When on his downtime from work as a DevOps engineer, Arjun Duvvuru turns into Chennai’s street and heritage lensman as he wanders around to find relevant historical and cultural pieces and places that shape the city. He would also capture the current city life through the people he encounters on the streets, listening and memorializing their stories. Arjun recently shot with a Lomography film for the very first time. With the calm, subtle tones and elegant aesthetic of the LomoChrome Metropolis, the photographs from his documentary adventures enhanced his visual storytelling. Get to know more about Arjun and his experience with this film.
Hi Arjun! Welcome to Lomography Magazine! Please introduce yourself to our Lomography community.
I am from Chennai, India. I work as a DevOps Engineer in the IT industry. I go on long walks to cool off from work-related heat and often take my camera along. I tend to photograph people on the street and the city’s heritage. Recently I have started learning and experimenting with cyanotype printing and developing black and white negatives at home. I have been married for 2 years and my wife and I are expecting our twin babies soon.
How did you first discover your passion for photography?
I believe it all began when I was in 10th grade when my father gifted me a Canon Prima point to shoot film camera and asked me to take candid photographs of family members during a wedding. I have been shooting ever since. I am naturally drawn to photographing my family, friends, people on the street, and heritage (cultural, architectural, and everything else). I started taking photography more seriously in 2017 when I was exposed to works of greats like Ansel Adams, Don Mccullin, Diane Arbus, Bruno Barbey, Fan Ho, and Fred Herzog (to name a few). This is the period when I realized that I had the potential to make good photographs but was not utilizing it properly. I did a lot of studying to improve my composition and learned to visualize a scene in my mind’s eye and then use the right gear and settings to capture what I wanted.
Another point of transformation came in 2019 when I realized the importance of capturing everyday mundane life and time spent with family and friends. It was the summer of 2019 when I visited my grandmother’s home, almost after an 11-year gap after her passing away in 2008. Every step I took in that house brought back a memory. These memories came to me with such a rush that I was so overcome with emotion. I was also saddened that I did not have photographs of this place and its people to cherish and relive the moments that had passed.
What do you enjoy most about shooting film?
Conversations I have with people on the street. When I approach people to take their photographs or am trying to get access to an area that is off-limits, I start by saying that I am testing an old film camera that I inherited and restored. Almost every time, people are somehow transported to the 70s and 80s and are eager to share their stories from the past – “in those days, this is what life was like… and this is how things were done…now everything is done on the phone…” etc.
Besides the conversations, I like the fact that the cost and resource restrictions that film imposes make me more thoughtful when shooting. I tend to move around more and visualize different compositions before taking the shot. If I were shooting digital, I believe I would subconsciously let the camera do the thinking. I shoot digital mostly when I anticipate that I must be quick or when light/environment situations do not permit the use of film. Another aspect I like about film is the grain and feel of the final print that I believe is unmatched.
Tell us more about your experience with the Metropolis film. What was your concept behind this shoot? Which camera did you use to shoot with the Metropolis film?
This is my first experience with film from Lomography. I shot themes that I am comfortable with – family, people on the street and heritage architecture. I also tried some macro photography at home during the lockdown. I used Yashica FX7 camera with a 50 mm f/1.9 and 28 mm f/2.8 lenses. I like that this film produces pleasant skin tones and unexaggerated colours suited for the kind of portraiture and documentary photography that I prefer.
Please pick a photo or two from the Metropolis shots and tell us the story behind it.
The first: I purchased a few mangoes from this street vendor named Ganesh during one of my walks. After other customers had left, I asked the vendor If I could take his picture. He agreed but wanted to know why. I said I was testing an old film camera and that his mustache looked fabulous. After I took the shot. He told me that he worked as a security guard before 2020 and grew a more menacing mustache to suit the job. He said people often approached him for selfies then. Now he has trimmed down his mustache and is conscious not to bring out the WWE star in him, to avoid the risk of scaring away his customers.
For the second photo: the octogenarian lady on the phone is a friend of our family. She is an Indian classical musician (plays the Veena) and has toured several countries on 6 continents while performing as part of a touring music group. But her life has not been as glamourous as it sounds. She lost her husband when she was in her twenties and had to raise her three children all by herself with the sporadic income that her profession provided. Despite her many tragedies, she always appears bright and unfazed. She is a source of inspiration for us and a pillar of support for her family. This picture was taken when she was patiently listening to and providing words of encouragement to her daughter who is going through a very tough phase herself.
What was your favorite thing about shooting with the LomoChrome Metropolis?
I really like the grain structure of this film and the color tones it generates, it is gentle and pleasing. I love that this film doesn’t create a yellow cast on the skin, captures reds truly, and doesn’t oversaturate colors.