All photographs are copyrighted and used with permission by Cody Wu.
Cody Wu is not a photographer by trade. Currently pursuing a Master’s in Membrane Transport Physiology, Wu’s taken up photography as passion project, and has largely eschewed digital in favor of analog photography because of its physicality. He found a way to experiment with Instax film, and has created a series of intriguing double exposures merging portraits with the skeleton and nature. Here, he shares his process and approach.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
I’ve always been drawn to photography. I’m one of those types that lives in the past; if I go on vacation to another city, I’ll obsess and obsess about the memories obtained even years after I’ve left. Naturally, the idea of capturing a moment in time appealed to me greatly. As I grew up amidst the waning of the analog era of photography, my introduction to the subject was mostly digital. The tools at my disposal were amateurish at best but that fact didn’t lessen the feelings I had about the photos I took. I spent countless hours fawning over the little details in the background, the people that were never the intended subject of the photo but nonetheless, out of pure happenstance, passed through the lens at just the right time. When I finally decided to get serious about making photography a hobby, I was at an age where I could afford to get my hands on a decent DSLR camera. But as time wore on, I found that digital was not the main medium for me. The technology within the cameras have progressed to the point where the on board computer can make all the decisions for you. The capacity of memory cards have progressed to hold thousands of photos. As a result, I found that the photographs I were taking were getting more and more mindless, I didn’t have to think about the shutter speed or aperture size, it was all done for me. I didn’t have to choose what to shoot, I had enough memory to take as many photographs as I wanted to. That’s when I realized that I should make the switch to analog photography. Beyond the fact that I now had to put thought behind every shutter click, the idea that each photo had a physicality to it instead of ones and zeros also made everything more real and tangible to me.
Phoblographer: What attracted you to double exposures?
As photography is a hobby for me, it exists in my mind (for my purposes) as an artform and not a rigorous discipline. Anything that can be done to convey an idea or to create an interesting visual experience was therefore of interest to me. To me, instant photography has a stronger permanence than traditional film as there only exists one single photograph of that moment you captured. There are no negatives that you can use to replicate the photo. It was this physicality and uniqueness that was my main attracting point to taking instant photos. Double exposures specifically were appealing for two main reasons. The ability to generate very interesting surreal photos moved the photos I was able to take from a documentative artform to a more creative one. The second reason was because of the thought process involved in creating the photos. You have to view the subject matter in a different way in order to generate the underexposed areas and overexposed areas that would result in the desired effects. Figuring out how you can play with lighting to control the end product is a fun and exciting idea.
Phoblographer: How did you go about creating these ones?
In order to generate a strong profile, the first exposure needs to be with no flash against a bright diffuse background. This generates the underexposed sharp shape of your profile that will be the canvas against which you can paint the second exposure. A color filter or non-white subject matter for the second exposure is required to generate the profile shape or else the previously underexposed profile will blend and become indiscernible against the white background. Positioning is particularly difficult with doing double exposures, a lot of it is luck of the draw (which I feel adds to the whole effect).
Phoblographer: Are you going to turn it into a series or is this the end?
This will likely be the end of the series. Of course, if a unique idea materializes, I would gladly pursue/attempt it.