Other Experiments with Instant Photography and my Polaroid SX-70

30 January 2013


1. Flame, Polaroid SX-70, January 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

1. Flame, Polaroid SX-70, January 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Metal Spheres, Polaroid SX-70, January 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Abstract Metal Spheres, Polaroid SX-70, January 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

3. Abstraction, Polaroid SX-70,October 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

3. Autumn Abstraction, Polaroid SX-70, October 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Let me know which you prefer and why.


“The purpose of inventing instant photography was essentially aesthetic–to make available a new medium of expression to numerous individuals who have artistic interest in the world around them.”–Dr. Edwin H. Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera

When the packs of black-and-white Polaroid film arrived, I quickly stored them inside my refrigerator. This newly-formulated monochrome film must be in a stable environment until it’s time to load it into my SX-70 vintage camera. I praise The Impossible Project for the chance to renew my enthusiasm and passion for this analog process. Traditional photography still exists, and Polaroid prints are one of the most thrilling examples.

There is a meditative aspect to this camera’s technology. First, the unknown is the grand scheme, but that mystery between what you see and what actually happens is a step beyond magical. You’re never quite sure what will result. It’s an ongoing experiment.

While the Impossible Project (see my post about the company here) has saved Edwin Land’s invention from retirement, the film that they produce is not a replica of the original. It continues to inch its way toward what aficionados experienced with the film pre-2008. That’s when the Polaroid company stopped making the SX-70 film. While the new product simulates it, it has a way to go. Still, the same sensations and thrill are there. And the prints continue to astonish.

I load the film and a black cover card spits out; it’s time to compose the image. The black card can be used to blanket the print as it moves out of the camera. The sensitivity of this new formula needs immediate shielding from light, which is completely opposite to the original.

The dance of the shoot and the wait requires reverence for the process. Still, there is that memorable reward: a film that gives an “instant” rendering of a past moment’s framing. Furthermore this analog experience is vastly different from gazing at the screen on my digital camera.

Sx-70, Google Images

Polaroid Sx-70, Google Images

I found a short video made in 1972 by Charles and Ray Eames. The same version of the camera that I own is used to portray the beauty and drama of the Polaroid experience. Click here to view it.

The whirring sound of the print being pushed into birth is remarkably centering. That sweet oration is a platform for what is to transpire. The print must be kept out of the light for at least four-five minutes. But I let it cure for at least an hour before I peek. That initial moment of awareness is heart-pumping exhilaration.

Then I wait for days. Take each print, and scan it into my computer for editing, which  usually is a tweak here and there. In the Lens section are examples from two photo shoots. Black-and-whites are from a week ago, and the color is from October.

I’m still trying to understand the film and adjust the camera to accommodate the difference between the old film vs. the new, which is trying to emulate it. I’m happy to take the journey, walking along side the possibilities that are yet to be.

The Polaroid SX-70 survives, making many of us thrilled for additional chances to use its simple technology. Since its introduction in 1948, the camera has been a worthy competitor in the marketplace.

My connection with this elderly statesman of innovation is deeply felt. These emotions reflect the elation received from spirited moments in its presence. Instant photography, I salute you.

Note: As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog. Here are my other posts about instant photography. Click here and here.

This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Human Nature, Photography, Polaroid, Writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Other Experiments with Instant Photography and my Polaroid SX-70

  1. Dina says:

    Beautiful work, Sally. I especially like number one and I can’t get my eyes off number 3.
    Have a good week!
    Greetings to you from sunny Bonn

  2. Pingback: Edwin Herbert Land (1909-1991): Pencipta Fotografi Instan Polaroid | s-Neo's Web

  3. eof737 says:

    Lots of interesting touches… 🙂

  4. patriciamoed says:

    Wonderful post! You’ve inspired me to try one of the SX type Polaroids. It’s no surprise that the Eames were in on the advertising of the camera. What an intriguing couple.

  5. Your pictures always inspire me. Your artistic eye and creativity always creates the most dramatic, moving images. I wish I can explore other cameras and techniques but for now, my iPhone and one app are my best practical options. perhaps one day…have a great day!

  6. all 3 are great!! tough to pick one. I love the the eerie and ghost effect it has. If I may ask, was it expensive to buy the film? The reason why I’m asking is, I bought 2 old Polaroids which later I found out you can’t get the film anymore. Then I looked on line and some people were selling it for this exuberant amount of money!!!

    • Great that you have the cameras. As I have experienced, I had two from years ago and only one works. Please check The Impossible Project. It’s so much fun to get their e-mails and see what they are doing. Yes, the film is pricey. In the old days we would get 10 prints for about $14. Today it’s 8 for just above $20. I buy mine from Amazon. Be sure that you buy the film that is made from The Impossible Project. It’s worth the experimentation, and, yes, it is costly. Let me know how if you decide to take the plunge.

  7. Anne Camille says:

    I live in a house built in the ’50s. About a year ago, I was cleaning out a closet and decided to remove one of the shelves. As I reached towards the back, I cut my hand on what turned out to be one of those developer tubes for early Polaroids. I was intrigued. It brought back memories of the Polaroids my dad would take. Sadly, my mom years ago got rid of all of the camera equipment — including an SX-70 — that my Dad had. I’ve been wanting one since. You may have inspired me to start looking again for you!
    I like the colors in the 3rd photograph — so vibrant. But I think the first is my favorite because of the composition.

    • Please do jump into the excitement. I know that there are numerous ways to purchase new and refurbished Polaroids of the SX type. Go look at The Impossible Project site. Also I suggest that you ask them if there aware of stores near you that sell them. I hope to see your work. Many thanks.

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