I used up 15 pieces this weekend.
The film I use for hand-altered Polaroids, my medium of choice, is SX-70. They stopped making it in December 2005. Like lots of other artists, I started stock-piling. The price soared but I bought as much as I could afford.
Sure some is still available on EBay, but film is finicky. Treat it wrong and it turns on you. The good film I have has been handled right, kept in the fridge until needed. It’ll last forever there. I have some other film that has heat damage. I might never be able to use it professionally. I don’t trust EBay film at all.
I used to go throught 10-12 pieces to get an image I was happy with and with worth adding to the body of work. Like most artists, I’m very picky and harder on myself than any critic or juror. I see every flaw. I want it to be perfect. Let’s shoot it again! It’s easy to make a mistake when working in this technique. I’m working directly on the emulsion of the film — that very thin, delicate, light sensitive layer that makes photography possible. Get distracted for a minute and your image is torn and ruined.
I don’t mind when someone looks at the work and casually suggests that I just “smear” and “smoosch” the emulsion to get the look I want, like some kind of primitive finger painting. Many people seem to think that I just spread the emulsion around and see what I get. Instead I try to explain that I use different tools for different effects, and some effects have to be obtained at specific times of the developing process. The process is very controlled and deliberate. I know exactly what effect I will get.
It doesn’t matter. Either you like the impact of the image or you don’t.
I love it. Sure you can try to get this effect in PhotoShop, but you won’t. The film is too organic and subtle. PhotoShop will not get these results.
Besides, the result is only as good as the process. In this case, the process for me is transformative.
Polaroid announced a couple of weeks ago that all of it’s film will be discontinued. All the Polaroid alternate process art forms are going away.
I get asked what I will do next? Develop another body of work, of course. The tool might be going away but the vision is still there. Fortunately, that can’t be discontinued just yet.
PS. The Palms, Variation #2 is in honor of dear friends Renata and Jerome. These are date palms, and I shot them outside their front door. I’ve been working on the image for a while now, and finally finished it this weekend. Instead of being in the studio, I was supposed to be at their house in Palm Springs, but ice and snow canceled all flights and made the trip impossible. I also missed seeing equally dear friends Hildy and Dimitri, who were driving up from Tucson just to see me. I miss them all. Next time.