Lomography Konstruktor Build Your Own 35mm SLR Camera - Film Portrait Project

5 minute read

Portraits on Film - My Lomography Project

My awesome husband bought me a Lomography Konstrucktor kit for my birthday to build my own SLR camera.  

Bound to be basic, with very limited capability to change settings to control exposure, this was exactly what was so exciting about it.  I haven't taken any photographs on film for at least 15 years and wasn't sure whether it would even work considering I had to put it together.  But the magic of creating an image on film with basic equipment was so enticing.  

Drawing on all of my Ikea furniture and Lego model building, I fumbled to construct my camera with the tiny screws and mini screwdriver, hoping that there wouldn't be any parts left over when I'd finished.  

The completed camera had a fixed 50mm lens that needed manual focus and a top-down viewfinder which was really different for me to get used to.  The shutter seemed to work and there was only one way to find out if it was capable of taking an image.  It needed film.

I wanted to have a plan of the photographs that I wanted to try and capture on film, rather than just loading it with film and filling it with random snapshots.  Since I love portraits and one of the most important things to me is photographing my family, I decided to start a portrait series.  

Since the Lomography camera has fixed settings (1/80th, f/10), I decided to take a corresponding photograph of my subjects at the same time with my digital SLR to check exposure and so that I could compare the digital image with the film images.  I expected (and wanted) the film images to look different, to have missed focus or other issues, whatever might make them somehow more tangible than the clean digital images.  

I settled on 400 ISO black and white film, loaded it into my Lomography camera and hoped for the best!  I took the images outdoors, where I used some black fabric to simplify the backdrop.

The digital images showed me that the exposure settings were in the range to take an image.  Just as an example, these are a couple of them:-

I completed my first roll of film in August and sent it off to be developed and scanned, waiting with bated breath.  It was awesome to get them back in the post; actual photographs taken on film with my self-built kit camera!  

I knew that I'd taken a few multiple exposures when I'd forgotten to wind the film on between photographs, but I don't know how I got what looks like a light leak across one of them.  There's a bit of blur which could be missed focus, or motion blur as it was difficult to press the shutter without moving.  I haven't edited the scanned film images below at all - this is how I had them back from the developer.  

This project isn't about taking the perfect portrait.  Digital is brilliant for that because it can capture a split second expression, rather than sitting and waiting for the shutter to be pressed.  And these certainly aren't technically perfect.  But perfect can be kind of boring.

I love this dedicated collection of portraits, complete with their technical flaws.  There is something genuine about every one.  Of course, I have an emotional connection to them because of my passion for the craft and that these are all people that I care about.  This is my family.  They are some of my favourite people to photograph.

I am not finished yet.  I have more family to take, and I'd like to extend it further to friends and other interesting faces.  I have to buy more film!