Morgan Stanley Building, Oxnard CA
I was going through my camera closet the other day, digging out film cameras that had been sitting for awhile. Except for a few that I use all the time, I’ve gotten rid of most of the 40-odd film cameras I had collected. The only ones left were ones that were broken or unsellable for whatever reason. I stumbled across a Kodak Pony 135 camera, which is a cheap bakelite-body zone-focus camera that shoots 35mm film. I had previously dismissed it as worthless, and have never used it (I believe it came in a box with another camera that was much more interesting). However I realize now that there might be some lo-fi magic in that little box.
Before shooting, I headed over to flickr to see if anything good could come of a Pony 135, and found a flickr group dedicated to the camera. Immediately I was struck by this image by moxpox. And a whole series of these flipped double-exposures using different cameras. I was hooked, and loaded some (expired 99¢ store) film in the Pony right away.
I’ve never thought much of double exposures. Most of the time they look cheesy to me, because there is often no meaningful connection between the two exposures. It often looks like a cheap trick: ooh look I’ve got two pictures on one frame! But the flip makes sense visually. The content remains simple, and symmetry is built where perhaps none existed before.
The process is simple. You need a camera where the shutter cocking mechanism is separate from the film winding mechanism. Many cameras go out of their way to prevent double exposure.I have a few other cameras that will do this, and there are of course many more: Ricoh Super Ricohflex, Holga 120N, Bronica HC and Bronica ETR-s, Argus C3, Kodak Bantam and all my large-format lenses. Even some cameras that try to prevent double exposures can be tricked: I believe the Yashica Electro 35 GSN can do a double exposure, if you hold the ‘film rewind’ button underneath, while advancing the film wind lever. The film ends up staying in one place for that shot. Other cameras might be able to do this too…just give ‘em a try!
When shooting, you pick a simple subject and simple background, and visualize the final result. Examine the frame, to determine where different parts of your subject line up, because you’ll want to duplicate that. Turn the camera 180 degrees, line it up in the viewfinder, and fire the second exposure before winding the film.
For more fun, consider filtering one or both exposures with different colored filters. I used small sections of Rosco cinegel from their sample book, but you could use colored celophane bought at a craft shop if you wanted. A dark filter is going to reduce the light considerably, so you could either meter through it and get a precise adjustment for your exposure, or just guess, or not bother adjusting at all. I didn’t bother adjusting! Images 1-3 and the last one all have some sort of filtering for one or both exposures, although I don’t recall what I did specifically.
Two minor details to consider:
- Since you’re giving the film twice the amount of exposure, you should adjust your aperture and/or shutter speed so that you’re underexposing by a stop. It’s film however, so you can probably get away with just shooting normally. Film doesn’t usually mind if you overexpose it a little.
- Parallax can become an issue if you’re shooting a close subject. Even if you use a rangefinder that compensates for parallax error in the viewfinder, the flip will throw things off. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as is evidenced by the barbwire fence image below. It’s just harder to achieve perfect symmetry with close subjects. An SLR will not have this problem, but twin-lens reflex cameras, rangefinders and zone-focus/point and shoot cameras will.
For the brick wall below, I didn’t do a flip. Instead I shot the wall straight on, and then for the second exposure I angled up and to the side, to get a perspective shot.
The final shot is seriously overexposed! My finger was near the shutter cocking lever when I fired the second exposure, and apparently that interferes with the shutter closing. I’m surprised actually, as I would have thought the shutter’s closing would have been independent of that lever. Made for a nice effect though!
my kids on the beach