Portraits, Film, and Light

In our home, photography is a fact of life.  Every member of the family has been a photographic subject or the one behind the lens at one time or another, and for me that adds up to a lot of portraits of family and friends in my body of work.  While I have taken my fair share of digital portraits, the portraits in film are the ones I love best, perhaps because the results of black and white digital conversion still cannot compare to the range of tonality one gets with black and white film types.  I happen to love black and white portraits.

The following photo, The Naturual, shows my youngest son’s love for my favorite Diana camera.  Each Diana camera is different.  His favorite camera always seems to be what my favorite is at the time.

Photography is a family affair.

Photography is a family affair.

Sometimes the playmates of my children find their way into the frames as well…

an untitled portrait

an untitled portrait

Here is an angel among us.  Look at the hearts in his eyes.

un ange parmi nous

un ange parmi nous

It’s nice to remember the longer days during these, the darkest, coldest, shortest days of the year.

girlfriends

girlfriends

More memories from the neighborhood…

a boy child

a boy child

My lovely daughter…

lovely

lovely

My youngest son with my oldest son’s girlfriend…  My youngest has the brightest eyes you’ll ever see.

bright eyes

bright eyes

And finally a portrait of the artist herself… a very old portrait!  It was taken with my late grandfather’s old Pentax.

Pentax ID

Pentax ID

Finally, through Decemeber 23rd, if you purchase any item from my Etsy Shop, you will receive an extra photograph!  You may contact me about availability for gifts, either through Etsy or via email at elinor@equivoquephoto.com.  Here are some of the photos currently offered in my Etsy Shop.

Becoming Light

Becoming Light

unspoken truths

unspoken truths

In the Form of a Dream

In the Form of a Dream

a poem in light

a poem in light

lost in translation

lost in translation

water, evening, poetry

water, evening, poetry

and summers lease

and summer's lease

frozen ghosts

frozen ghosts

morning song

morning song

equivoquephoto

Portrait of a Polaroid: Memento

Whenever a photographer uses expired film, surprise will be an element of the result.  While the photographer cannot place all his or her hope in interesting effects, however, he or she cannot count on entirely controlling the result either.  Before I began this little series on working with Time-Zero film (both fresh and expired), I had written an entry about a very special pack of Time-Zero that I received from a friend, for after I shot the pack, I found myself craving its magic again and again.   Though I will not repeat the photos from that entry here, I would like to conclude this series with photos from the black magic pack because they illustrate more than any of my Polaroids how rewarding working with expired film can be.

This is my personal favorite from my own portfolio… Polaroid and otherwise.  The deep roses, blacks, and blues that the magic pack of film yielded worked beautifully with this model’s skin.  This little objet d’art remains my memento of something treasured that cannot be duplicated ever again.

memento from the underworld

memento from the underworld

I was playing with the length of the exposure time in the following shot.  In this case, I used the SX-70’s dial to “overexpose” the shot.  The other blog entry features some of the darker versions of the still life.

decay and melancholy

decay and melancholy

In conclusion, then, it is certain that I’ll not have a chance to shoot non-expired Time-Zero film in all its glory again, it is highly unlikely that I will have the the opportunity to have in my possession something like the black magic pack again, but I have about 92 shots of expired Time-Zero film in its various stages of blossoming and decay waiting for me in the refrigerator.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to shoot something worthy of the film with it.  Thank you for taking the time to look at my Polaroids.

The fourth and last in a series chronicling the transitions and decline of an aristocrat of film types, Polaroid Time-Zero film… Polaroids by Elinor Scott-Sutter.

Portrait of a Polaroid
Painted Light
Fire & Ice
The Blues

Memento

Portrait of a Polaroid: The Blues

Recently I’ve been revisiting some of my work and writing about my favorite Polaroid film type, Time-Zero, which was discontinued in 2006.  I use it in my favorite camera, the SX-70.  This installment of a series about the film/camera combination is a little out of sequence, as I wrote last time about working with expired film.  Before that I had written about the painterly qualities of the film but, in so doing, completely failed to include examples of one of the most beautiful qualities of Time-Zero film, which is its gorgeous expression of blues and cyans.  It’s for this quality that I will probably most miss my Time-Zero film.

The beauty of the skies over Lake Superior is sometimes best captured by this eloquent film type…

Photographing Instances of Light

Photographing Instances of Light

The blues, which really don’t need description, work for portraiture, too.

