The Fairy Tales by Alessia Amati

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I started sharing my Polaroids on Instagram almost a year ago. One of the first accounts I followed was @alewino, enchanted by her photos and fairies. When she announced she was releasing a zine, I picked up one asap. I asked her if she would be my first interview subject for This Instant Life and thankfully she said yes. Below is a discussion we had over email.

Be sure to pick up a copy of her zine today! 

Let’s start from the beginning, how did you begin shooting Polaroids? 
In my house we have always used the Polaroids to immortalize the most important moments, but the real love for me was during the event held a year ago in Bologna, ISO600 the Festival of Instant Photography. It was love at first sight.
How long have you been shooting Polaroids?
I started shooting Polaroid not only as a souvenir photo, but mainly with an idea and a concept, exactly one year ago. Since I was a child, my father used to take portraits of me with his Polaroid. For me it was a real magic, and this marked me.
Do you only shoot Polaroids or do you shoot other cameras and film as well?
My photographic journey started with digital photography, but for my need of concreteness and tangibility I landed in the analogical world. I have started shooting with 35mm, medium format, Instax and Polaroid. For one year now I have focused mainly on instant photography (Polaroid it is my true love), but I continue to shoot with my faithful Pentax and Zenit.
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Where did your love of fairies come from? 
My love for fairies was born many years ago. I was (and I am) a child who has always believed in magic, in a world that we do not want to see. I like to think that fairies and other creatures are always with us. I love the mystery and the tales. Me and my friend Laura, spent the whole afternoon to do magic, to seek faeries in her garden or creating potions with everything we had in the house.
How did you decide to combine Polaroids with fairies? 
I decided to combine Polaroid and Fairies because I wanted to create images with a slightly vintage flavor. When I was a child, I was fascinated by the photo of the Cottingley Fairies. That series of images has remained in my mind for so many years, it was a small obsession. Being a lover of vintage, I could not help but combine the two things together.
Your model choices are great. Where do you find models to dress up like fairies for your shoots?
Until now I have taken with two models turning them into Faeries: Albina and Valentina. When I thought about starting this project, I chose Albina because she is a great model and she was perfect for impersonating a fairy or an elf. Valentina is a model and cosplayer, in the past she had already played a fairy, so with her it was even easier to choose. In general I choose girls who in my imagination could be part of the fairy people, and who are ready to enter a strange world.
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How long did it take to put together this new zine? 
The idea of the fanzine was born from a collaboration with Alan Marcheselli, one of the greatest national and international experts of instant photography. Through My Instant Life Editions (the publishing house of his shop), Alan has proposed me to insert my work of fairies in the number 0 of “Eight little wonders”. After choosing the format, I have prepared the texts and images. All this lasted for about two months, including the print of copies.
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What did you love about compiling the photos for the zine?
I have adored preparing the order of succession of the photos. I wanted it to be like an approach to the fairy, from a distance to the particular. I also loved to write the texts of the zine: I was inspired by lots of ballads from the Victorian era, as well as some of Shakespeare’s poems.
What was something you didn’t like about the zine printing process?
The wait!! Usually I love to wait: analog photography is basically knowing how to wait … But in this case I was so excited that I could not wait to have the copies in my hands.
How did you come to work with My Instant Life? (I love their name by the way 🙂 )
I have met Alan Marcheselli a year ago, on the occasion of Iso600 “Festival of Instant Photography” (by the way, there will be this year in Riccione from 26 to 29 July and my polaroids will be exhibited with Fairies and other works). I attended several of his workshops, he is a great teacher, always ready to share his knowledge. I also often buy the films in his shop “my Instant Life” (unique in Italy).
I love how the zine folds out instead of a typical zine where it’s more like a book with pages. How did you decide on the formatting? 
The choice of format was quite difficult: We wanted something paperback and could contain 8 Polaroids or the exact content of a film pack. In the end we chose the folding format because it was the one that best suited all these features.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make their first zine?

