Polaroid has been a personal tool of mine for many years. Longer than my professional career. The particular quality of its various films and instant result was the thing that gave me the confidence to manipulate it in various forms without fear, plunging me deep into experimenting my way through style self-discovery. No waiting around for film processing. I can always take another, and another and that’s it, I was hooked. Instant love. There were days that it was plentiful. Those days are no more. But the love remains.
It’s interesting how the tides have turned and technology has become instant and cheap. Polaroid, besides the fact that it’s no longer in production (due to technology) with its films that are chemically based and time sensitive and the clock keeps ticking and… It’s also 3-5 times more expensive than when it was new, difficult to obtain, takes a few minutes to develop and there are never guarantees you’ll get a complete image or if you’ll get one at all. Not quite as quick and easy as all the amazing gear out there that’s used commercially the days. Now, having access to technology for the “daytime job,” all those reasons are what maintain the freshness in our evolving relationship. It’s that magic of an image that appears SLOWLY in front of my eyes and the surprises it brings with. You don’t get that in the commercial world where everything is pre-scripted. Where the final layout is a Photoshop layer on a second screen next to the capture station.
Polaroid, in being a dear and personal tool, has to be used sparingly these days. And on subject matter that has at least that much meaning and more to me. Different formats for my different bodies of work, THEO-ROIDS being the closest to my heart. An ongoing visual timeline of my 8-year-old son Theo from day 2 on (day 1 was a bit overwhelming). This project continues three years past its original idea of 5 years. Neither he nor the films are very forgiving anymore. My latest attempt to cajole Theo into recreating a moment for the slow Polaroid camera was a speech about how precious and few both these moments and materials are. Let’s capture them as part of this story. His story. He’s 8 now, wise beyond his years and gets it, so I can talk to him this way. Still doesn’t make things easier when it comes to camera time but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s an integral part of both the project and the relationship.
Polaroid is film. Used to be instant. Now, not so much. Those who still manage to use it do so for a reason and need to find their means and ends. I’m hanging on a thread surrounded by iPhone Apps that try to mimic what I do by making it easy for the masses. But it’s just not the same, and I take great pride in putting in the effort to hang on. With most bodies of work I revert to film day thinking. Polaroid is my negative. Instead of C-41, it goes through a scanner and instead of a lab, I can pick up the image at my local Apple screen. From there my final outputs are as wide ranging as any originally digital image. With other works, I remain strictly in the analog realm. Like a painting, these pieces are treated as original one-of-a-kind works.
As we advance in our respective fields, it’s our job to adapt to the changes that come from within it. As uncomfortable as that may make us at times, it’s exactly what we need to refresh our creative outlooks and bring us closer to the current audience that continues to evolve.
Images from the THEO-ROIDS body of work:
Gal, thanks so much for this post. This project forever inspires me to make my family my number one priority in terms of personal projects. I look forward to every update from you on this. Seriously, don't stop. Your son is going to be so thankful for this for the rest of his life.