The instant of an instant – Travelling SX 70

My project „Travelling SX 70“ originated during this years journey to Italy. In order to feed my flickr-account with analog travel photos i added my old Polaroid SX 70 together with a couple of b&w and color Impossible films to my mobile photographic gear which consisted of a Kodak Retina IIIC and a Rolleiflex Automat. My plan was (similar to my Project “The last Photographs of the Twentieth Century i did in 2000) to shoot a new polaroid every day or so, reproduce this with the camera of my iPhone 6s and upload that to flickr.

When i took the first picture of the first Polaroid shot in Arco, Trentino, i noticed that the background of the picture – a flat piece of rock – had a pictorial life of its own. It was like the iphone wanted to say: Hey, i am a camera too! Don’t use me as just a means to reproduce something. And right it was!

The first Polaroid in my project - Arco, Trentino
The first Polaroid in my project – Arco, Trentino

The pictures of the polaroids i took with it were a linke between digital and analog photography, between the real world and the world depicted in a photograph which when photographed again becomes a part of the real world itself. Interesting. I had two different kinds of instant picture in one. The kind where you have to wait until it materializes itself via a chemical process and the other kind that is on your display all the time and gets frozen into bits and bytes by touching a virtual button. One you can hold in your hand as a piece of  substance matter, the other is only digital information remembered on a tiny chip and is not really a part of the material world, just a matrix of false and true that, when activated, tells a display which pixels it has to light up in different colors.

A developing polaroid on my knee in Volterra, Tuscany
A developing polaroid on my knee in Volterra, Tuscany

After realizing that i gave up my original plan of taking an instant picture a day and uploading it via my iphone. Instead i started to explore the interaction of pictures and reality. During my journey i took a couple of polaroids which i held in front of a real scene (the same as in the polaroid or another) after some time had elapsed. Sometimes it were just the 10 minutes i had to wait for the polaroid to develop, sometimes one or two days. You can see most of them in the gallery above.

An interesting thing was how dramatically the color instant film changed after just a few hot summer days in my camping car. While the colors of the first pictures i took were still kind of okay – albeit a bit too warm – , they quickly deteriorated the longer the films were exposed to the heat. The last color pictures i took were of a bluish grey that showed no reds at all. Once developed, the colors remained stable, the deterioration took place in the undeveloped emulsion.

Two “Impossible” polaroids. Left after one week in a hot camping car, right after three weeks

Now i know i should have kept the films in the fridge of my camping car and maybe i should have put the SX 70 there too to travel in darkness amongst beer and wine bottles an chunks of italian cheese. I tried to remember how heat sensitive the original polaroid films were when i did my last big project in 2000 on a six week journey to Norway. Okay, in the north you never have temperatures of 35 degree Celsius inside a camping car. But still i think the films were different then. At least in one respect: During my old project i used to alter the developing Polaroids by scratching their surface with the tip of a ballpoint pen, creating my own drawings overlaying the photographed picture. I remember the chemical substance under the clear plastic coating of the pictures to be more soft and malleable than the one of the new Impossible stuff. When i run my finger over the now 18 years old Polaroids of my Year 2000 project i can still feel the lines i created with my ballpoint pen while the Impossible pictures remain perfectly flat after the same procedure. Whether this is also due to the heat the film has been subjected to i will be able to tell when i purchase a fresh pack and do some testing.

Two altered Polaroids. Left a 18 year old original Polaroid, right a contemporary “Impossible” polaroid

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