I think the advice I would give is: build a story behind it. A story that has roots in passions of the creator of the Fanzine. Do not be afraid to put personal ideas, even if they are too original. Also the choice of format is important. Choose something that you can always carry with you. 

Are there any more zines coming in the future?
I hope so! I would like to create a series dedicated to the world of fairy tales. It’s all a work in progress, but who knows. Maybe I will write and photograph a story of my own.
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Thrift Store Find: Yashica T4 Zoom

In the modern world of point and shoot film cameras, the Yashica T4 models are coveted among thrift store hunters as people are paying over $300 to own one.

I visited my favorite thrift store where I often find cameras including my Olympus Infinity Stylus. I dug through the usual camera bin and didn’t find anything. Before leaving I scanned the shelves, moved a few items around and noticed the underside of a camera. I almost got sick with excitement when I turned the camera over and realized it was a Yashica T4 Zoom for just $3.99.

For further in depth information on the camera, be sure to read the excellent reviews by Casual Photophile and Film Advance.

I loaded the camera with film and took her for a test drive. I was unaware I had the date printing option selected at the beginning of the roll which you will see on several photos below.

My favorite photo is the building with the mirrored windows as well as the set of photos of our family in front of the red brick wall.

I’ve only shot one roll with this camera but look forward to using it more.

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I Love My $10 Polaroid SX-70 Sonar OneStep Camera

My meeting canceled the minute I arrived at the coffee shop and ordered my drink. Before going back to the office, I decided to finish the coffee and scan an estate sale app to see if any sales were close by. Fortunately there was a sale less than a mile from me. Why not check it out?

Upon entering the house, I noticed shelves covered in cameras and binoculars. I skimmed over the cameras – most were overpriced point and shoot models – when I noticed something lying flat on the end of the shelf. I could tell it was a Polaroid SX-70 by the long flat base. It was without a price tag but I picked it up and continued to shop.

I decided to buy a vintage Pioneer SX-434 receiver and brought the camera with me to the cashier. When I asked him how much for the camera, he laughed, “Oh that old thing, how about $10?” he replied. I tried not to smile too big.

This is my third SX-70 camera and the two previous cameras are broken and need repair. If the cashier had named an expensive price, I would have reconsidered. However, at only $10 I knew I could get in cheap enough for it to either work or I could resell for parts and get my money back.

Introduced in 1978, this model offers Sonar auto-focusing which is best described by Polaroid from their manual:

As you begin to press the shutter button, your camera releases sound waves to the central part of the scene. The frequencies are far beyond our range of hearing and travel at the speed of sound. The split second it takes for the sound to reach your subject and the echo to return is fed into a tiny computer inside the camera. The computer uses this time measurement to calculate the distance between the camera lens and your subject, then signals a motor to turn the lens until your subject is in sharp focus. This extraordinary chain of events takes place in less that 1/3 of a second.

My first photo with the camera was out of focus, as you will see below, because I was unaware of this feature. Once I understood how to use the focus option, I went crazy with it.

So, how did the photos turn out? 

My first shot was of our flower bed in the back yard. I impatiently loaded the film and hit the shutter button like I would on any regular Polaroid camera. I obviously did not take into account the auto focus option of the Sonar model and the shot came out blurry. However, it was a positive sign that the photo ejected and developed properly.

User error is to blame for this photo. One morning there was an intense fog in our neighborhood and I tried to capture the house across the street. Technically, that’s just what the camera did, however it captured more of the white fog than I anticipated.

This is the photo where I began to understand the power of the Sonar auto focus. I love how the tree in the foreground is in focus while the river and other trees in the background are blurry.

I continued to harness the auto focus power of the camera by focusing on the street lamp.

At this point, I’m obsessed with the auto focus feature and want to push the limits with what the camera can capture. The idea here is to capture the tree in focus with more of the background out of focus. I took this early one morning and I believe with more sunlight the background would have shown more color.

