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Kate Cornwell double exposes NYC

"I reverted to film after becoming bored with the predictability and safety of digital - and it forced me to think about what I was shooting again. My favorite everyday camera is the completely manual Smena 8m... love the alternate worlds created with double exposures, familiar but unsettling."

See more of Kate's work on instagram at @plasticfantastic_lomo

A/A: What got you interested in photography?

KC: A Polaroid camera for my 14th birthday. I’d never liked having my picture taken, but discovered I loved being on the other side of the lens, and of course the immediate gratification of a Polaroid. After that, I started experimenting with whatever old cameras I could find. This was still the era of film, and I had very little money, so my early efforts were almost exclusively black and white. Being able to develop and print my own film, (courtesy of a friend’s older brother with an enlarger) cemented my fascination with photography, after that I seldom went anywhere without a camera. Initially, I used it to document my life, but later the content became more ambiguous and less direct.

A/A: Why do alternative film processes appeal to you?

KC:I guess I embraced the idea of imperfection, instability and impermanence, reflected in my own life as I got older. Also, the relinquishing of control, with it's random and unpredictable results good and bad, that spark new ideas. I’ve been shooting primarily with a Smena 8M - cheap Soviet camera designed in the 70s - because it’s completely manual with a surprisingly good lens. It’s also very light, transportable, and no one notices it on the street. I did shoot digital for many years, but realized I’d become mindless with it and lost the buzz… I wanted to really think about what and why I was shooting again. Creating multiple exposures, introducing light leaks, motion blur, all that intentional and accidental chaos re-ignited the magic, and allowed me to let go of the “image perfection” mindset I’d become trapped in.

A/A: What inspired this series of images?

KC: Storytelling. By shooting ordinary, everyday subjects slightly transformed, I tried to retain the familiar, and make it unsettling, but inviting. I hoped viewers would invent their own specific narrative, something more than just a nice aesthetic. Because I worked in NYC for many years, and had done a lot of street photography, the availability of people and interesting architecture made it the perfect location to return to shooting and manipulating film. It also made my commute way more interesting. After the pandemic, I had to find inspiration locally in the burbs, but they taught me patience and probably kept me sane.

A/A: What are you working on next?

KC: Funnily, I’ve come full circle… got a Polaroid One Step Plus a few months ago and have been trying double exposures and emulsion lifts with the iType film. The Polaroid chemistry blends differently than standard 35mm, so I’m having to consider exposure content more but I still enjoy the almost instant gratification. I’m going to try combining illustration (line drawing/watercolor) with the emulsion lifts next, and introducing more external temperature and chemical manipulation. And of course, I’m really looking forward to being able to travel again too, my favorite creative catalyst.

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