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Michelle Petersen captures the psychedelic experience on film

"What I’m trying to create with my imagery is a dream world; a hallucination. I want to show the viewer a different perspective— to bring a sense of wonder into an otherwise ordinary subject.

I use several different types of film— Kodak’s Portra 160, or a specialty film such as the ones from Psychedelic Blues, Revolog, and Yodica are my faves.  I’ve also recently fallen in love with using Lomography’s Earl Gray black & white film in my Holga. Once and awhile I’ll throw a roll into a random witches brew I concocted on the fly to “soup” it.

Because I like to have so many film options to shoot with, I have several cameras. Sometimes I’ll shoot the same image on each camera to see which one captures it best.  I intentionally light leak or double expose my film. I also mix up different techniques when I shoot. I use vintage Russian and German lenses that have interesting bokeh or lens flares, and sometimes “free lens” to get a lens flare or tilt-shift effect. Vintage prism and diy filters are my favorite part of my process. I love turning a flower, tree branch, or landscape into a fractal. 

I want my photography convey a psychedelic experience for the ones who have never delved into hallucinogens— or a “welcome back” for those who have already been down the rabbit hole."

  1. branches with fractal filter

  2. summer flowers on souped film

  3. palm trees through a diy crystal filter

  4. saguaro thru a vintage multi image filter

  5. Las Vegas desert, diy crystal filter

See more of Michelle's work on instagram at @somewhat.slightly.dazed

ALTER/ANALOG: How did you get your start in photography?

MP: Two years ago I moved from Las Vegas, Nevada to Middle of The Sticks, New Jersey.  This was a pretty significant point in my life for creative growth—because I had no job, no family or friends, I turned to painting. When I wasn’t painting I was out exploring. I visited gardens, arboretums, graveyards and beaches; documenting my daily journeys via casual photographs. I never took photography seriously until one day when I held a crystal prism lens in front of my camera and took a picture of some flowers in a garden— I was amazed how something so ordinary could be transformed into fractals and otherworldly landscapes.  It’s was from that day forward that I wanted to show an alternative view of the world.  I didn’t want to just take pictures, I wanted to create a future vision. 

ALTER/ANALOG: The images in this series are of nature.  Is nature a big inspiration to you?

MP: My inspiration is actually the psychedelic experience:  trees grow extra limbs and leaves right before your eyes; the moon becomes three iridescent neon moons; colors melt and strange shapes and lights dance— you have opened portals invisible to the naked eye. 

I guess you could say nature is my muse. I’m just trying to capture her soul from a different perspective.  I would like to incorporate humans into my photographs at some point in the future, but I feel like nature will always be the focal point. 

ALTER/ANALOG: What got you interested in alternative techniques?

MP: I think it was the first time I saw the beautiful colors and textures of souped film. I followed this one photographer, @eyesofjune, because she posted some super rad and colorful photos. I ended up buying a roll of her film and shooting it. Only two photos were good enough for me to want to post— but after that I was hooked. I’ve soaked film in my own witches’ brew as I jokingly call it, and have had some beautiful and mildly trippy results.  My next project is currently soaking in green tea, lemon juice, and sea water. I added some edible glitter dust to the mix, so I’m interested to see how they’ll turn out. 

ALTER/ANALOG: How did you get involved with film?

MP: I fell in love with the look of grain. I can’t describe the feeling it gave me— it’s like the visual equivalent to hearing the staticky sound of a needle on a record.  It was comforting, and it was a challenge. I didn’t know how to shoot film and I didn’t even have a film camera. I spent a lot of time deciding what type of film camera was best for beginners and ended up with a Nikon FE because my grandfather, a photographer, had a Nikon. Teaching myself how to use it was frustrating, and I’m still learning. Not knowing how a roll will turn out is frustrating as well, but when the stars align and the light is just right— it’s so worth it.

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