Polaroid follies

3 October 2019

I am currently working on project which is a variant of work I planned for term 2 in my Research proposal. I had been exploring the idea of willful blindness, including denial, status quo, etc. As I had mentioned in Week 1, I enjoyed creating scenes with the miniature German figures, but was looking for more: more depth, more of a point?

Fortuitiously, I received a JollyLook camera in the mail. I had backed the JollyLook project on a start-up platform nearly three years ago. The camera looks a lot like the old top-view medium format cameras, but is made of cardboard and uses mini Polaroid film. I was very excited about this model as it seemed to be configured in such a way that I could photos with a tilt/shift approach. This camera seemed to be an ideal way for me to explore the use of the figurines in a different way.

This thing is, this camera is cardboard and has no lens. I opted to use the pinhole and, out of approximately 20 shots, I managed to get two which had recognizable content!

I thought it would be interesting to use the images I produced to create an emulsion lift. I approached this experiment like a geometer, but was disappointed and puzzled that I did suceed in getting my hands covered with black developing chemicals, but no emulsion. My husband did a quick Google search and we learned that Polaroid transfers require Polaroid film. I was using Fuji film.

I ordered Polaroid film for this little camera and tried again. Turns out, this alternative process does not work with any instant film that is currently in production. Good to know… but disappointing. More about emulsion lifts in my next post.

10 October 2019

Repurposed family history

My curiosity for alternative processes and wish to find a visually interesting solution to apply to my figurine project led me to purchasing old Polaroid pictures on eBay. The first lot— 100 of them- contained some interesting family scenes which I thought I could use as background for my figurine work. Disappointingly, the film type was incorrect and an emulsion lift was not possible.

I purchased a second lot of old Polaroids- labeled “1980 trip”, on eBay. These appear to be mostly national park scenes. Curious to know if I had finally found the correct type of film, and I chose a photo to sacrifice to another Polaroid emulsion lift- and was really thrilled that it worked! While the emulsion is thicker than I imagined, it’s quite fragile and poked a couple of holes in the picture. The emulsion expands in the water and, when wet, gains about 30% in area. I transferred the image to drawing paper.

Selection of family photos taken out West (USA) circa 1980
Emulsion lifted and placed on wet paper.
Finished product: emulsion shrinks and regains clarity. The holes formed spontaneously during the soaking process.

I like the look of the transfer- to me it’s slightly other-worldly, maybe painterly. I will continue to experiment with these emulsion lifts, and am looking for a more translucent product. I have some sheets of silk organza — designed for the printer– which I will use as a back from the next round of experiments.

Of note, it’s a little sad to look at other people’s abandoned photographs. As Susan Sontag had said in “Society of the Spectacle” that family history is made by the photographs taken. It seems a shame to put these personal pictures on eBay, however, I appreciate the photos as art.