Portrait with Light

Portrait with Light

The computer display just fails to adequately portray the special qualities of the film, which is how this Polaroid of Lake Superior came by its title Lost in Translation.

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

Lake Superior, Wisconsin…

Blue Morning

Blue Morning

Sometimes the blues are just pure poetry…

Water, Evening, Poetry

Water, Evening, Poetry

A Poem in Light

A Poem in Light

Finally, here’s one of my favorites from my stash of Polaroids… a result of an experiment I did to trick the SX-70 into doing long exposure times at the darker side of dusk.

Blue Is the Color of Night

Blue Is the Color of Night

The blues, as a theme for classifying Polaroids, makes for for an equivoque, which is very apropos, for it is the loss of these extraordinary blues that leaves me with the mood implied by the color.

The first in a series chronicling the transitions and decline of an aristocrat of film types, Polaroid Time-Zero film… Polaroids by Elinor Scott-Sutter.

Portrait of a Polaroid
Painted Light
Fire & Ice
The Blues

Memento

Portrait of a Polaroid: Fire & Ice

Not too long ago, an online friend of mine said facetiously, while defending his choice to use toy cameras and expired film, “It’s just a matter of praying as hard as you can for the end result not to be crap.”  Of course, the opposite of that statement is true.  If you want your end results “not to be crap” when working with toy cameras or expired film, you must work hard, as you would with any other tools, and pay attention to what you are doing.  Possibly even more attention than when working with ordinary equipment and media.

I learned as much when I found myself in the unenviable predicament of being required to work with expired film if I wanted to continue to work with my preferred film and camera combination.  Of course, there wasn’t really a choice.  It’s not that I wanted to continue to work with Time-Zero film in my SX-70.  I had to.  I had spent a lot of time observing my camera’s behavior in different situations, but with the high cost of even expired film, it became more necessary than ever to quickly discover the limitations and features of an expired pack to best incorporate the attributes of the film into the photos.  Each pack is unique, making the task even tougher.  I miss my non-expired Time-Zero film, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of the results I’ve had from my expired film.

Here’s one of my favorite models again.  She is also a photographer, and we were shooting together on the ice of Lake Superior.

The Fire in Her Eye

The Fire in Her Eye

From the same day on the ice…

Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis

Sometimes the results can be singular…

Singular

Singular

Sometimes the additions to what the photo might be are like gold…

passage

passage

My hipster daughter…

Old School

Old School

The reds from expired Time-Zero can burn red if the light is warm enough, as is the case here.

the light of sweet remembrance

the light of sweet remembrance

While the welcome accidents certainly play their role in shooting expired film, planning goes a long way to ensure the judicious use of precious film.  I will keep shooting till the money runs out.

The second in a series chronicling the transitions and decline of an aristocrat of film types, Polaroid Time-Zero film… Polaroids by Elinor Scott-Sutter.

Portrait of a Polaroid
Painted Light
Fire & Ice
The Blues

Memento

A Portrait of a Polaroid: Painted Light

Most people know by now that Polaroid recently stopped manufacturing film cameras and all the Polaroid film types.   I don’t think the general public was really prepared in advance for the loss of an American institution such as Polaroid instant photography, but we who love Polaroid photography got our first taste of what can only be described as panic when we began to see seemingly innocuous notices such as this one, announcing the end of manufacture of Time-Zero film, on Polaroid’s website.   The author wrote in a cordial understatement, “We realise that this is disappointing news for our loyal SX-70 users and we would like to underline that, although the circumstances made it inevitable, it was not an easy decision…  We are very sorry for the inconvenience.”  If by inconvenience the writer meant the first time in the history of photography that an entire medium would be taken away from the photographers who loved and used it, then it was a convenience.

For me, though, it was much, much more than an inconvenience.  I was one of the many artists who had come to rely almost solely on Polaroid film types to express my passion for instances of light.  Since I have only 82 shots left of my favorite film, which is Time-Zero film, I have devised ways to work with and view my Time-Zero Polas without having to use more of the film just yet.  It was when I began sorting my Polas into categories according to the degree to which the film was or was not expired that a story emerged.  I was surprised to see how the story of my development as a photographer paralleled the story of the decline of the excellent film; my style was growing a little more “esoteric” to match the effects I was getting from the expired film.  Even the beginning of the story is a bit sad, because there will never be fresh Time-Zero film again.  Everything that remains is expired, but there was once the film that I affectionately call Painted Light.