I love this little tree in our neighborhood. Again, it was an early morning shot and I think more sun would have resulted in brighter colors.

At this point you understand my obsession with the auto focus and I need not explain further. Understand I usually shoot with a Polaroid 600 model without any focusing options so the SX-70 Sonar is an upgrade in terms of focus.

I am excited that after 40 years, the camera works properly and I was able to shoot an entire pack of film. I look forward to using it as much as possible in the future!

 

A Month In Film Photos: Olympus Infinity Stylus

I forgot I was shooting with this camera.

I loaded my Olympus Infinity Stylus with a roll of Ilford HP5 and took it on our spring break trip to Cleveland in order to document our adventures in black and white. I remembered to use the camera in Cincinnati, at the beginning of our trip, but then I placed it in my backpack where it got lost in the debris and I didn’t use at all in Cleveland.

In fact, I kept forgetting to use the camera consistently for about a month. When my photos were developed, it represented a perfect snapshot (pun intended) of my family during that time. With digital photography and iPhone photos, there isn’t a beginning or an end, we just keep taking more photos. A single roll of film puts interesting parameters on time. For instance, in one roll of 36 photos, we visited Cincinnati and celebrated both Easter and my 40th birthday. There were even enough photos left to capture some miscellaneous shots in our neighborhood.

Below are those photos and a little about each set.

CINCINNATI:

We visited Cleveland for Spring Break this year and stopped in Cincinnati to see family on the way. We strolled around and took photos in both the Over The Rhine and Northside neighborhoods.

My favorite photo is of my boys standing in the alley. When I was preparing to take the photo, a random dog came out of nowhere and perfectly posed in between them.

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EASTER:

This year we decided to capture our Easter family photos on film.

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I TURNED 40:

Yes, I turned 40 in April and we celebrated with a family lunch in Columbia, TN. The third photo below is taken by my nephew (the cool dude in the 76er’s jersey). It was his first time taking a film photo and he simply whispered, “Coooooool” after pressing the shutter button.

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MISCELLANEOUS PHOTOS:

I thought it would be fun to finish up the roll around our house on a beautiful day outside. We have access to a river within walking distance and I wanted to see how well I could capture the trees’ reflection in the water with this point and shoot. I think it did a great job.

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That’s the last of the photos…see you later.

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My First Photo Shoot With The Canon AE-1

I’ve never used a 35mm SLR camera before.

The past few months I’ve only shot with Polaroid and point and shoot cameras. I’ve  avoided using an SLR camera with all of the different settings. How do I learn to use the proper aperture, setting the ISO/ASA, lighting, etc? Even just loading the film is intimidating.

I decided to stop avoiding the inevitable and learn how to shoot the Canon AE-1 camera below. I found the manual online, watched a few YouTube videos, loaded a roll of Kodak T-Max 100 film and just started shooting.

My first few photos were not shot according to the manual and yet somehow turned out to be my favorites. The user manual suggests setting the aperture ring to the “A” mark for automatic exposure. I incorrectly set the aperture to another setting which provided the great shots below with the bokeh (blurry) backgrounds.

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I adjusted the aperture back to auto and the following photos are acceptable, but they may have been a little more interesting if I wasn’t using the automatic exposure mode.

That’s not all I screwed up. When rewinding the film for the first time, I stopped with the film counter at “S” and should have kept rewinding, as the “S” does not always mean it’s the end of the film roll. I opened the back of the camera and immediately closed it when I saw the film had not been fully rewound.

Therefore, when scrolling through the photos, you will see some have a bright line or two going through the middle. I believe this occurred by not rewinding the film the entire way. Oh well, lesson learned.

I also need to practice focusing and steadying my shot. A few photos turned out focused, but others are a little blurry and that could be either from not focusing properly or from a shaky trigger finger causing the camera to move when taking the photo. Taking a photo with this camera is a lot different than using a point and shoot and obviously different than an iPhone so it’s easy to accidentally move the camera when shooting.

