Film Swap: Collaborative Camera Work

Double exposure is the process and the result of superimposing two photographic captures in a single frame. Sometimes multiple exposures occur unintentionally, when a photographer forgets to wind on the film after a shot. At most times, though, multiple exposures are the result of a considered (and in many cases, sustained) creative practice that can be traced back to the early days of the medium. Recently, a new breed of photographers started to act on the notion that it might be fun and creatively rewarding to share the process of creating multiple exposures with one or more collaborators. The practice is known as ‘Film Swap’.

The mechanics of swapping film are straightforward: person A exposes a roll of film, rewinds it, and sends it on to person B, who exposes it again, and might send it on to person C for a third exposure. After processing and printing, images are complete. Since we live in a digital world, photographers will often scan and upload their work to popular photo-sharing sites like Flickr, Tumblr, and Lomography. Forums connect collaborators and host discussions, sometimes on non-standard practices, such as red scaling, cross-processing, or cooking the film.

A good number of artists in this exhibition have collaborated with one another in various constellations, and some of them enjoy an enthusiastic worldwide following. Collectively, they are part of a creative force that has made Film Swap an international cultural phenomenon.

Defying a popular notion that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time, film swappers set a stage for complex, interdependent, and multilayered realities to visually exist at the same time. This is of course very much how most of us experience the modern world. Aside from providing their audience with much beauty and visceral excitement, film swappers have something to offer that extends beyond an image's frame: they challenge the notion of authorship in a medium that is not inherently collaborative.

— Peter FahrniForward Thinking Museum

Edmund Kesting

Edmund Kesting
Professor Jan Van Beek, 1948
Courtesy of JGS Permanent Collection

Edmund Kesting was an early 20th century experimental photographer who perfected the art of multiple exposure. Other artists include:
Alvin Langdon Coburn,
Imogen Cunningham,
Man Ray,
Maurice Tabard,
Berenice Abbott,
Barbara Morgan,
Harry Callahan,
Duane Michals.