After a few fits and starts (learning the quirks of both a camera that’s close to forty years old and a new instant film that’s not even two years old), I’ve started my first project with my Polaroid SX-70. Tentatively titled 2012, it will document a typical day for me right now in fifty images or so. I’m planning on this being a relatively short-term project. I wish I would have done something like this five or ten years ago–I’d love to look at it now and see how much life has changed.
Amanda got me a great Christmas gift this year: a chrome and leather Polaroid SX-70, a folding SLR. It was made in the ’70s, and was the first SLR to use instant film. Check out this ad on YouTube–what’s amazing is the way the mirrors were designed so that the camera can collapse, and the path the light takes from the lens to the viewfinder:
Polaroid stopped making SX-70 film in 2006, and all instant film in 2008. This led to what I think is one of the most interesting stories in photography in recent years. In 2008 at the closing of the Polaroid factory in the Netherlands, André Bosman, a manager who had worked for Polaroid for almost thirty years, met Dr. Florian Kaps, a manager for the Lomographic Society. The two decided to do something–they formed a company called The Impossible Project, leased the factory, and bought the machines before they could be scrapped. With a team of only ten former Polaroid employees, they began trying to reinvent the film production process from scratch. The company released its first working film in early 2010. See more of the story here.
To be honest, Impossible’s film still has a ways to go. Unlike the old Polaroid film, it remains light sensitive for a few minutes after coming out of the camera, and so it has to be shielded. It’s somewhat unpredictable, and not completely stable–prints fading over time remains a problem. The bottom line, though, is that taking the first shot with this film gave me the kind of thrill I haven’t gotten since watching my first analog print develop in college. Reinventing instant film was a crazy idea, and I like what they’re doing. I’ll keep buying it, and I hope they can keep improving it. Not to sound like a Luddite (I still appreciate the ease, speed, and economy of digital photography and will continue to use it), but one of the ironies of digital is that we take more photos than ever before, but rarely print them. There’s still something special about holding a tangible print in your hands.
Here’s how my first test shot turned out:
I have a new project in mind using this film. More soon.
Better late than never, right? I originally intended to get this finished by the end of July, four months ago. Things happen though, like a promotion, needing to replace all the insulation in the attic, and Frank’s surgery (he’s fine now, thankfully).
This is the third book I’ve made with Blurb, and the first of four I’ll be doing with projects from Mexico.
122 pages, 50 photos, as well as anecdotes from friends Robert Nation, Omar Covarrubias, Daniel Beltrán, Pancho Olvera, Antonio Salgado, and Lisa Langley.
I splurged this time and got a copy with Mohawk’s premium 140# paper. I’m excited to see the difference.
I’ve been lucky enough to have one of my photos chosen for the latest theme, “Eat at Your Own Risk,” which shows strange foods from around the world. The photo was one of the first that I took in China–Amanda and I were invited to attend a wedding shortly after arriving, and this fish was one of the dishes. We later learned that since eating fish eyes is good luck, it’s a sign of affection to pluck one out with your chopsticks and offer it to your significant other.
Not surprisingly, over a quarter of the photos in the showcase are from China. My students proudly told me on more than one occasion, “We Chinese eat anything with legs that is not a table, and anything with wings that is not a plane.” This may be an exaggeration, but not by much.
Fish eyes are pretty tame compared to some of the things we ate–scorpions, snake, cocoons, duck heads, donkey, and fox (we were told that it was mutton, but that’s a story for another day). By far the worst, though–and I’m pretty sure Amanda would agree with this–were sea cucumbers. If you ever have a chance to eat this “delicacy,” don’t do it. You won’t like it. I promise.
Anyway. I’m very happy to be a part of Pictory, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.