Montréal on Film (Soup)

I left my heart in Montréal, but brought home momentums of the city’s beauty using my favourite photographic medium — damaged, 35mm film.

Prior to our trip my friend and I got together to create some “film soup” magic, which is a slang term for the purposeful damaging of film to create light explosions and psychedelic colours. Although my favourite results have always come from soaking in Emergen-C, I decided to switch it up this time. We left our first roll for twenty-four hours in red wine, a trick others in the film community have adopted (check out this photographer’s experiment here). I had high expectations for this soak in particular but was disappointed when the majority of my shots came back so distorted the images were undecipherable (what a waste of precious wine!). The results of our second, which was a mixture of chemicals (mostly tub/tile cleaner, Windex, bleach, and some cranberry juice), were better and gave way to slight light leaks across the photos.

Here’s a PSA: If you plan on attempting your own “film soup,” please keep in mind the rolls need to dry for at least two weeks before being shot. Loading the film damp can damage your camera. The drying process can be sped up by blowdrying the film though. Simply putting it on your windowsill to bask in the sunlight can help too. I prefer to damage the film prior to shooting, but others opt to soak the roll after its complete and has been winded. Experimentation is simply up to the photographer to figure out through trial and error. But discovering which tactics work best, I argue, is the most enjoyable part of film damaging anyway.

I began playing with film before I even contemplated the idea of getting a digital SLR. In my final year of high school, I found a 1980s Pentax being sold on Kijiji for fifty dollars.  I emailed the seller, purchased the camera that day, and began my blooming love affair with film the same week. I lugged it around with me so much, in fact, that I eventually had to use duct tape to keep the door from popping open (the annoyance resulted in me splurging on a “new” one a year ago). Now that I have my own DSLR I still find myself reverting back to film. There is something special about loading a fresh roll into a camera that has, likely, gone through numerous owners. Where has this tiny machine been? What has it seen? The possibilities of film photography are endless and the mystery of the outcome is especially alluring. In an age where photo filters are readily available on any smartphone through editing applications, film brings me back to a time where lack of control (and technology) yielded the most unique results. With only twenty-five shots per roll there is no way to obsess over cultivating the perfect image. Some may view this as a shortfall, but I beg to differ. My own film endeavours have led me to conclude the unknowing itself can lead to the “perfection” of a photograph.