The dreamlike and painterly qualities of Time-Zero film are really accentuated by the use of a camera such as the Pronto! B, which lacks the ability to accurately focus on an image.  Instead, the photographer estimates the distance of the subject and sets a dial accordingly.

Painted Light

Painted Light

A 1960s wedding gown makes the perfect nostalgic subject for a Polaroid.  This is my mother’s 1962 wedding gown.  The camera was the Pronto! B.  The model, once again, is Lindsay.  The girlfriend of my oldest son, she is one of my favorite models.  The light becomes her, and she becomes light…

Becoming Light

Becoming Light

The image of this peony in evening light was taken with my favorite camera, the Polaroid SX-70 Model 2.  Because the SX-70 (aperture range f/8- f/22) determines how wide its aperture will be based on the available light, the photographer has very little control over the depth of field, except to choose the lighting that will result in the desired aperture width.  I’ve gotten to know my SX-70 quite well, how it will behave under different lighting conditions, and so forth.  I actually gravitate towards lower light settings for the SX-70.  The aperture opens up nice and wide, which really yields some dreamlike results with Time-Zero film.  This simple peony appears almost painted.  It is the color of dreaming…

The Color of Dreaming

The next photo is one of my favorite portraits of my daughter…  It isn’t a surprise to those of us who know and love her that, when she finds a piece of wood on the beach, she picks it up, draws a face on it, and names it…  In this case, she named it Chunky.

“Some ideas arrive in the form of a dream…”
–The Log Lady in David Lynch’s and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks

In the Form of a Dream

In the Form of a Dream

Time-Zero interprets light with grace and perhaps a bit of magic…

Of Light and Magic

Of Light and Magic

A detail from vintage signage that is still in use in Grand Marais, MN:

RIG

RIG

Late summer…  How can a body be so filled with possibility (of love and of drenching the senses with sensations from an almost autumn afternoon) that really it is too much for the senses?

The Stars of Summer

The Stars of Summer

Finally, here is a loose quote in Time-Zero of a portrait of O’Keeffe by Stieglitz.

Morning Song

Morning Song

Time-Zero film, whose sad disappearance was a result of a series of complicated and unforunate events, is an exquisite and extraordinary film type, and its beauty and elegance is painfully underscored by the stranger and darker iterations resulting from its aging.  I wish future photographers would be fortunate enough to have the opportunity and pleasure of working with it, but they will only be able to enjoy its finery by looking at the Polaroids of others.  The blog is the first in a series chronicling the film in its transition from painted light to its bittersweet decline.

The first in a series chronicling the transitions and decline of an aristocrat of film types, Polaroid Time-Zero film… Polaroids by Elinor Scott-Sutter.

Portrait of a Polaroid
Painted Light
Fire & Ice
The Blues

Memento

Patience & Persistence: Tools of the Trade

It’s easy to cite camera gear as the obvious tools of the trade when it comes to making photos.    For instance, I used a Hasselblad 500 C/M with a Zeiss Distagon T* CF 50mm f4.0 lens and a Hasselblad 60 1X UV-SKY -0 (1A) multicoated filter to make these images.  The film was Kodak Tri-X Pro 320.  For me, however, the real tools of the trade are nearly always patience and persistence.

I have learned that, if you are patient enough, you can shoot moving targets with a Hasselblad!

Fledglings

Fledglings

The cold, cold waters of Lake Superior…

Testing the Waters

Testing the Waters

And all around there is water…

The Waves

The Waves

The end of an afternoon…

The Benediction

The Benediction

The Darker Side of Light

I’ll be mirroring my blog at uber.com here, as I don’t really know how much longer that site will exist.  Anyway… I love the blacks I get from Neopan film. I only wish my scanner had a profile for Neopan (as it does for Ilford and Kodak black and white films).  I have been told by an expert in scanning that I shouldn’t be using my scanning software’s presets in any case.
Here’s my little guy. He’s a computer geek like his Mama. He’s also obsessed with cameras, especially the Diana camera, which I have to hide from him. You can see the look in his eye…

As much as I love the genre of street photography, I’m not really a street shooter. My personal aesthetic is a bit more studied and quiet than that. When I’m out shooting in public places, I’m likely to end up with portraits of strangers in quiet moments of light instead… as is the case here.

There are two sides to every story. Here they are lightness and dark, one not better than the other…

I can’t always have my way when I am taking photographs. Models do have minds of their own after all. 😉 Here’s the infamous hat that I mentioned.

I have some more bokeh filled shots from this roll, but that will have to be saved for part 2. Scanning is such a laborious thing!