Since my return to film photography, I made the decision that I wanted to document what life uncovered for me in terms of experiences, memories and moments and store them on a medium that lasts forever.
In Summer 2019 I met Lynn, a junior colorist for one of my projects who turned out to be a film photographer. Whenever I meet people from the younger generation who are involved in film photography — normally because they appreciate and understand what the film can produce rather than just following the hype — I get over-excited.
Knowing the scarcity of film back in Lebanon (it is almost impossible to find fresh films or have the opportunity to try new ones) and as a gesture of respect and encouragement, I offered Lynn a number of films with one request…To share with the best images the films produced with me.
I don’t usually write articles about such experiences but this time things went above and beyond what I’ve come to expect as run of the mill. This is how the story of our unexpected collaboration began.
ADIB – Moscow, May 2019
A once in a lifetime experience…
How often do you get the chance to visit RUSSIA and, in particular, the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) where real Cosmonauts/Astronauts are trained. Astronauts vs. Cosmonauts? In the beginning, it was confusing, but it turned out to be the same, Russians call them Cosmonauts, Americans call them Astronauts.
Fun Fact! Did you know that since July 2011 and until the recent SpaceX Demo-2 launch, all NASA astronauts have been launched into space from Baikonur in Kazakhstan onboard Russian rockets and returned to earth using the Russian Soyuz Spacecraft?
One more intriguing fact? All recent NASA astronauts are trained at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) and it is mandatory to learn Russian to be able to operate the Soyuz. I’m not into politics, but I still find it amusing how the space business is the complete opposite of what the politicians blabber against each other on TV.
I learned a lot during this project, and I can keep on going, but let’s get back to our topic. Back to photography:
The show I was working on was a reality TV show called Astronauts, where 12 candidates live the astronaut pre-selection experience between Dubai, Russia (Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center), and the USA (Kennedy Space Center). Knowing our tight schedule, limited shooting hours, and low light conditions we are shooting in, choosing my personal camera for this trip was an easy decision. I took my Leica M6 TTL and 7artisans 50mm f/1.1 lens to accompany me through all my trips.
I arrived in Russia well prepared with a number of films and even visited SREDA Film Lab to stock up on films, afraid I might not have enough or miss an opportunity to capture memorable moments.
During our daily visits to GCTC, I was always eager to discover what is hidden behind the doors, although it was strictly prohibited. During our filming, we were introduced
- The Mir Station: the first space station that operated in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001. It was replaced by the International Space Station which orbits the Earth as you are reading this article.
- The Soyuz Spacecraft, the vehicle which brings all Cosmonauts and Astronaut back home safe.
- Orlan Suits, also known as the million dollar suit, and it’s the suit cosmonauts wear to perform their spacewalk.
Aside from all the space related things, I also had the chance to wander around the city and discover the beauty of Moscow, filming the Red Square area, the marvellous underground metro stations (the underground in Moscow looks like a museum), and other places.
LYNN – Beirut, January 2018
Hello, my name is Lynn Al-Abiad. I studied cinema and discovered my love for colors along the way. Colors fascinated me to a point where I knew I had to make them my job, and so here I am, paving my way into becoming a senior colorist.
In January 2018, I had decided to buy my first roll of photographic film (Kodak ColorPlus 200), and loaded it in my Zenit 122, a camera I had received as a gift from a photographer friend 5 years earlier.
Like many people out there coming to film photography, I never held a digital camera ever again. A few months later, I found my dad’s Canon EOS 300. It is the camera I am currently shooting with, as my Zenit has some issues with its shutter but I am still using its Helios 58mm f/1.8 lens on my Canon with an adapter.
ADIB – Beirut, June 2019
After around a month in Russia, the show’s filming phase was over, and it was time to go back home to Beirut for the post-production.
One day after we came back to Beirut, I took all the C-41 film I’d shot in Russia and went to my favorite film processing shop, where they allow me to stay next to the developing machine to pick my films directly and cut/store in my sleeves myself. Color film done, I then went to my old university lab to develop all the black and white films.
Only one film was left behind, a special film I bought from SREDA Film Lab, Kodak VISION3 500T film roll that required an ECN2 developing process, which we lacked in Lebanon.
Knowing that I was relocating to Canada in less than a month, I kept the film aside. I was excited to see the outcome as it was the last film I shot in Moscow and held all the missing images I recall I captured.
