In the last couple of years there has been a resurgence in film manufacture. Several kick-starters have been successful and even the traditional manufacturers have announced some new emulsions with the balance being there have also been a few discontinuations. Before this resurgence though, Lomography had filled the gap to renew interest in film. The interesting approach Lomography took has been, rather than initially try and reach the more traditional photographers, Lomography made it cool, by introducing cameras and films that replicated filters. That is something that generally happens the other way around.
One of the series of films they introduced is Lomochrome which contrary to their name are negative films rather than chrome positives. Two of these are the Purple and the Turquoise variants, which have been manufactured and discontinued and renewed a couple of times.
These are films that have such a distinct look that the photographer must be able to visualise what they want to get out of them. Unlike traditional colour film, which each have a distinct look themselves, these can be a little unpredictable as the aim is not to replicate “true” colours.
Some people compare this to cross processing, but that is not quite right as Lomochrome does not produce the result by abusing the film, but processing it exactly as it should be. For further information on cross-processing, see here.
So, before we have a look at the results, a bit about the company and films themselves.
Lomography is the trading name of the Austrian company Lomographische AG. It was based on the Lomographic Society International, which in 1992 was started by a group of students in Vienna. They were inspired by the LC-A camera created by Lomo of Russia. Back then the Lomography look was more of an artistic attraction rather than a mainstream business. The “imperfect” results and a degree of unpredictability attracted photographers that did not want to just create images which neatly fit into existing predefined categories.
Lomo itself created the LC-A, supposedly, based on the Cosina CX-1 camera in the early 1980s. This camera has become a cult favourite, with an updated model released in 2005 by Lomography. Lomography since the middle 1990s has continued complementary photographic accessories and unique cameras.
In 2013, Lomography, amongst some other products released in that year, released the Lomochrome Purple film in both 35mm and 120 formats. This was followed very closely in 2014 with Lomochrome Turquoise in the same formats. These films were based on Kodak’s legendary Aerochrome film, an infrared film which had a very distinctive look. Lomography took the decision, and quite rightly, to make their versions as standard C41 films but with the infrared look, by utilising colour shifts. This avoided having to use any filters or unique processing requirements.
Both sold out very quickly when introduced and were quite hard to get hold of for a while.
Lomochrome Purple and Lomochrome Turquoise films are both available as 35mm and 120 medium format films. They have a ISO rating of 100-400, which means you can comfortable rate it at anything between that range and just ensure the lab (or yourself) is aware and processes appropriately.
Processing is with the C41 process, so it is very easy to have it done at lab. Unlike Kodak Aerochrome, which was a reversal film (slide) with a very specific chemical formula for processing, this is a very easy. You do not need to use a yellow filter to achieve the ISO rating as you did with Aerochrome or any infrared filters you needs with traditional infrared filters.
Both films have a very distinctive base layer. Normally when you process C41 colour film, it has an orange base. The Purple film has a green base and the Turquoise film a yellow flavour to it.
Lomochrome Purple interestingly allows the red tones to stay unaffected, while green tones will become purple. This is also affected by which film speed you set, at ISO 100 it is clearly purple, while at ISO 400 it moves towards indigo.
Lomochrome Turquoise on the hand, tends to affect colours a bit differently. Warm colours shift towards blue, while the blues then shift to a golden colour making a very interesting sky. The greens though, become a luxurious emerald.
Both films are recommended to be kept in the refrigerator.
I came across both films when I asked a friend on his trip to Tokyo if he could pick up some film which was not easily found here in Sydney, and different. As we are both more in line with traditional methods, he noticed the Lomochrome films on sale and thought they were different and something I would like to try. Obviously, it is not hard to find here, but we had never really looked at the Lomography films. Luckily for me, he did, as I would not have normally got these myself. I was also further lucky, as he got me some black and white films that are only sold in Japan, but more on those another time.
My first attempt using both these films was a fairly silly one. I thought Lomo style photography calls for a Lomo style camera, so I popped in one roll of 120 each into the Holga 120N and metered for ISO 100. With anyone that has shot with a Holga, metering is a very loose term as you don’t get much of choice on exposure. I had some previous good experiences with the Holga, even took it to a trip to Cambodia with me, so was eagerly awaiting what was to come.
My results can be described as a disaster, and that is if you were being kind. Only a couple shots even resemble anything I wanted. Very dark, and muddy with really nothing to like about them. So, I then left the other two rolls of Lomochrome in the refrigerator until recently, roughly 1 year. A few weeks ago I was looking at writing my next article and the thought struck me that I wanted to write something other than vintage cameras themselves, so I picked up my Fuji GS645S Wide60, a beautiful camera with a great exposure meter and very sharp lens. You can read about it here. I loaded up some Purple and off I went for a walk around the neighbourhood with my lovely wife.
A few days later I took a walk in a typical Sydney sunny day, as I had read that this film really likes lots of light. As such, I exposed for the film as a ISO 100 rated film, but when I finished and handed the two rolls over to the lab, I asked for processing as a ISO 200 film, effectively overexposing the film by one stop.
Now the results for both were astonishing! The first thing I noticed was the base colour of the films, each with their own colour. The green for the Purple film and the yellow for the Turquoise. Excitedly I looked into the loupe and what then really struck me was how fine the grain of these films is when exposed properly. My hunch on overexposing a stop also looked like it has paid off, as the exposures and detail were all there.
I was very eager then to scan these, and got to it right away when I got home that night. When viewing the results, the shift in colours is quite extraordinary, it hits you in the face. I am not sure exactly what I was expecting, maybe muddy blacks like the previous attempt, but nothing could be further from the truth. Combined with the sharpness of the GS645S and the right light, the images are quite striking.
The shift in the greens from the Purple film is quite impactful, but what really captured my attention was the whole world of colour shifts from the Turquoise film. The shift of the shadows to blue with the greens to that amazing emerald is breathtaking.
Would I use these again? For some fun, yes. The colours are definitely attractive and eye catching. The sharpness and fine grain of the film is astonishing. I am most likely to reach for some Turquoise over the Purple though, as I prefer that colour shift more. I would suggest everyone should have a go at it.