Tag Archives: equivoque

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!

1Instant

1Instant est un collectif d’aritistes adeptes du film instantané Polaroid…

GALERIE CONTRASTE
26 rue de la Rosière d’Artois
44000 Nantes

The current set of original Polaroids is on display at GALERIE CONTRASTE in Nantes until October 12th.  I have agreed to loan my Polaroid to the collectif until October 2009.  My Polaroid is the one on the left just behind the gentleman in the red sweater.  I wish I could have attended the festivities in France!

The Polaroid is one I took using 600 film in my trusty old SX-70.  I placed the Pola in the freezer immediately for its developing process.  A lot of people have asked me, because its title is Frozen Ghosts, whether I scanned it while it was developing.  I did not.  I scanned it quite a few months after I took the photo!

Decay & Melancholy: Addiction to the Black Magic Pack

Not so long ago, a very kind friend of mine gave me one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received in my life.  I’m not exaggerating in the least either.  It was a pack of extremely expired Time-Zero film.  Those who work with expired films know that getting good results can be a gamble.  In this case, I wagered and won.  I have never loved a pack of film so much!  While I’m grateful that I had a pack like this to shoot, I’m left wanting another black magic pack just like the one I had.  It’s a craving that can’t every be satisfied, though, as there is no more of the stuff to be had.

The impenetrable overgrowth of roses held motionless in their various stages of blossoming and decay…

Stages of Blossoming & Decay

Stages of Blossoming & Decay

Emerging from time…

Surfacing

Surfacing

We only remember fragments…

Fragments of Memory

Fragments of Memory

We are all lost…

The Lost Art

The Lost Art

The common fate of all things rare…

The Common Fate

The Common Fate