Polaroids 1: Trials

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I have very little experience shooting with film that is of any real value. Sure, I took a fair number of 35mm pictures when I was younger. I even had an opportunity once, as a teenager, where I was given a disposable camera and asked to use up the rest of the shots on it. I took pictures of the sun. But I never really understood the art of taking pictures. I didn’t understand depth of focus and aperture size and exposure. I just pointed the camera and took the picture. When I got old enough that I had to buy my own film I stopped taking pictures. Then digital cameras started getting good enough that they got interesting.

I’ve always loved the art of film.

I’m not saying digital is not artistic, it can be cheaper, it’s definitely more accessible and for people who post-process their photos — I don’t — there is as much or more involved in it than there ever was with film.

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Film is a different, though similar, kind of art and is truly fascinating to behold. There’s something magical to the process. It’s probably the optical engineer inside of me but I’m awestruck by the techniques used to dodge and burn and print and enlarge and adjust film in a lab. It is an art form that looks like art while it is happening. When I see people editing photos on the computer it doesn’t look like art — it’s far beyond any of my skill and I admit that it requires artistic ability to digitally edit photos tastefully but it looks like software.

I’m a hardware guy. Hardware looks like art. Software looks like work.

When I stumbled upon an old Polaroid 600 Land camera sitting in a closet I knew that I had to try it out. At first I was spending the money on a cartridge of film to see if it worked so that I could sell it. From the moment the first picture slid from between the rollers I knew that camera was never going anywhere. I understand the science of the emulsions and developers and the rollers that squash it all together when a polaroid picture ‘prints’ but I’m telling you that science all adds up to MAGIC.

I bought my film from The Impossible Project which is absolutely beautiful. They’ve done some great work. They don’t quite have it worked out to the same levels as Edwin Land did so the film is really finicky and extremely sensitive to light when it first comes out of the camera. These first three shots are some of my mistakes. One is underexposed because I foolishly tried to take a picture of my cat — who’s fur contains the light sucking quality of a million tiny black holes — without the light of a thousand burning suns. One I added the suns but chose different subjects. The other I clumsily dropped after pulling from the camera, ruining the otherwise beautiful exposure.

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Also this probably goes without saying but these scans really do not do justice to how beautiful these pictures look.


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