LYNN – Beirut, July 2019
A last-minute revelation.
Adib came to the company I work for in summer 2019. He was finishing a job he had shot earlier that year and in just one week, was leaving forever to move to Canada.
Even though I had multiple encounters with him, we always kept it to a minimal interaction, up until one day I saw a 35mm camera laying next to his belongings, and so, one experience led to another, one photo led to another, and I got to know him only one day before he left.
After talking for long hours about our love for film, he asked me if I could come to his place so he could give me a bunch of films before he finished packing that night.
Excited at the thought, I left work as soon as I could. Once at Adib’s place, he opened a box with a million-dollars worth of films and handed me six rolls of film:
- Lomography Color Negative 800
- Kodak Pro Image 100
- Fujifilm Superia XTRA 400
- Kodak Portra 160
- Cinestill 800T
- Kodak Ektar 100
He asked me to repay him by sending him my favorite shot from each film roll. That night, I slept like a baby, hugging my new toys. The next day, Adib left for Canada.
ADIB – Toronto, July 2019
A new beginning!
One of the first things I did once I got to Toronto was research a lab that could develop motion picture film in ECN2 chemistry. I have always wanted to try Kodak VISION films in still photography, the last time I used them was in 2009 directing the last music video clip I shot on film!
I discovered that there was a lab called Niagara Custom Film that was willing to develop my roll of film, but it will take almost a month. Honestly, I’m not used to waiting, I’m used to waiting for my film next to the minilab in Lebanon, picking it up and cutting it myself. Now I had to get used to a new system or start developing my own C-41 and ECN2.
Ps. On a side note, I was really impressed by how film photography is still thriving in Toronto. It was a dream come true. Any film I want to try or accessory I need I can find at Downtown Camera or Henry’s or can easily ship online!
LYNN – Beirut – France, October 2019
What these films have seen!
I started with the Lomography Color Negative 800, as I have always wanted to try this film. It has mostly seen the beaches around Lebanon, Lebanon’s highest peak and the Levant, Qornet Al Sawda.
Next, I loaded the Kodak Image Pro 100, also a film I haven’t tried before. It saw a trip to the mountains of Chouf, a house party, and the last 8 shots saw Paris. It is the luckiest film.
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Then the Kodak Portra 160, followed by the Cinestill 800T, saw Paris and Versailles in October. Not to mention that I bought more some film in Paris as well.
One of the Fujifilm Superia XTRA 400’s saw the Lebanese protests that came to life in October 2019.
ADIB – Toronto, September 11, 2019
You’ve got mail!
I received an email from Niagara Custom Films stating that my negatives were ready for pick-up… I dressed, took the streetcar, then bus, picked my negatives, got back to the bus, then the streetcar again before finally getting home and heading straight for my scanner.
But something was missing!!
I was expecting some specific images. Since all the films were developed, I have shared all the pictures I captured for the team during that trip to Russia. But still, there were one person and one outing that I couldn’t find. My friend reminded me that we went for a walk in the Red Square, where I captured some portraits for him with St. Basil Cathedral in the background.
…but I couldn’t find them on the negatives. I was really confused. Did I lose any film? Was the film not loaded properly in the camera!? Sadly, I didn’t find the images and couldn’t figure out what happened.
LYNN – Beirut, October 2019
Kodak Image Pro 100 was definitely the luckiest film!
On my return from Paris, I took 5 rolls of film to get developed. All were shot in Paris and Versailles. The first thing I do when I get back my rolls is to look at the index and smile, but one of these indexes looked weird. Some shots I recognized, others I don’t even recall.
I immediately loaded my scans on the computer, and I was very confused – some of the photos of the Kodak Pro Image 100 weren’t mine. I saw, as well, photos shot by me overlayed on photos that I was sure I didn’t take.
After being perplexed for 5 minutes and looking endlessly at these photos, one photo solved the mystery –- people standing on the street with a Russian banner behind them. Yes, this film has seen Russia too, even though I haven’t been there yet.
But I know someone who had: Adib had been there for the project he came back to Lebanon to work on at the company I work for.
I couldn’t contain myself, I started roaming around the room telling myself that it was unbelievable with a huge smile on my face. Adib had used this film, then forgot about it then gave it to me.
