"Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable."
This is a quote from Dr. Cesar A. Chavez, an educator and activist. This article is not about him and yet it feels like somehow it is.
The words start to make more meaning as we take a look at the work of photographer Laetitia Heisler. The overlapping images can feel like a chaotic display of human faces, bodies, and nature. They can look like a fortunate coincidence, however, upon discovering what Laetitia undergoes while she creates these images, it becomes clear that what she does isn't all about making a pretty picture. It's more about herself and what she feels.
Taking photographs and creating these abstract and artistic overlaps on film is a form of comfort to Laetitia. She channels her emotions in her work as a form of self-expression. In a way, all of the things that disturb or overwhelm her are transformed into visual art that soothes and relieves. The busy and fuzzy things in her head grow quiet and calm as she lays a new exposure over another. We are glad to be part of her audience.
How long have you been shooting with film?
I began shooting with film in 2016. But it wasn't for art at first. I did it just to have memories of my rock band while we were on tour. After a while during my therapy, I felt the need to put myself on the scene. When I discovered the magic of double exposures, everything came on its own all at once. The inspiration to create new shapes with my body came because of the inner trouble I went through.
What's your favorite thing about it?
My favorite thing about shooting with film is that you can not "consume" it like you would with digital. You have to be patient and wait for the result otherwise you will waste a lot of film. In fact, shooting film gave me a lot of patience. I am not very patient by nature! And most of all, it gave me the possibility to do double, or triple exposures. It is a way for me to show what cannot be seen by eyes. I feel very connected to my emotions, and I like to be able to show some of them this way. It is a real exploration for me.
How do you come up with your concepts?
It came very naturally. I was in therapy because I wanted to understand who I am deep inside, and how my conditioning made me suffer. The concept of my works is in constant evolution. In the beginning, two or three years ago, it was really dark. I wanted to show the physical and mental pain I felt inside myself. Because of menstruation pain, I had a lot of anger. I wanted to get rid of it and make peace with the fact that I was born with a female body. Today I feel more at peace and I am focusing more on the beauty of every being.
When I switched from instant to 35 mm, I discovered new possibilities. Analogue photography is so exciting but also has a calming effect on my turbulent mind. Technically, it depends on what I'm doing—if I am taking a self-portrait with an instant camera or a 35 mm film camera. Self-portraits, often begin with a sharp emotion I feel that I want to immortalize—like an urgent need. Then I take the camera, search for a place where I can be on my own, and shoot.
When I am shooting someone else, it is more slow and calm. I connect with the other person and try to be careful about details and also like to talk with the model to have a vague idea of her emotional state. To be more precise and have a good idea of the result, I recently decided to take notes. I have a paper for every film I shoot: one column for the first exposure and one for the second. Otherwise, you forget everything. This also can be a good concept but it's not what I want to do today.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I don't like to describe my style because I like it to evolve. I don't want to be put in a category, otherwise, I take the risk of limiting myself. Sometimes I take dark pictures, sometimes oneiric, sometimes romantic, sometimes nude, sometimes not. If I really had to describe it, I would just say it's something like an expression of exploration.
We love your Lomo'Instant Wide shots. What made you choose that camera for your work?
I chose the Lomo'Instant Wide because of my husband. He gave me a lot of confidence in taking pictures and gave me this camera as a gift for my birthday. I had no idea that this would be the beginning of such an artistic journey. When I discovered the magic of the double exposures with the splitter, I felt it was magic. It offers so many possibilities. After two years I decided to buy myself the Lomo LC-A+. That was my first 35 mm camera and it was so good to start analogue photography with. Now, when I do 35 mm, I love to expose a Lomography film on my Pentax camera and then expose it again on my Nikon for example.
What inspires you to capture photographs?
What inspires me the most is solitude in nature but also the fact that I can just allow myself to be as I am—to feel what comes. And when it is about 35 mm, I have different inspirations when it comes to the first or the second exposure. For the first exposure, I have a very open eye for flowers, lights, skies, water, trees, cold temperatures, and even animals. For the second exposure, it is more about taking the camera when I have this feeling that I am tired from having too many emotions.
I sometimes try to get inspired in the city, but I never get satisfied with the result. I think the forest is the best place for me. If I don't take time on my own every single day, I feel overwhelmed and tired and creativity goes low. To sum it all up, emotions and solitude in the forest are my best ingredients to get creative!
Read more about her from her first interview here in the Lomography Magazine:
Laetitia Mangala Instant's Poetic and Powerful Exploration of Femininity With the Lomo' Instant Wide