A Photographers Love of Polaroids: An Instant Love Affair.

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If I spoke to ten different photographers from ten different backgrounds, working within ten different areas of the field, I would hazard a guess that at least eight of them would have a love for the instant photograph. Whether it be the age-old chemical process of the Polaroid or the (relatively) new electronic mechanism of the Instax. They probably wouldn’t be able to explain their love or fully understand it themselves. Like a married person in the heat of an affair. Unable to comprehend it, or explain it but fascinated by it. Drawn to it.

For me, I think it’s the physical attribute of the process. It is the anti-digital but with the same immediate result. Look through the viewfinder, release the shutter, and seconds later you are holding a physical print. Something to keep, to frame, to use as a bookmark or prop up on a shelf. It gives you an instant sense of ownership, something that will live with you. In a similar way that the 12” records from the 60s and 70s look like they have been lived with – they look like they could tell a story. Every crease and coffee stain revealing something else. Put this in comparison to shooting 35mm film and it’s easy to understand the love of the instant. For most people – or at least those like me who don’t own darkrooms, you can shoot a roll of film and wait up to a week for the prints to arrive with you. It’s somehow just not the same for me. It doesn’t have the same substance. I feel a little withdrawn from the process of it.

A few months ago I went away for a weekend with my Wife, I decided to document the trip on the Fuji Instax Mini (discussed in this blog post). I took approximately 40 exposures, and those photographs have already been looked at dozens more times that the equivalent would have been – ten to twenty photographs lurking in a gallery on my iPhone. Pushed further and further down the gallery with each click of the shutter and with each screenshot.

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I like things in my life that are unpredictable. Nights out, late nights, work projects. Unpredictability fascinates me. That’s what instant film offers. It’s like the unplanned “quick pint” with your friend that ends with a 4.00 am drinking session and an almighty hangover. You’ll never know what you’re going to get with instant film. You can do your best to create the “perfect” shot. Check your lighting, stage your subject, but I can almost guarantee you won’t get the same results twice. With limited to no control over exposure, ISO, and shutter speed, and without the ability to look through a single lens, every image will be different. Each will have it’s own personality. It’s own failings and equally it’s own brilliance.

This is nothing new, photographers have been fascinated with instant film since it came to light. Professionals used it, families used it. There would have been countless nude photographs taken of partners, hidden at the bottom of drawers during a time where instant photography was the only private photography.

Maybe all of that is part of it’s charm. Today there are artists who only shoot on instant film. I truly admire that but have to admit it’s not something I could do. After a week or so I’m always pretty happy to go back to the comfort of my DSLR, like the cheating partner walking back through the door of his house. It feels like going home.

When you think of instant film it’s hard not to think of the resurgence of analogue. Vinyl is back in record stores and outselling physical CD’s. It’s a throwback to a simpler time, a time when “things” meant something. A time where things weren’t thrown away. A time where not everything was considered disposable.

– Carl Beebee.

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Film, Polaroids & The Digital Revolution.

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Double Exposed Polaroid 600 – Circa. 2000.

Nearly everything I shoot these days is in digital because let’s face it; it’s easier, cheaper, quicker and often (usually) more commercially viable. Bridge cameras, DSLR’s and iPhones have all helped bring the digital revolution to the forefront of photography. It’s nothing new. But it leaves me cold. More people than ever now take photographs. This is a good thing I realise but I think it takes away the love of it all. I realise I’m probably not explaining this too well but there is something so unique, and so special about shooting with a film or Polaroid camera.

I’ve recently moved house, and this gave me a great excuse and to sort through boxes and boxes of 35mm negatives and exposed Polaroids. I looked through them all, and they just seem to hold so much more substance. They are real. Printed in front of me. There is in my opinion an art to them which will forever elude digital photography. 

I’m aware there are many photographers that still shoot in film, but in truth it’s not something I do enough of and I need to change that. I need to feel like a “photographer” again and in my humble opinion shooting with film is such a large part of that.

I decided that I needed some personal projects to work with to use film again so I started to look through the internet to gather some inspiration. I came across a great article on fstoppers.com by David Geffin titled ‘Why I’ve gone back to shooting film, and why you should too’ It essentially told me what I already felt and I found myself nodding in agreement as he suggested that our DSLR’s have “turned us into the equivalent of photographic sloths”

I then watched a film which I had been meaning to watch for a while called ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ who was a Nanny in America but had a somewhat secretive life as a street photographer. I’d urge anyone with an interest in film photography to watch this film.

For me, I’ve decided that for the first time in years, next month I will shoot a model completely on Impossible Project Polaroid 600 film. I’m looking forward to this shoot more than any other I have done in a serious amount of time. I have also been wondering for some time how I could make my 2nd California book different to the first. I am now starting to consider shooting a large portion of the book on Medium Format film as well as Impossible Project…

Thinking about film, and how I can implement it has kind of taken me back to where I started and in all honesty it has helped me regain my love for the art form which is photography.

Burnt (expired) Polaroid & California

Copyright 2013 - All Rights Reserved.
Burnt Polaroid by Carl Beebee – Copyright 2013.

This is an image from circa 2004 – it’s a Polaroid of a nude woman (Jenni Knight) taken on extremely expired film.

The high quality digital scan at 30 x 30 cm is now available on Saatchi Online (limited edition of 10)

The California trip is now just a few weeks away – so to keep everything in one place I have opened up a tumblr blog for the trip. So far it has images and interviews about all of the preperation etc. Whilst I’m away I’ll keep it updated daily with new photographs etc – which I’ll continue to do up until the book launch.

You can find the mini-site here.

#CaliforniaCalling

Expired

The above Polaroid is from my new project ‘Expired’. The project consists of 50 images all taken with Polaroid 600 film that expired in 1999.

Some of the results are really cool, and the photos feature portraits, landscapes and objects. As soon as I’ve finished scanning all of the images in I’ll upload them all to my website at www.carlbeebee.com

On a seperate note, for those interested, please find below a very shore teaser trailer for my upcoming 2012 exhibitions.

Instax

I shot this shop window on holiday using the Fuji Instax 200 I’d picked up off eBay. It’s the first Fuji Instax I’ve ever used – I really like it, I prefer the size of these photos to the new Polaroid 300.

I quite often find shop windows, photographically interesting. Full of items that would never look right anywhere else except behind a big, glass window…

www.carlbeebee.com

Expired Film

I shot this Polaroid in 2004 using expired (1997) 600 film.

Even for a Polaroid there is technically so many faults with the image – not least the camera shake, which expired film was never going to help – but I think sometimes, even most of the time photography doesn’t have to be about what is technically right or wrong.

I still love the image and it’s one of my favorite Polaroids.

www.carlbeebee.com