A busy day in the life of Lomographer Anca Pandrea, a.k.a. ofchanceandchoice involves unending analogue experiments and projects. As Anca spearheads the ongoing worldwide film swap project, Make This a Double in the Lomography Community, she’s also building a personal collection of film soups and recipes. Learn what drives Anca’s burning passion for film and experiments here.
Hey Anca! How are you lately as a film photographer during the pandemic?
If there's one good thing that pandemic brought back into my life, it was analog photography. I had stored away my equipment a good 7 or 8 years before, going digital, then mobile, but during the lockdown last year, I turned to film as a way of grounding myself, making sense of the time passing, and playing a bit with self-portraits, cat photos, and shots of the tree in front of my balcony. Since life is still confined in a smaller perimeter than before, without much traveling going on, I try instead to experiment with different film stocks and cameras (of which I am growing quite the collection), making the best of the all too familiar surroundings and moments.
When did you get into film? What drew or appealed to you to the medium?
I recently stumbled across a huge bag of films from my high school years, but I won’t count that. I took a film photography class a decade later, drawn in most by the opportunity to learn to develop my films. I fell in love with the dimmed lights, the smell of substances, and the hands-on nature of it all. I ended up setting my small darkroom at home, complete with an enlarger, safety light, tongs and trays, and the likes. All the perfect imperfections and the slow pace turned out to be precisely the antidote I needed for my impatient, symmetry-loving nature.
May you share with us how you also got into film soup recipes? How did it all start?
I think it was a hashtag that caught my attention, and I was intrigued. What is that, and why do people risk ruining their films this way? My first try was a black and white film soaked in gin & tonic and seawater. I had shot too many rolls of the same beach, the same road, the same shadows; I thought I might just try some self-portraits that would be half hidden by the soup effects. Then I read some more and realized color film might be more appropriate for film soups, and I shot some rolls especially for this purpose, with images I wouldn’t have minded losing to failed experiments. The surprise was that those exact experiments (unexpected and unreproducible) made the results all the more special. I am hooked.
Please share with us your favorite film soup recipe, and if you may, give us a brief step-by-step!
I like thinking about soup recipes as poetry in their own right. I try to find ingredients that tell a story and find an appropriate name for the final concoction. My favorite soup recipe is Coffee & Tears (which uses espresso and coarse salt), and I plan on trying it with more film stocks.
The process is pretty straightforward, complete with butterflies at every step. I soak my films after shooting because I have no way of adequately drying films out of the canister and in a darkroom, so I am not sure how the soaked (sometimes sticky or rough) film would affect the insides of my cameras. I prefer hot mixtures; I think the effects are more intense. I submerge the film in the hot liquid and stir it a couple of times, and then a couple of times more, now and then, until the soup cools down. And then I just let it sit for 24 hours. To ensure proper cleaning, I rinse the films under running water for 5-10 minutes and then leave the films for a couple of hours in clean water, changing them a couple of times.
I learned two important lessons from some of my failed or more complicated experiments: leave the film leader out and dry your films thoroughly; otherwise, the moist emulsion will come right off when you take the film out of the canister. Now I keep my films in a cup of rice for at least a week (or until I am ready to develop them).
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I am a hobby collector. I like trying new things, learning new things, and I am particularly drawn to manual, technical activities (like woodwork, metalsmithing, the developing part of analog photography). I try to put myself out of my comfort zone by (solo) traveling (hoping to do that again as soon as possible), taking up dance classes, or sailing. I have yet to learn roller-skating; for some reason, I have been putting it off since high school. When I am not busy with all my hobbies, I work as a freelance translator and a hospitality entrepreneur in Bucharest, Romania.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I believe we carry within ourselves bits and pieces of every place we visit, every person we meet, every song we listen to. I go through periods of intense accumulation when I read a lot, listen to podcasts, watch three movies a day, meet friends I haven’t seen in too long. The same insane build-up happens when I travel, with new tastes, sounds, new ways of looking at the world. And then I retreat to regroup and recharge, and these bits and pieces start working in me, encouraged by my many thoughts and my need to make sense of (my) life. And it’s then when an idea begins to sprout roots.
What's next for you?
After last year, I am trying not to plan too much ahead; I can be quickly disappointed by things not coming together as I’d like. I can’t wait to start traveling again; I want to take photos on film all around the world. In the meantime, I am playing around with double exposures, and I am excited to be involved in some cool swaps with lovely people I met on Lomography (on my own or through my pet project @makethisadouble). As far as film soups are concerned, I have a Lomochrome Purple 120 that I’m excited to experiment with. I am also trying to be more patient with my familiar surroundings and look at them with fresh eyes, let myself be surprised.