Double Exposure, Double City – By Joshua Blevins Peck

I love multiple exposures. There’s something freeing about letting go and having fun with a camera to create a layered, abstract image. When I’m making doubles, triples, and quadruples, I normally use my Nikon FM2n camera that I’ve had for over thirty years (the best teenage birthday present of my life!). Using the FM2n, I have some control over what I am shooting, but earlier in 2022, I started a project with my friend Nancy Churillo that forced me to give up all control. 

I live in Kansas City, Nancy lives in Seattle. I had seen some mail collaborations and it looked like a pleasing way to make some abstract art without ever talking about making abstract art. I loaded up The Graph Ultra with some expired Kodak Gold 200 film (this is actually a Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim camera that I have hacked by covering it with graph paper designed washi tape and given it a new name) and began to shoot around Kansas City. I live downtown and am always out walking, so, it didn’t take long to go through the roll. I rewound it, re-loaded it, and mailed The Graph Ultra to Seattle with the plan for Nancy to shoot a couple of rolls before returning the camera and film.

Having no clue what Nancy was going to shoot was an absolute blast to think about after I shipped the camera off to her. The results were going to depend on randomness, happy accidents, fate, and pure hope that she and I would create something wonderful together despite being separated by a distance of 1,892 miles and two time zones. 

I hadn’t been as ramped up to see the results from a plastic point and shoot in years. It was going to be like opening a present when I got to see what we created in parallel spread out over a couple of months. How many of the 72 frames that we shot end up worth keeping and possibly showing to others? 5? 10? 20?

When I got the results and started going over the images I couldn’t believe it. One after the other got me excited and I quickly realized there was going to be dozens of shots that I liked. There was an unexpected surprise I discovered when looking at the images for the first time. By seeing my shots layered on top of hers, it was like we were giving the other person access to our lives for that precious moment we froze onto film. It was oddly intimate. And strange. I recognized part of the image but it was also unknown, like a mysterious,  half-remembered dream after waking. 

KCxSeattle double exposure project. This image looks like an alternative cover to Depeche Mode’s classic 1986 record Black Celebration. Film: Kodak Gold 200, expired.

The famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson had the concept of the “decisive moment” for when an image is captured onto film. I don’t shoot a lot of portraits and for the thousands of “decisive moments” I’ve taken a photograph in my life, it’s mostly been a solitary act of creation between myself, the film, and the camera that I held in my hands. Not for this project. It was a very pleasant discovery that there are TWO “decisive moments” with these images. There is a connection in time, linking us together that can never be taken away as long as the image exists.

KCxSeattle multiple exposure project. An image in stereo with stereo. Film: Kodak Gold 200, expired.
KCxSeattle multiple exposure project. Slivers of the two cities + clouds. Film: Kodak Gold 200, expired.
KCxSeattle multiple exposure project. Neon + nature.
KCxSeattle multiple exposure project. The combination of the city + nature is the sweet spot. Film: Kodak Gold 200, expired.

Nancy and I are continuing the project and I’m working on another roll to send to her in Seattle, this time with a Minolta Hi-Matic G camera. Who knows what is going to happen in that frame. Doing these few rolls with Nancy has made me want to do more with people I don’t know. If anyone in another city or country wants to share a moment with me…get in touch. We can possibly create some magic together. 

Follow Joshua on instagram @blevins_fotografic

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12 thoughts on “Double Exposure, Double City – By Joshua Blevins Peck”

    1. Yes, loooonng wait to get the film back from her. It was a bit more exciting than if I’d just taken the entire roll myself as I had absolutely no idea what was on there in addition to mine. With old, expired film, it was kind of the perfect way to shoot these rolls.

    1. I can’t get enough of them. I always have a roll going specifically for those. Some have different cities to mix and match, this project with my friend, some with 3/4 layers, various images with the FM2n. It’s freeing and a fun change of pace from being so thoughtful and slow as I am with some of my other cameras.

  1. So, ah, dumb question: When you shoot a double exposure, do you make 2 “normal” exposures, or do you underexpose each by a stop, or … what?

    1. Not dumb. Different ways to do it depending on camera and what you may be going for. For this project, since my friend and I were using point and shoot cameras and expired film without ability to choose ISO or anything at all, there’s really no strategy. Randomness is part of the fun of it. You just take the photos and you get what you get.

      When I use cameras that let me make choices, such as my Nikon FM2n, which I use a lot for multiples, I do underexpose them. The more layers, the more I underexpose them. By “adding” them up with a final image, it creates a lot of abstractions, some of which have more intention than others. Some more successful than others. I love the unpredictability of it. Not all cameras have ability to take multiples so you have to sometimes shoot over film rolls–which decreases your amount of control of the image.

      This project though, it’s all about having fun with a friend in another city and sharing little moments via the camera and film.

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