30 January 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.
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.