The beautiful results left me wondering if I’m happy this happened or not, because in one sense, I had lost my memories into someone else’s, yet some photos were breathtaking. Some photos were made in such a beautiful way that if anyone ever wanted to overlay them on purpose, it wouldn’t have worked as accurately as in our photos.
ADIB – Toronto, October 2019
I received the following messages from Lynn:
[4:37 AM, 2019-10-25] Lynn: ADIB !!!!!
[4:38 AM, 2019-10-25] Lynn: Your Kodak ProImage that you gave me !!!
[4:38 AM, 2019-10-25] Lynn: You had already shot on it
[4:38 AM, 2019-10-25] Lynn: I have double exposures everywhere !!!
[4:38 AM, 2019-10-25] Lynn: This film is a collaboration
[7:36 AM, 2019-10-25] Adib: Oh my god!! Im soooo sorry! I have lost one of my films that I shot in russia!!
[7:37 AM, 2019-10-25] Adib: Can you share them with me? Anything nice by coincidence??
[7:37 AM, 2019-10-25] Adib: I hope it wasn’t a serious photoshoot that i f-ed up.
How did this happen?! I have never mixed exposed films with fresh ones. How did I miss that one!? Especially from that trip!
I don’t know if I was happy or furiously angry at myself. Mixed feelings! I waited for Lynn to upload the images (damn slow internet). I couldn’t wait. I needed to see the images.
In my head, I was thinking that I had always wanted to do a project like this but never had the courage to shoot on the same roll randomly twice, afraid I might end up ruining the original ones.
LYNN – Beirut, October 2019 Confessing to Adib
I left Adib a few crazy short messages telling him that we unintentionally made a collaboration, the first thing he did was apologize. I thought it was funny.
Next thing, he realized he had lost shots in the Cosmos Pavilion and all of his space rocket shots — I laughed because I was still drowning in the feeling of the absurdity of what had happened.
While waiting for me to send him all the overlayed shots, Adib was on the edge of his seat. Once he saw them, he was extremely happy how some shots overlayed perfectly and effortlessly, yet, like me, he was confused because he had lost once in a lifetime memories.
ADIB – Toronto, October 2019
An unexpected double exposure collaboration: Kodak Pro Image 100, Canon EOS 300 and Leica M6 TTL!
When I first saw the images… I smiled. A coincidence turning into a piece of art. What are the odds that two photographers filming randomly end up with double exposure photographs with almost perfect framing!?
They say: “Things happen for a reason” and I guess Lynn and I unintentionally collaborated on a memorable double exposure photoshoot that will forever be stored on film.
LYNN – Beirut, October 2019
Eventually… We both agreed on the beauty of what had happened, but we never truly were able to discuss this live because we haven’t met since that first meeting in July, three months prior.
He was supposed to be back for another job in summer 2020 but then Coronavirus happened so we decided to stay home and share the experience with each other and the world through this two-sided POV article.
As I know Adib, he won’t ever make this mistake again, as he is one of the pickiest people out there, and somehow, this makes me smile because some things slip away from us for a reason and maybe the true memory behind this film isn’t what was shot on it but what had happened with it. That memory isn’t chemically imprinted on that film, but it is as alive as the shots taken on that roll of Kodak Pro Image 100.
We all have the same eyes but not the same vision
I believe any work of art is the vision of its artist. We collaborate as individuals of different specialties to accomplish a certain projects. Some of the prominent masterpieces were created from the collaboration between two artist like Phillipe Halsman and Salvador Dali, but again they weren’t two photographers, they completed each other.
I’ve always been a soloist when it comes to photography but I have to admit that this experience was a hard slap for me to snap out of my artistic isolation and controlled experiments. I’ve always considered luck as an unprofessional element of photography but I was wrong.
Knowledge, skill, technical experience, artistic vision and right equipment are the basic for professional photography but recently luck has been improving my work. I’m not sure where I stand from this element but I know now that it can create masterpieces.
Thanks for reading,
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This could actually become something purposely done. I would love to send a roll to a ‘film pal’ somewhere in the world to use that I had already shot and receive one in exchange just to see what happens!
There have been more than a few of these double exposure “film swaps” over the years. some are utterly amazing. I recommend checking out this article over at Lomography for some inspiration 🙂
Loved reading this!
A singular post sir, brilliant double exposures, many thanks,