Italian photographer Elisa Cantamessa has been shooting with film for almost 10 years. She is a regular face at the Lomography Photowalks in London and is always keen on trying out new cameras and film. We talked to her about shooting with medium format film and the benefits of shooting in a square format.
Hi Elisa, please tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello! I am a photographer from Italy. I have a history of art background and a communication degree. I have been shooting film for years (almost 10 now) and have amassed quite a collection of cameras.
How did you get into photographing with film?
Since I was little, I remember being attracted to the cameras around the house. My journey with film started back in the 90' during the family's holiday when I was taking pictures of my parents. Only later in high school did I start shooting properly on film on my father's Zenit 122. From there, the journey has been pretty straightforward: I fell in love with the medium and focused on my journey as a film photographer. After that, I started experimenting with different cameras and formats, and I found my favorites: the Lomo LC-A120, and the Mamiya 330.
What is your style of photography, what do you like to shoot?
Do I have a style? Frankly, I am not sure. I feel like all these years have been learning time (so much I still want to know). As a learning process, I began to understand better what I like, what gives me joy shooting! First of all, I love experimenting with film. This can be translated into pushing and pulling film 2 or 3 steps more than recommended. Or experimenting with Double Exposure, or even triple, if you dare!: creating new realities and scenes. In my journey with double exposure, I have been primarily focusing on architecture, one of my favorite subjects. By creating a mirror image of what is around you, I feel like entering a new reality (huge sci-fi fan over there).
Speaking of architecture, I find it particularly pleasing to have symmetry in my photos; this can be seen in my double exposures. This is why one of my colossal inspirations is the filmmaker Wes Anderson. Most of my architectural shoots are focused on a small detail of a building, not its entirety. So when I have my camera in hand, I try to focus on the small details, which are sometimes unnoticed but quite beautiful. Lastly, I enjoy taking portraits with medium-format cameras. I can better capture the person in front of the lens and show how I see them to the world.
What makes you decide to use medium format film, and how does it differ from other film formats?
First is the square frame (I mentioned my obsession with symmetry). I find myself more creative in more rigid boundaries: shooting only 12 photos allows me to put more intention and focus into the action. Being present in the moment and getting inspired by what is around me. On a second level, the medium format cameras I use (Lomo LC-A 120, Lubitel 166+, and Mamiya c330) allow me to experiment even more as I can shoot multiple exposures with all the cameras.
What tips would you give to anyone wanting to try out medium format film?
Have fun with it. As any 120 Lomography films advice, don't think just shoot. Approach your journey with an open mind and follow what interests you and makes you sparkle.