Tag Archives: Polaroid Sx 70

L E N S C R A T C H 2012-01-01 12:35:00

Winky Lewis, luke on the stairs, 2011, isle au haut, ME

Thomas Krueger, Hiding Serena © 2011, Mee Kwa Mooks Park, Seattle, WA

Vivian Keulards, Dear Noortje from 80439, Evergreen, CO

Kate Fowler, Mack Wolford,
Pastor of a Signs Following church in West Virginia
, Jolo, West Virginia

Elizabeth Opalenik, JoJo as Maillol statue, Lake Powell 2011.

Eileen Henry, Convervenge, Rochester, NY

Noelle Swan Gilbert, Meat Market, Beijing, China, 2011

Lisa Boughter, Untitled, from Souvenirs, Philadelphia, PA

Marla Bane, Some of My Favorite Things, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Washington

Lisa Brockman, The Family, Kompong Kleang, Cambodia

Yelena Zhavoronkova, “in” from “Dead End” series, San Francisco, Golden Gate Park, Summer of 2011

Robert Norbury, Terry at Dent Music and Beer Festival, in the Yorkshire Dales, England. (Shot from the hip through the pocket of my rain poncho)

Rania Matar, Maryam 13, from La Femme-Enfant, Beirut 2011

Julia Schiller, Miniature concrète, Paris

Jon Horvath, Wisconsin Dells, WI (from Wide Eyed), Wisconsin Dells, WI

Jeffrey Goggin, The Policeman Cometh, 16th Street & Glendale Road, Phoenix, AZ

Josh Hobson, Ferry Passengers, Victoria BC

Troy Colby, The Struggle for flight, Beloit, KS

John Goldsmith, Underground Bar, Sydney, Australia

Tom Leininger, Umbrellas, Dallas, Texas

John Neel, Priest, Leroy, New York

Zelda Zinn, Toro, Santa Monica, CA

Ruth Dudley-Carr, Resignation, Quincy, MA

Ernie Button, Spoonbills, Orlando, Florida

Karen Carson, California in January, Santa Barbara, CA

Timothy Hyde, Metro Center, Downtown, Washington, DC

Lis Bailly, Morning Mist, Victoria BC Canada

Barry Steven Greff, A Moment to Remember, South Beach, FL 2011

Deborah Hally, How we Know, Newcastle, Australia

Oliver Weber, The Saints – Polaroid (SX 70 Alpha 1), La Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain

Leba Marquez, Tattoo Baby, Questa, New Mexico

Javier Sánchez, City subway tunnel, Mexico City

Claire Mallett, Speakeasy Beauty, Florence Italy

Chere Pafford, Man In The Sky, Santa Rosa, Ca,USA

Lewis Francis, Claw, Butte Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA

Sabrina Lau, Polaroid Portrait, Berlin, Germany

Jim Barnard, Formidable Beauty, Madison WI

Jim Marx, My new backyard, Crestline, CA

Paris Visone, Paige, Dior and Anthony, Peabody, MA 2011

Bill Miller

Bill Miller became preoccupied with photography when he attended high school in Manhattan, but I think he was studying painting with Clyfford Still in another lifetime. Bill’s stunning Broken Polaroids images don’t necessarily reflect his rich photographic roots; He graduated from Bard College where he studied photography with Larry Fink and Stephen Shore. He’s been a photojournalist and documentary photographer ever since then and has worked with Saveur, Harpers, Paris Match, Spin, GQ, Stern, The Globe and Mail, the NY Daily News, as well as organizations such as Doctor’s Without Borders, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Human Rights Watch and he’s been a photographer for the New York Post for close to 10 years.

Broken Polaroids: These pictures are taken with a camera that is, by most definitions, broken. I found an old Polaroid SX-70 camera under a pile of junk at a yard sale last summer. I’ve always loved this camera for its weird, mysterious, and enchanting qualities. It is an ingeniously conceived, complicated bundle of gears and switches with hundreds of moving parts packed in tight like a chrome and leather pistol. As digital cameras become smaller and quieter with no moving parts, the Polaroid with its noisy engine, gears, and rubber bellows seems increasingly charming and archaic to me. What was a cutting edge technology in 1972 is now teetering on the edge of extinction.

With its first use I realized the camera wasn’t functioning properly. It sometimes spills out 2 pictures at a time and the film often gets stuck in the gears, exposing and mangling the images in unpredictable ways. This is common with Polaroids. I’ve been shooting this SX-70 film my whole life and from my experience at least 5% of the time the images fail for one reason or another. Over time you stop noticing. The failed Polaroids are discarded with the packaging, a statistical casualty of such a complicated mechanism. It was only when my statistical casualties jumped to nearly 100% that I realized that even against my will, this camera was making, totally by chance, some interesting, and occasionally beautiful pictures. It’s this kind of unpredictability that makes old cameras and processes appealing and it wasn’t until I noticed what was happening that I started saving them. I must have thrown out scores of ruined Polaroids over the years. Millions of happy accidents have probably been discarded, unappreciated over the last few decades around the world.

As my SX-70 became more eccentric the film showed less and less of what was in front of the lens. Yet out of habit or instinct or lack of common sense I kept pointing it at things. “It’s a camera, after all. Isn’t it?” I thought, even though it appeared to be totally indifferent to the objects I focused on. Maybe it’s a camera that was dropped on its head, got amnesia and became a photographic painting machine.

Either way, I was impressed with the old technology’s resilience and before long I was participating in its process, collaborating with it. Over time I’ve figured out how to control and accentuate aspects of the camera’s flaws but the images themselves are always a surprise. Each one is determined by the idiosyncrasies of the film and the camera.

I found that when I was looking at the prints I couldn’t get close enough, not with my eye, not with a lupe. So I started scanning them at high resolutions so I could see what wasn’t readily viewable. What I found was a rich variety of color texture made from crumpled and stressed emulsion inside the Polaroids, reminiscent of topographical landscapes. I used huge files (600mb) to make 30×36 in prints where these details could be seen. I kept the classic Polaroid white border to give a sense of its scale.