Bruna Martini produces incredible double exposures that remind us of the potential of analogue photography.
Bruna Martini's darkroom alchemy produces incredible double exposures that remind us of the potential of analogue photography for invention and creativity.
At first glance, Bruna Martini’s images make you think one thing: photoshop. But they aren’t. Her mesmerising double exposures remind us that analogue photography offers immense potential to creatively manipulate images, something we seem to have forgotten in the age of digital trickery. Bruna’s mastery of the darkroom process allows her to play with time, controlling the passage of hours, minutes and seconds within her images.
But beyond giving her a new appreciation of time, photography changed her consciousness in other ways too. The very first photo she took made her notice details of her mother’s appearance that, as an unobservant child, she had overlooked in real life. This revelation helped focus her restless youthful attention, the newfound perceptiveness giving her a deeper understanding of the richness of her existence, which she carries to this day.
When and why did you start shooting pictures?
“My dad bought me a disposable camera when I was six. The first photo I took portrayed my mother standing in front of a church in northern Italy. My mum couldn’t be more 80s: she had a yellow and purple patterned dress and a perm. At that age I wasn’t an observant kind of child. I never focused on the details enough; my attention was floating enthusiastically from one thing to its opposite. When I came back from the print shop with my first photographs two weeks later I looked at my mother in a completely new way. I sat down with the picture and explored it calmly. I looked at her square jacket; I investigated the shape of her eyes. It was comforting to see, at my own pace, what I wasn’t able to grab in real life. That’s when I start taking photographs. At first just for fun, then at university and finally for a living.”
What is it you love about film photography?
“I like visualising things. It helps me to make more sense of reality. Film photography in particular allows me to play with time. Creating double exposures in the darkroom is a very technical experience, based on calculating the exact amount of seconds you need to leave your photos floating in the liquids. With analogue double-exposures you make the time, not only the abstract time that will show on the image, but also the real ‘clock’ time. There isn’t any other tool that gives you so much control on the image-making process.”
What are you passionate about – interests, hobbies outside of photography – and how does this inform the images you take?
“I love watching films but when I started working with images it partly destroyed my pleasure in doing so. Now, when I watch a film, I simply don’t enjoy it like I used to. I find my brain meandering and studying the smallest details, the brightness in this scene and the colours in this other, and I end up missing the plot. Regardless, I like films that explore psychological issues such as loneliness and alienation of the human, especially in the metropolis. The idea of feeling alone among many really affects me, which has a lot to do with my own journey from a small town in Italy to a huge city like London. I find it weird that so many people coexist in the same place, yet have no relationship with each other. I also enjoy reading (especially Italian and French novels), doing crafts, painting (very badly), learning languages and biking around town. They are very different hobbies, but I think they all relate to my interest to people and how they feel.”
Who or what inspires your work? Any other photographers?
“My analogue photography focuses on time and how you can expand its limits by creating double exposures. I’m influenced by Jerry Uelsmann. He makes amazing double exposure in the darkroom and creates surreal sensual words. Andrei Tarkovsky inspires me. In his Polaroids he tries to stop the passing of time by making his images eternal. I’m also struck by the Italian artist Cascone’s visual experiments with the human body.”
What do you do for a living and how does photography fit into your life?
“I am an editor and videographer. I make short videos, often for NGOs for advocacy and fundraising purposes. I also make documentaries with a social perspective; for example, some friends and I just filmed a group of five teenagers cycling from London to Brighton. It was a great experience that helped me get to know how teenage minds work. Photography finds lots of space in my life. Filming is like a prolonged photograph, so I feel I am taking pictures all the time.”
How do you share your work? Zines, books, exhibitions, blog etc? And what’s the editing process like for you? Are you trying to tell stories with your images? What are those stories?
“I am pretty bad at sharing my work. I have two websites, one for my film work and the other contains photos and visual experiments. I was part of four exhibitions whilst studying my MA in Photography, but that’s it. I don’t really go out there and show my work to people, but I should really make more effort to do that.
“As for the editing process, it’s the most important part. It’s where you look at what you have photographed and you really appreciate it. You understand why at some point earlier in the day you felt the need to take a snapshot. Now you see it. You have the time to look at things, find similarities or patterns, create a narrative, and reinvent their meaning.
“With my double exposure it’s a bit like that. I have an idea in mind, say, to represent the sense of denial we go through when we simply don’t accept something bad has happened. That’s my starting point. Then I usually choose a model for my scene. After that, it’s all about editing. I look through my collection and mix negatives of details – say, a rope, a mirror, or a hand – with my subjects. I don’t really want to tell a story with a beginning, development and end, but I do want to communicate a moment, a feeling.”
Are your photos staged/posed or documentary? Can you describe why you choose to shoot in this way?
“My double exposures are all staged. The model poses in the way I need and the other layers of the image are details that either I staged or I found. I shot the series this way because I was interested in human feelings and emotional states. Staging those states was my way to freeze them and have the time to investigate them.”
If you had to take one photo that summed up your view on life, what would it capture?
“I don’t think one image could sum up my view on life. I am contradictory and full of doubts. I can say I would be more interested in a picture of people than a landscape. If the subjects were children or teenagers living in a big city I would be even more attentive. If the image showed a sense of vague alienation I would be totally taken. Grabbed.”
You can see more of Bruna’s work at her website.
Huck partnered up with Lomography to run MY LIFE IN ANALOGUE, a project celebrating analogue photographers from around the world.
The competition is now closed, but stay locked to the Huck website for a hand picked selection of our favourite photographers and their amazing work.