The arts scene in Lisbon is booming, and it is no wonder why. Under a brilliantly blue sky, the exquisite architecture, beautiful river, and plethora of city dwellers, street artists, musicians, and tourists make the city an enticing subject begging to be photographed. While digital photography is the accepted norm, many people are beginning to be seduced by the more historic art of analog photography.
35mais1 is a collective of four photographers and film developers who aim to revive and encourage the art of analog photography. Based in Lisbon, the group have brought their artistic and technical skills and knowledge to create a business selling vintage cameras, developing film, and providing other photography services.
I managed to grab a chat with Commercial Director Diogo Amorim to find out more about their business and the photography scene in Lisbon.
How did the project start? Well, it began a couple of months ago with four friends: Pedro Costa (CEO), Catarina Freitas (marketing and logistics), Sergio Santos (creative director), and myself Diogo Amorim (commercial director). All of us had the same interest and passion for film photography and analog cameras. We wanted to bring all of our different styles and techniques together as well as making something that helps the community. We were looking at the market and trying to find that gap to fill.
Do you sell the cameras online? At the moment we have a kiosk where I sell the cameras — it’s good to have a physical plot on the map because customers know where to find me. It’s also nice to have something physical and meet the people in person, not only online. We don’t need to be so digital — of course, we are using a digital platform to publicise our analog practice — but talking face-to-face is completely different.
Absolutely! And where did you learn to develop your own film? Sergio is a professional photographer and he studied the craft, whereas the rest of us are just enthusiastic and taught ourselves. You have YouTube, Google, and various blogs, all of which give you information on how to do it. Books are also really good because they explain the process really well. We all have the passion so we do our own research and then come together to share what we’ve learned in order to perfect our process and results.
Are there a lot of film developers in Lisbon? There are just a few film developers in Lisbon, which you can mainly find at shopping centers. But these places are expensive and take a long time to develop, so you end up having to wait at least a week to find out if the photo came out well or not.
What makes you different from these other developers? For us, we found the quality at these places is not something worth paying for. It’s such an old-fashioned practice, but we do everything ourselves, and we can develop the photos within the same day as capturing them.
And where exactly do you develop the film? Aha, that’s a secret. Não é para dizeres a ninguém.
Oh OK, I’ll ask no more! So how are you attracting customers? In the beginning, it was just an experiment amongst friends looking for a way to help each other. Our friends also found it difficult to find somewhere good to develop their films, so they began to give their films to us to develop. They then told their friends about us and so on, and it became a ripple effect as the word spread.
We also take advantage of social media networks like Instagram that are used by a large percentage of the population today. Using the hashtag, it makes it easy for customers to find and share the photographs.
How has the feedback on your service been so far? The customers we had when we started are still with us. It’s a good sign, as it means they like our results, and they haven’t found anywhere better. To this date, we have only ever had good feedback.
That’s fantastic! What are your plans for the future? We would like to have an actual store, a physical space that we can use for gatherings, like a club for like-minded photographers to share ideas and practices.
So, moving on to your photography, tell me more about your individual styles you mentioned. All of us have different styles of photography, for example, one is interested in fashion, another in architecture. As for me, I like capturing scenes on the streets in Lisbon. It’s good to use the people as the subject because I can talk to them, get to know them, and create another human connection. Some people are afraid but others find it funny when they look at me with such an old camera.
What’s your favorite spot to shoot in Lisbon? I really like downtown because there is always something unexpected and new happening there.
How do you think the analog photography scene here in Lisbon compares with other cities? When you look at Berlin or London, the scene is very different from here, with a lot of people using analog. At the moment, it’s not so big here, but I think it’s going to kick off.
Oh really? What gives you the indicator of this forecast? There’s definitely a new hype about it, we’re seeing more people with analog cameras everywhere and there is a trend for “vintage.” It’s a kind of nostalgia. When people see us on the streets with analog cameras, they find it cool and are interested in what we do. And again, Instagram also helps a lot — when applying filters and publishing and sharing your own style of photographs causes the passion for film to be reborn.
How has digital photography affected the art of analog? Digital can save analog. If it wasn’t for digital photography, I never would’ve been so enthusiastic about analog. I think it´s helped, as it’s easier to play about and learn with a digital camera. They have the same parameters as analog, like shutter speed, ISO, and aperture (if you take it off automatic!). You can try different things, and if it doesn’t work, you can just try again, with no film wasted. You can compare photos right there in the moment, looking at how all the different parameters affect the image.
Finally, what do you prefer, digital or analog, and why? I prefer analog. You think before taking the photos and you only have one chance. With digital photography, people only look at the picture after they’ve taken the photo and then try to adjust the picture on the screen afterward. Digital is cheaper and more practical, but if you want something more artistic that has your own personal touch, it’s best to use analog.