All images by Hayden Williams. Used with permission.
Photographer Hayden Williams is an analog film shooter that believes that the only limitations that everyone has is their creativity. And so he embraces this with his double exposure images. Unlike many modern shooters, Hayden uses film to create the photos that he conjures in his mind. The process is then more organic and involves no use of Photoshop.
But Hayden learned this only after not loving what he did in the popular program.
Phoblographer: What got you into photography?
Hayden: I feel like I’ve always been into photography. As a kid, I was so fond of disposable cameras; I remember wasting through handfuls of them on summer vacations. It wasn’t until I got my first DSLR a couple years ago that I started taking it seriously.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you first got into multiple exposures.
Hayden: Honestly, I began shooting multiple exposures because I was pretty bored with my environment. I just returned from Iceland to be stuck in my small college town, which was quite an adjustment. Back when I was shooting digital, I started combining images in Photoshop and was pretty pleased with the results. But it felt cheap; all this Photoshop didn’t feel like photography anymore. I saw a few accidental double exposures with film on Flickr and decided I’d do it intentionally. I found a Canon AE-1 for $25 at some thrift shop and started experimenting. After my first few rolls I was hooked. The dream worlds you can create with such simple equipment amazes me every time. It’s a fun way to test your creativity, and a great way to create something uniquely beautiful.
“it felt cheap; all this Photoshop didn’t feel like photography anymore.”
Phoblographer: What’s your thought process like when you create these images? I feel like you need some sort of specific creative vision way ahead of time.
Hayden: Definitely, I generally have a specific idea of how I want the image to look. The idea usually comes when I’m out walking around. I’ll take the first shot, then have a very clear idea of what the next shot needs to be.
There can be a large amount of time between shots; I’ve gone hours, and even days without taking the next one. It turns into a bit of a hunt, finding the perfect flowers or a person silhouetted the right way. I find it fun, it encourages me to explore my environment. However, when I’m near the end of the roll I typically just double expose whatever is around me.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you create images like these?
Hayden: It’s pretty simple; take the first shot, press the film rewind button, then “advance” the film. Of course the film will not move because the film rewind button was pressed. You’re combining the light from two scenes into one frame. The key is to pay close attention to the light and shadows in each shot. The light of the second will fill in the shadows of the first. It’s quite a beautiful process, but it’s also very chaotic.
Phoblographer: What gear do you use?
Hayden: These days I only shoot film, but my gear is pretty slim. My only serious camera is the Canon AE-1 with the FD 50mm f/1.8 lens. I’m always on the hunt for new gear in my price range, which is admittedly difficult in Hong Kong. I recently bought a Holga 135bc because of the price, but the ease of taking multiple exposures also appeals to me. Still saving up for more professional additions to the crew.
Phoblographer: On average, how many keeper shots do you feel you create vs ones that you don’t like? Why do you think this is?
Hayden: I’d say a little more than half. The multiple exposures I take at the end of the roll rarely turn out, but I use these shots as experimentation and flesh out the idea more on the next roll. Multiple exposures are very chaotic in nature. Despite all the thought I put into shots, they never turn out exactly as planned. Obviously, some disappoint me, but others turn out more beautiful then I ever could’ve imagined. I’m also extremely picky about my shots. I feel like everyone is their own worst critic. I always email my photos to my friend back in America to get his opinion, and sometimes my least favorite photos are his favorite!
Phoblographer: What are some things that people should keep in mind if they want to get into multiple exposures?
Hayden: Don’t only shoot multiple exposures; it takes forever to finish a roll. I’d recommend having two cameras with you, otherwise the hunt for the second exposure gets pretty stressful. Most importantly, don’t take it too seriously. Start experimenting with it for the sake of fun. You probably won’t like your first shots, but you quickly learn how to work a double exposure. You learn how to mix the light and shadows from two sources into one. You’ll also be surprised how much your creativity is pushed. You have infinite freedom to create whatever you can imagine; the only limit is your creativity.