Confinement forced photographers to look indoors and inside themselves to create. A challenge, but not an impossible mission, especially for San Diego based photographer Mike Walrond. His previous confinement series "5,000 Miles Away: A Facetime Film Series" blurred the lines between digital and analog and explored the new norm of distance and remote connections. With some LomoChrome Metropolis rated at 100 ISO and other Instant and 35 mm films, he shot still life, but in the same method and way, he would shoot portraits.
"COVID quarantine was in full effect and I was going stir crazy not being able to shoot portraits of people. One day I had an epiphany and thought of shooting flowers the same way I photograph portraits of people."
We talked to Mike about his flower portraits, and what it meant to be creative in a time of solitude and confinement.
Welcome back to Lomography! Can you give us a bit of info about your artistic background and how you got into photography, for those who don’t know you?
I got into photography by accident. I’m ashamed to say this but I used to have no love for photography as a medium, I had a really terrible first experience in art school that made me disconnect with it. About three years ago, I was working in the creative corporate world in Los Angeles. I was part of a huge team doing 50 international commercials for Procter & Gamble's Tampax brand. During the project, I met the creative director, Christopher Everett, and we became fast friends. Back then, I was deeply consumed by graphic art/editing images. Everett looked at my work and said, "Stop using other people's images to create your art!" I can't remember if it was days or a week later, but Everett showed up with a Leica D-lux and gave it to me. From that point on, I made it my mission to manipulate images without any post-production or editing software. I used projections, colored light, iridescent origami paper as filters, and space blankets as backdrops.
How did you come up with this flower series?
COVID quarantine was in full effect and I was going stir crazy not being able to shoot portraits of people. One day I had an epiphany and thought of shooting flowers the same way I photograph portraits of people.
What’s the meaning behind it?
The meaning stems for an unquenchable desire to keep creating.
Where did you draw inspiration from for this series?
The inspiration came from the absence of being able to create.
In terms of lighting, what was the setup you used?
I used a Stage Ape LED light, it has a full spectrum of colors. I staged the flowers in a vase on top of a black pedestal in front of a white backdrop.
How did you shoot the series?
I shot the series from April to July 2020, and for this series I used peonies, Irises and Orchids.
Why did you choose to shoot it on film, and why did you choose those particular films?
I choose to exclusively shoot film because it has a beautiful hypnotic depth that is unmatched. The films I chose were, Kodak (Ektachrome) E100 (cross processed C41), Kodak Portra 160, Polaroid SX70, and Lomography Metropolis (shot at 100 ISO). I love shooting on slide film, and all these film types have similar characteristics and great color variation.
Did you develop the pictures yourself? If yes, can you give more details about the process?
Unfortunately no, I usually develop my work at Safelight Labs, a community darkroom based in San Diego, CA. Since the quarantine they’ve only been only doing film drop off.
Although flowers have a more joyful connotation, yours seem very mysterious and dark. Why is that?
For me beauty isn’t straight forward, you have to dig beneath the surface or under the skin. It’s just like when you take a portrait of someone, you have to earn their trust to capture their innermost depths. I believe beauty is mysterious in nature, and most of my work is shot in low light. So when combined it gives off this beautiful, dark mysteriousness, which I wanted to continue that aesthetic for my flower series.
Do you have any tips for someone who wants to get into still life photography, especially shooting flowers?
Most still life images I see are shot straight on, there are 360 degrees and infinitely many perspectives you can capture. Experiment and try new things and get out of your comfort zone.