What I love about using film and a mix of different cameras is that you can pick your outcome before even taking the shot. I got really tired of editing when I used digital and struggled with trying to make sure I didn’t edit something the same way twice. Which is stupid and unrealistic. I used a basic Fuji Finepix bridge camera and being skint and unable to afford a DSLR, I started buying film cameras really cheap. I had to learn the technical side if I wanted to get any results with them, so it was a both a learning curve and a new way to get creative.
I quickly discovered that with film I could pick my editing before even taking the shot. I have about 15 different cameras at the moment ranging from various Polaroids to an OM-10, cheap 35mm Prakticas and even Box Brownies that I have to file the fuck out of 120 film spools to use. When I want light leaks I’ll use my little pocket Olympus Mju II with some colour slide film. If I just want to have fun and not worry about focusing and sharpness, I’ll use my Diana F+. Kodak Ektachrome is contrasty and colourful, T-Max is sharp and accurate. There are a million different possible results just from choosing a certain type of film with a certain type of camera. Not only that though, you can add the chance of something serendipitous happening by damaging the film.
This is what I love about Polaroid and why I use it, I don’t need to Photoshop in any effects to make a photograph look otherworldy or magical, I simply need to pick the right type of film and ‘damage’ it efficiently. The first time that I did this with a Polaroid it was purely fueled by reading the tips on the Impossible Project pack where it stated to not shoot into direct sunlight. Being stubborn, I thought fuck that, what’s the worst that could happen? And shot into very bright sunshine on an unusually warm October day, and this is what happened.
Probably the only photograph I’ve taken that I’m really proud of. Proud because I went with my instinct, took a risk and it worked; and proud because I know how to recreate it. It’s not simply a fluke, it’s understanding what the film will do under the right conditions. I’ve done this same thing over and over to get a similar kind of look. I crave bright sunlight just so that I can shoot some Polaroids in it.
Another example, Faye in Manchester with bright winter light behind her.
Kitty in Girvan, again bright winter sunlight behind her. Damaged, hazy, light-leaks… the look that I like and I want.
My friend Gary gave me a box of Impossible Project Silver Shade film in January of this year when I was heading to shoot Katy. The film was about three years out-of-date and hadn’t been stored properly – something I tutted at Gary over, but with hindsight I’m glad it hadn’t been looked after correctly and I’m really glad he gave me the film. The chances of it working to it’s intended look were fairly unlikely due to both the expiration and how it had been stored. We shot at Gary’s friend’s studio and set up some lights to create shadows, so that I could use the camera without it’s flash. On my Polaroid Supercolor, which is a box type, you can’t turn off the flash, so Gary gave me some black tape to stick over it.
I wanted to do some simple portraits of Katy, so I took the first shot expecting not very much to be quite honest. The image started appearing really quickly and looked like this.
Katy and I got mega excited, this was a really cool effect. Solarization I guess. Heavy shadowy lines to one side, probably because the pack of film had been sitting on one side for a long time, who knows really? I asked Gary if there was a fan that we could use, so that I could add some sort of movement into the shots by making Katy’s hair billow around her. Then I took the second shot. And the third, and the fourth…
I got home to Scotland from Manchester that evening and started scanning them in immediately. I love new photographs and I’m too impatient to even sleep from a long journey home before I start uploading them. In this instance it was just as well because within a couple of weeks these images completely vanished. The emulsion tends to dry out on original Polaroid stock so you find packs are complete dust inside and the batteries die. With the IP stock, the emulsion dries out too and you can see in these photographs that there are cracks and such. However, it seems the images themselves also have a timeline and only stick around for a couple of weeks. Every expired IP pack that I’ve used has gone the same way.
This summer I shot a pack with Jen in Blackpool. My friend Jules had given me it with the warning “You’ll probably not get anything out of it.” But luckily, we did.
Again, these photographs have completely disappeared from their frames. Not only are the damaged, expired packs offering up their own unique look, they also only stick around for a short space of time before vanishing.
I store all of my Polaroids in boxes, after they’ve been shot. There’s only so much you can do to preserve them as they were never intended to remain in perfect condition forever, that again is the beauty of it. What I love about Polaroid are the elements that you can’t control, even after you’ve shot them they keep changing. The Image Softtone film I use is slowly fading. The original Polaroid 600 film comes out golden and stays that way. So far I’ve found it’s only the expired Silver Shade that disappears. There’s probably a geek out there that can explain why it does, but I much prefer to think of it in a romantic sort of way, just as I do when I’m shooting it.
Fleeting moments caught for a fleeting time. 🙂
If anyone has any expired IP stock or indeed, original Polaroid stock that they’d like to donate to me to damage… hit me up!