Interview: Multiple Exposures on Film Turn Ordinary Moments into Dreamlike Scenes

Shooting exclusively on film, photographer Hayden Williams composes dreamy multiple exposure images that turn ordinary scenes into poetic visual narratives. The 20-year-old creative, who just returned to the US from a study abroad program in Hong Kong, pairs unlikely elements like wildflowers and an urban cityscape, silhouetted figures and soft glimmers of bokeh, and vibrant blooms and architecture to depict fleeting moments from a surreal and colorful world.

Williams thoughtfully crafts his compositions by exposing the same roll of film more than once, superimposing different shots on top of each other, in-camera. The results can be a little unpredictable, but that's all part of the fun, according to the photographer. What makes it worth it is the moment when the light, color, and shadows of multiple exposures align perfectly, resulting in beautiful and startling imagery that pops.

We had the chance to ask Williams a few questions about his creative process. Scroll down to read that exclusive interview.

In a digital age, why shoot film?

I actually began shooting digital, but after about a year shooting on a Nikon D3200, I switched to film. I made this switch simply because I wanted to take double exposures. Prior to the switch, I had experimented with combining exposures in Photoshop. You can get pretty good results with this method, but to me, it just wasn't fun.

My first multiple exposures turned out horrible, but I was already addicted. Since I got the first roll of film back, I haven't picked up my DSLR. Film has a texture–an emotion–that digital will never be able to recreate. Film, of course, has its flaws and imperfections, but that gives it life, unlike the sterility of digital. These imperfections, to me, only make shooting film that much more perfect.

Do you plan your layered compositions in advance? Or is every shot a risk you take that comes out looking magical?

I always plan out the shots, which I would say is crucial in taking good multiple exposures. You have to think about how the pieces of light, color, and shadows fuse together to form a new whole. I usually have a very specific image in mind when I take them. Sometimes I'll take the first exposure, then wait days before taking the second because I'm hunting for the right exposure. I think the longest I've gone between shots is almost two weeks. All of that said, taking them is still definitely a risk. Sometimes the shot I was ecstatic for turns out pretty lackluster, but just as frequently, shots will amaze me with how well they turned out, and that's what keeps me going.

What do you hope viewers take away from your work?

The most important piece of gear in your arsenal of photographic technology is your creativity. I use a Canon AE-1 and disposable cameras, both of which you can acquire for less than 30 dollars, for all of my shots. Don't worry about your gear; instead, focus on showing your creativity. Photography, for me, is about how you see the world; it captures the clash between the environment and the mind. We all have the same environment, so what separates the good photographers from the bad is the mind. Push your mind and strive to show the world something new.

Hayden Williams: Website | Facebook | Flickr | Instagram | Tumblr

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Hayden Williams.

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