We have previously featured the work of Lydia Lutz when she shared her instant photos and some favorite analogue memories. She comes from generations of photographers in her family, so it's not surprising that she took the same path.
Recently, Lydia took a huge still life photo shoot in film, unfortunately, that didn't turn out well - the film ended up getting completely ruined. Thankfully, she took some instant photos for fun and took on other photography projects. We chatted with her about what kept her busy these past few months.
Hello, Lydia! How are you since the last time we spoke?
I am doing well! My life has changed a lot in the last year. The graduate school I was planning to attend in Italy was canceled due to the pandemic, so I have been working hard to apply to other universities in Europe and the UK. I just accepted an offer for a Master’s of Fine Arts program in Museum Curation located in Bath, England which I am super excited about! I think England will be a great place for me to grow and learn more about myself. I am still determined to one day live and work in Italy and/or Greece for some time. This has led me to seek out a few summer certificate programs that I plan on applying to in the future for art restoration and archeology in Italy’s active sites.
In my spare time, I am constantly scanning old films for my large archival project, developing new projects, traveling around the PNW with my close friends, and re-editing old travel photos while I patiently wait to travel farther. Some of these closer-to-home trips have resulted in new traditions such as visiting lighthouses, hunting for oysters, and collecting ambrotypes from weird antique stores. In the moments of rest, I am usually daydreaming about my next adventures in Europe or watching Wes Anderson films.
Can you tell us briefly about these instant photography projects that you worked on?
I have been calling the project with the chicken feet “Yaga”, as in Ба́ба-Яга́ (Baba Yaga). I am passionate about creating still life projects where every item and sometimes the number of specific items in the shot is very intentional or has meaning behind it. What I choose to include in my projects is often inspired by Dutch still life paintings, Greek mythology, my favorite literature, and folklore from my heritage. These projects feel deeply personal and vulnerable to me for this reason. If I were to list out why every item is present, each project would tell a different story from experiences of my past to what I’m going through emotionally in life at the moment. Unlike the still life projects, the portraits, behind-the-scenes shots of larger photoshoots, and photos from my travels were created spontaneously.
Among these projects, which one has been the most challenging to shoot?
The “Yaga” project was the hardest to shoot by far. I spent months planning for that photoshoot, had the staging drawn out, and converted my living room into a studio. I was working with a new lighting kit and was slightly stressed about the setup but was happy with my instant film test shots. I got into a fun workflow, I sang and danced around my house to music while shooting. After I shot several rolls, I was feeling excited but sad to dismantle the scene I had created. I sent my film to a lab to be developed and when it returned, my worst nightmare had occurred. Due to a small mishap, all of the film was ruined. All I had was instant film test shots and progress photos I had taken on my phone. I was very thankful to have those instant film test shots and decided to scan them and work with whatever photos I had. Having an important project get ruined was upsetting, but I used it as a learning opportunity. I asked myself “What could I have done better in the staging?”, “How could I improve the lighting?”, “What was the project missing?”, etc. to have a successful re-shoot someday.
Any memorable instances that happened during the photoshoots?
Two come to mind— one foul, one sweet. For the “Yaga” shoot, I had to defrost chicken feet and learn how to shuck an oyster, both for the first time. The combination of smells was… interesting, but I didn’t start gagging until I picked up one of the chicken feet. To my horror, it felt like a small human hand, just wrinkly and with claws. I’m not sure what I expected it to feel like. I fought through the gagging and eventually became desensitized, but the wretched, rancid, fishy, smell of chicken feet and oysters did not leave my house for several days and it was rough. The sweet memory I have was from a spontaneous portrait photoshoot. I love the exciting feeling of getting hit with inspiration, saying “come over asap and bring XYZ” and everything just works out the way it’s supposed to. I was photographing someone special at sunset and music was floating gently through the air. It was fun and peaceful, and ended with a beautiful walk around where I live. It was one of the types of moments where I immediately knew this would one day become a happy memory that I will cherish.
Why did you choose an instant camera for these projects?
When I do larger projects, I often choose to tandem shoot film and instant film. I like using instant film for test shots, but they also become the perfect keep-sake and reminders for projects that I don’t get to develop right away. When everything went wrong in the “Yaga” project, the instant shots were all I had and I am very thankful to have any shots of that project at all. I love taking instant cameras with me when I travel. I brought one with me all over Greece, Italy, and England when I was studying abroad and they captured some of my most adored memories. I think the overall nostalgic feeling of shooting instant film is what makes them the best medium for memories. I still bring one with me wherever I go, and just recently took my Lomo’Instant Wide on a relaxing getaway with friends to the Olympic Peninsula. We hunted for oysters, jumped in the frigid water of the Puget Sound, warmed up in the hot tub, and ran around in robes. I am so grateful for these people in my life and loved documenting our trip on instant film.
Follow Lydia on Instagram: lydialutzzz to see more of her work.