Thiago Nagasima (photographer and the answer to any photographic problem you might have). They were also my salvation.
Well, I have a lot of stories about this project and if I go into detail about the whole process, we'll be talking forever, so I'll do my best to make it a little bit short. Infrared is the most amazing media that I have used so far, but it is also a walking nightmare to handle. Sensitivity is a real problem here. It's necessary that the camera used is 100% manual because electronic cameras have sensors that emit a small radiation that causes fogging on this type of film. The material needs to be opened and processed in full darkness and manually because Minilab machines also disperse radiation. You have to use lens filters that block the visible spectrum so that the infrared waves are filtered. The films cannot come in contact with any type of X-ray equipment to avoid corruption and they must be constantly cooled. It's like taking care of a little baby.
The answer for the aesthetic is that infrared films capture a type of wave frequency present in the electromagnetic spectrum that is not seen with the naked eye. IR reacts to heat and according to how the surface being photographed reacts chemically too, a specific color scale is generated; green foliage turns into magentas and reds, the skies go from light blue to pitch black, our pinkish lips turn into yellow, and so on (and all of that also depends on the intensity and angulation of the sun rays). I focused on this phenomenon with textiles, so I developed a scheme of color-changing based on different compositions (polyester, cotton, leather, etc) so I could choose which fabric colors to use to get the desired palette in the photos.
The original infrared color films (such as Kodak Aerochome Infrared Film 1443 and Kodak Ektachrome EIR) were discontinued due to the cost of production involved, but luckily our dear Lomography launched the beautiful Lomochromes and I wanted to pay homage to the purple and turquoise films (and also to fulfill the editorial storytelling), so I did the same scheme for them. For the Aerochrome pictures, I used an Olympus OM-2 with a G.Zuiko 1.4 lens + a yellow #12 Tiffen filter (processed in E-6). For the Lomochrome ones, I used my everyday Yashica 108 Multi Program with a UV filter (processed in C41). I can certainly say that the greatest lesson was not just absorbing so much information about an extra creative and little explored area today, but it was the fact that challenges like this remind me constantly that I can go way further than I imagine. After the project was over, I sent the photos to Mr. Karl Ferris, who is the photographer from Jimi Hendrix's “Are You Experienced?” album cover. He left only a "seen" signal displayed in the message, but as an emerging photographer, this was the coolest thing ever in my career so far.
What did you learn about yourself while working on this? How did this project help you personally?
I discovered who I truly am and I found myself in it. Ever since I was a child, I have been a sensitive person in every aspect, and due to the complex level of this project, I tried to kill myself three times in a period of ten months (my score across life is near to 50 attempts and I’m 23). In the beginning of the research, I spent four months analyzing all the representations that art gave us about hell and that’s where my worst hallucinations and self-mutilation episodes kickstarted. My mind converted all of that and little by little, it introduced me to my chaotic universe.
One day it brought me a human mushroom that often touched my hands and grabbed my shoulders. This projection had a skin texture like the feeling of running your hand through thousands of paper sheets in a file. A couple weeks later, I was sitting in the floor in front of my mirror and I felt my head being surrounded by millions of birds speed racing. The wings made a metallic sound and the feeling was like approaching and distancing two strong magnets between my ears. The last and worst company that I had was in part a flashback of one of my childhood dreams: a red forest. In this forest used to live a man that in the place of his torso was a huge purple pin that he used to stab me, sometimes in the face. Now imagine that every single day of your life when you are trying to eat, sleep, walk or even breathe. It is quite disturbing.
But the main problem is that this is a double-edged sword for me when it comes to my capacity of creation. My mind is my precious treasure and I’ll never give up on this: the question is how you choose to handle the situation and classify the impact and value of the things that are important to you. At the same time. I don’t judge those who cannot deal with it and chose the other path because it is an everyday war and you actually need a lot of courage to go on finish everything, but this is absolutely the worst choice.
The real message behind everything is that we need to talk about mental health. People like me are often treated like nothing because others think we are not intellectually capable and this is what hurts more than any physical wound. Art is one of the best channels to hug who is out of the norm and in this case, photography is the creative bridge. The government of every country should provide and spread more information and involvement about this. Mental illnesses are still surrounded by a bunch of myths and the simple truth is that we need support and love just like everybody else. Education is the key. I’m not a monster, I love my red forest and I will not hide myself anymore. No fear.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
A LOT OF COLOR BABE. Keep it weird.
Keep up with more of Júlia's work on Instagram.