Kristen Williams is a filmmaker, photographer, and animator from Denver, Colorado. As a filmmaker, she works in 8mm film, 16mm film, and digital video, utilizing digital and direct animation, alternative film processing, and experimental photographic technology to create films that are ruptures from reality, breaks from sanity, and visions from beyond. As a photographer, Kristen experiments with alternative processing, expired film, and toy cameras to create works that examine horror and femininity, light and color, distorted realities and liminal spaces.
Kristen's ig is @hex_haus
ALTER/ANALOG: Why film over digital?
KW: I went to a university with a very experimental film program, and for the first year they taught us how to shoot both 8mm and 16mm and ever since then I have been absolutely in love with film. I think what draws me most to film is its physicality. I love that, unlike digital, I can hold it, I can scratch it, I can draw on it, I can burn it, bleach it, boil it, paint it, soak it in alcohol and different chemicals and basically just treat it like a plastic art. I look at film and photography as ways of capturing reality so, what draws me most to film is that, through alternative processes, different cameras, film stocks and formats I can distort reality.
And this is not to say that I absolutely never shoot digital. I actually really enjoy combining film and digital video, printing digital video to film, or digitally manipulating film scans. I think a lot can be achieved when you combine the two.
ALTER/ANALOG: What got you interested in photography?
KW: I picked up photography about 5 or 6 years ago when I found my grandfather's old Nikon EM (which I still use). I think what really got me interested in it was the way it can tell stories in a way that is so different than filmmaking. Photographic images hold a certain power that filmic images do not, since very rarely do you get to sit with images in films the way you get to sit with photographs. And photos capture motion and light and color so differently, to the point where you can almost paint with them.
ALTER/ANALOG: How did you learn about and get started with alternative processes?
KW: I discovered alternative processing when I was in university. Since my film program had such an experimental emphasis we watched a lot of works by filmmakers like Stan Brackhage and Naomi Uman who painted on film, bleached it, scratched it, and even taped moth wings to it, and they encouraged us to tamper with our films in similar ways. So, I started doing some my own research and began to experiment with a lot of techniques for working with film negatives, like how to scratch color film to get different hues in the scratches and how to selectively bleach film with nail polish (and, most importantly, how to not make chloroform gas when doing this). I started to experiment more with photography as well, shooting on shitty toy cameras and expired film, playing with alternative film stocks and soaking my films in different alcohols.
Then, about a year ago I took an actual class on alternative film processing and that was when my interest really took off. Since the class was only a semester my professor only taught us alternative processing techniques for black and white film, but he showed us I was so excited by all the possibilities color film. So, I met with my professor and he gave me some color print stock, gave me the directions on how to process it, taught me how to mix the chemistry for it and showed me how to use the ancient 16mm contact printer that we had. And so, I spent basically a year in the darkroom, printing and reprinting film, boiling it, soaking it in alcohol, scratching it, flashing it with light, etc. and in the end I ended up with this crazy, alternatively processed film, Hereafter (which unfortunately I cannot release yet due to festival submissions, but you can find clips from it on my vimeo; https://vimeo.com/witchhaus).
But, even though I spent the past year or so working in alternative processing I would say that I absolutely am still getting started. There are so many techniques and processes I still want to try, plus, I am freshly out of college so I'm still trying to build my artistic practice.
ALTER/ANALOG: What inspires you?
KW: Death, horror films, fear and dreams. Filmmakers and photographers like Maya Deren, Deborah Sheedy, and Norman McLaren. My incredibly talented friends and fellow artists, photographers, and filmmakers. And, most of all, Lady Gaga.