When I first picked up a camera many, many years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. And it didn’t matter. I loved the idea of changing my perspective on the world just by looking through the viewfinder. I just wanted to document anything I could, because I knew that meant more time looking into this beautiful, new world.
So I did and I captured a lot. That included the most mundane things from my stuffed animals to my clean room to holiday decorations. Or the most precious things like my pup or my friends and family, catching them all at awkward moments. I remember thinking I was a pro when it came to donning my disposable camera on a family vacation, snapping crooked shots of museums, hotels, and of course you can’t forget the classic view out of the car window. I couldn’t wait to get the developed film back and relive those ordinary adventures. It was always a surprise seeing them many days later; you never know what kind of gems would come back. What would develop?
Digital photography took the surprise away. It took that question away. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it and embrace it. But what you see in the viewfinder is what you get. For awhile I loved it and obsessed over it. Getting the perfect light, finding the perfect angle and winning the money shot every time. Especially with smartphone cameras and mirror less technology, you never have to wonder if the photo didn’t work out after you left the scene.
So, why do I create using a Polaroid camera? Because I found the process to be much more rewarding nowadays. With a little reminder of what once was and a reason to make photography more about the process than the picture itself.
There is only one copy of that unique shot, no memory cards, USB ports or RAW image files. There’s just an analog brick box and a pack of film with a built-in battery. There’s a coloring that comes from the impression that no filter and no application can recreate. Inside the belly of an instant camera is a beast, where it all begins. You, along with the camera have the ability to develop your photo as intended or develop your photo even better than intended! You just have to get creative and learn to let go.
Part of why I truly picked up a Polaroid camera is because I needed to slow down my photography process and enjoy each image. I needed to take a step back in life and live in the moment rather than focusing on a tomorrow that might not exist. Working with my Polaroid camera helped me to do so. You don’t get an unlimited amount of shots; there are only eight in each pack. You have to make each one count, just as you have to make each minute in life count.
Temperature can alter a Polaroid picture. Although best development comes from 55-82 degrees Fahrenheit, I enjoy a frozen-over photo shoot or a hot, humid instant adventure. Here’s how I learned to let mother nature take over.
FREEZING COLD FILM
Pictured left to right: A cold, wintry morning in February, below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. As I walked through the ice and snow the black and white film began to freeze and fade inside the camera. I ended up with an image of a parking lot light that seemed to float behind some tree branches. The blacks turned gray and frost crystals invaded the scene.
A blistering cold wind whipped me around as I walked in a local park. After I took the shot, the film sat in my warm coat pocket, but the wind managed to fight through and alter the entire development process, producing only two colors, blue and green.
HOT & HUMID
Pictured left to right: It was way above 85 degrees this day and the sky was a vibrant and beautiful blue, but the heat and humidity turned the color of the film pink and purple, giving it a surprisingly magical backdrop.
Lake Michigan, Kenosha, WI was one of my stops on a road trip in July 2018. The warm breeze and the hot sun tinted the entire lake scene a blend of blues, pinks and purples, creating a very retro feel.
Many environmental conditions can alter a Polaroid photo and that’s why I love the challenge of shooting outdoors in a four-season environment. Rain, cloudy days, ice, snow, blistering bright sun, and wind will take your photo to an interesting level if you let it.
Pictured here: As rain droplets gently fell from the sky, I stood alongside these monstrous power towers, aiming my Polaroid right into the sun. You can see it peeking through the center of the image where it is light blue. It was a gloomy day and the rain although light was still a formidable force. It managed to get on the image as it came out and altered the shot bringing the environmental condition to the forefront. I’m still baffled at the deep purple color that surrounds the image. Can you feel the electricity?
Creating art, creating a story, being a part of a one-of-a-kind image is why I create with a Polaroid camera. You only get one chance and one unique image every time you click the shutter button. You are forced to enjoy the moment, playing with environmental conditions and setting up a scene. I love the feeling of having control and relinquishing it all at the same time. Each photo becomes a conversation piece. To me, that is what photography is all about. Telling a story.