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Please note, the two photos below are the same shots, just focused differently. The first photo I intentionally focused on the leaves, hoping the background would be blurry. The next photo is the same shot but focused on the path instead of the leaves.

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It is encouraging to see how these shots turned out using the Canon AE-1. I already shot another roll of black and white film and am excited to see how those photos also turn out.

One thing I will do differently going forward is turn the aperture ring off the “A” mark setting and experiment more with the aperture settings and depth of field.

I look forward to shooting with this camera again this weekend.

Olympus Infinity Stylus + Kodak UltraMax 400

About a month ago I stopped at my favorite local thrift store on the hunt for cameras. I am an active thrift store shopper, usually hunting for old electronics to fix and flip. I always passed up cameras because they seemed too intimidating to purchase, test and resell. They felt like a headache.

The past few months I have been keeping an eye out for cameras in thrift stores, especially with the growing interest in point and shoots. My first few attempts greeted me with just the inventory I needed to continue searching every weekend. One of those early finds was this original Olympus Infinity Stylus.

Research informs me this is the “older brother” model to the insanely popular Mju II model. The camera was priced $3.99 and it was the day of the monthly 50% off sale so with tax and rounding up for charity I paid a whopping $3.

I finally got around to shooting an entire roll of Kodak UltraMax 400 film with the camera. I have a couple of other Olympus Stylus models, including a Zoom 80 version and just like those cameras, this model fits easily into my pocket and is easy to pull out, slide open and take a quick photo. Compare that to a Yashica T4 Zoom I recently found (and will post about soon) which I find to be a bit less efficient in use. With the Yashica I have to manually turn the power on and off and it’s a bit clunky. These Olympus cameras fit anywhere and are so easy to power on and off by opening the slide on the front of the camera. I love it.

Overall I thought the images turned out as expected for this point and shoot. I am just getting back into film photography so the auto settings and ease of use with a point and shoot is key for me. There are a few shots below that didn’t turn out that well but mostly because of my lack of understanding regarding how to use the camera in the best possible way.  Also, at some point during shooting, I triggered the date to be printed on the camera which obviously hasn’t been updated since 1989, ha.

I’ll definitely be shooting more with this little camera!

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Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 + Ilford HP5

If you have read this site before, it’s no secret that I love my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 point and shoot camera. I haven’t shot a film camera since I was young (and those were probably disposable cameras only) so these point and shoot cameras have been an easy way for me to get back into shooting film.

Recently I had the idea to run a roll of black and white film through the camera and see how it turned out. I decided to use Ilford HP5 Plus 400 as the film and was very pleased with the results.

A few things to note:

A lot of the outdoor industrial shots were taken midday on my lunch break and the sun was out in full force. I knew this going in but I was restless that day in my office and needed to go out for a walk and take photos.

I tried to take a photo of the giant moon that was visible one night, knowing it would be a risky shot. I didn’t have a tripod so I pulled into a neighborhood store’s parking lot and set the camera on the roof of my car and took two shots. As you’ll see below, neither turned out that great but I was obviously moving too much on the second shot and it resulted in what reminds me of a stick figure made of light.

What I really love the most is how the photos of my sons and their friend turned out. In the first set I had great lighting outside and those turned out the best. The photos near the end of the roll were shot inside at night and the flash did the hard work. I would easily take another roll of this film and just line people up outside and shoot away if ever given the chance.

As I have noted in my other posts on this camera, it suffers from light leaks common with this model. It’s most noticeable when I shoot on a sunny day as you will see in the photos. Sometimes the leaks add a certain character to the photo that I enjoy while other times it’s a little distracting. But on overcast days, like in the first two shots below, the leaks aren’t noticeable at all.

I can’t wait to shoot another black and white roll with this camera.

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