“These things have their own unique soul,” suggests Poland-based film photographer Lukasz Spychala about the unique charm the analog medium holds in his heart. He greatly prefers the limited yet satisfactory choice of a few film frames over thousands of digital ones. Using nostalgic elements from his childhood, Lukasz creates photo projects with a great deal of careful planning.
Nostalgia can be defined as a feeling of longing or even craving for a time period gone by. An almost bittersweet feeling. While it gives us a short-term pleasure to recollect the feel of a bygone era, we realize we can’t ever live such times again. Don’t we all do something to try and temporarily keep re-living the feelings of past eras? Some of us shoot classic film stock photos. Others like me watch movies of the 70s and 80s to evoke old memories of childhood. Many collect memorabilia that can remind us of the years they are now considered icons of. Lukasz Spychala combined all these factors and more to create his recent photography projects.
The Essential Photo Gear Used by Lukasz Spychala
Lukasz told us:
The Phoblographer: Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
Lukasz Spychala: My name is Łukasz; I’m 27 years old. I have been living in Wrocław, Poland, since I was born. I have been dealing with photography since high school, which was about 10 years ago. I started my adventure with a digital camera. In college, I decided to buy my first analog camera, which is still my primary camera. I graduated from the Wrocław University of Technology. I am a master of computer science engineering, and I work as a programmer on a daily basis. In the third year of my studies, I joined the cultural agenda of the university, and then I made a conscious decision that I wanted to deal with analog photography. I love its unpredictability and the ability to work carefully on each frame. I believe that this is the most beautiful type of photography ever made.
My favourite types of photography are feminine portraits and nudes, in which I specialize. I love naturalness, and I am delighted with the female body all the time. The basis for creating my photos is form and light. I do not deal with photography professionally, but it is my greatest passion. I am constantly looking for my way in it, and I try to make each next photo the best one. In analogue photography, I was captivated by the process of creating an image, celebrating a ritual related to film development, as well as the unpredictability of the final result.
My artistic activity is always closely related to what I currently experience in my private life. Each of us has a time when we appreciate all the moments that we miss and try not to miss any of them. I try not only to remember them but also to show them on film. I often try to do the opposite and recreate special moments when I didn’t have a camera with me to fully experience them. I try not to label anyone artistically and privately, especially myself. Regardless of the consequences of my work, I always try to describe in frames what is most important to me at the moment.
The Phoblographer: Where did the idea for the series Another World come from?
Lukasz Spychala: The series was created out of my consideration about whether it is worth dreaming and having dreams. You never know which of our dreams will come true, even if they seem like distant dreams.
The dream is real or the reality is a dream…
Staying in a dream, the dream is real…
Life is actually like a dream…
I started my adventure with analogue photography from black and white films. I really like Ilford materials such as FP4 + or HP5 +. Recently, I have been photographing more often in colour films. I love the Kodak Portra 400 and 800, as well as the CineStill 800T. I also have a lot of expired films, such as Agfa XPS Portrait 160 or Kodak Portra NC and VC series, which allow you to get unique colours.
The Phoblographer: Is the analog film world being referred to here? Or the TV world?
Lukasz Spychala: We are talking about our dreams that seem distant to us, which we are even afraid to dream about, and they are often at our fingertips. In this series, the world of television symbolizes our dreams – something that we watch; it is real and physical but not available at first. After all, dreams can come true and become reality. The moral of this series is to be careful what you dream about because dreams can come true.
The Phoblographer: Do you think we’re becoming enslaved by technology like TV and the Internet? It’s almost like we can’t take a step without tuning in these days.
Lukasz Spychala: I think that, unfortunately, we often become slaves to technology, but I want to believe that each of us will try to tame it and use it for self-improvement rather than waste our time senselessly. Time is the most valuable, and it is worth giving it to your loved ones or devoting it to the passion that develops us. The world is moving forward, and I think you have to go with the times, but more consciously and rationally.
The Phoblographer: Was this shot on film? If so, why did you opt to go this way instead of digital?
Lukasz Spychala: Yes, these photos were taken with the Mamiya RB67 Pro-S analogue camera on the CineStill Film 800Tungsten film, developed at a local lab. For several years I have been dealing only with analogue photography. First and foremost, it is a different philosophy of taking pictures than with a digital camera. During the session, 12 well-thought-out and planned shots are created at once, not a few hundred or even a thousand photos, from which it is difficult to choose the best ones later. In addition, the photographic material itself gives interesting colour effects, has a very wide tonal range, and is adapted to tungsten light (3200K). The main advantage of my camera is the size of the photosensitive material, 6cm x 6cm. A digital camera with such a large sensor is very expensive.
The Phoblographer: The analog TV and the VHS tapes are lovely throwbacks to past decades. Is the nostalgic fascination for this period also why you love shooting film so much?
Lukasz Spychala: My childhood was a time when VHS cassette rentals were booming, and the televisor receiver had room for a sleeping cat! I definitely feel a hint of nostalgia for having something tangible and the feeling of having it in my hand, feeling the weight. At the moment, everything is as if it is, but you do not feel it because it is digital. People used to have entire shelves of vinyl records, and today they have several apps on their phones with playlists. It is the same with photography. When I have photos of a negative or a diapositive, I can even touch the photo. I can make a printout from a digital camera, but it’s not the same anymore. I really like analogue stuff. I have a tube radio at home, a slide projector, or an old watch on my wrist. These things have their own unique soul.
The Phoblographer: Is the series Adolescence about the juxtaposition of feelings of wanting to grow up and not wanting to let go of childhood?
Lukasz Spychala: Yes, that’s exactly what this series is about. Every child dreams of being an adult. About freedom, about freedom, about making your own choices. In this series, the symbol of the child is a girl with a braid in a blue dress playing on a rocking horse.
The symbol of adulthood is a naked woman on a real horse. In my opinion, the climax between childhood and adulthood is the golden mean where we are adults, but we let our inner child speak, listen to its needs and fulfill our childhood dreams when we are adults.
The Phoblographer: Tell us how you created that double exposure image. That must have taken a bit of planning.
Lukasz Spychala: In the beginning, this series of photos was to be made with two models, and then I did not expect to have a double exposure. Unfortunately, however, I had the opportunity to do this photo session with one model, and I decided that it was worth taking the risk and doing a multi-exposure.
I did not have a tripod with me, only a monopod, so this task was difficult. I planned the entire frame and first took a picture of a naked model on a real horse. Then the model changed and pinned up her hair, and then we took a picture of the rocking horse. I am very pleased with the effect we have achieved! I believe this is one of my best shots, especially considering the difficulty of taking it.
The Phoblographer: Your photos come with captions that really balance their feel and mood: Stagnation, The Living Sculpture, etc. Do you think of these afterward, or are the images created around a previously thought of title?
Lukasz Spychala: I believe that each finished work should have its own title. I do not like to add ideology to previously taken photos. I think it is quite a stretch, and you can see it later. I try very hard to set the theme and history of the photos in advance. In the case of storytelling, the series title is a bit like the script in a film. In the case of single photos, I sometimes notice associations when I see the photo only on the computer screen, and sometimes then I find the right title for the photo.