And now for something completely different

The titular catchphrase is from Monty Python sketches of the 70s and quite appropriate too as I’ve gone vintage with my Christmas wishlist. Of-course ageing brings on a tendency to retrospect but I always had a soft spot for Polaroids. These were the days when people annotated dates and titles on the back of their snaps and because Polaroids have a black back, the print was given a thicker lower edge on which to write. [all the following images are just my Polaroid mock-ups, colour adjusted and framed in a rather ancient Picasa 3.9 – click to enlarge]

A while back, I bought Jon Nicholsons’s book: “Seaside Polaroids”. Charmingly captured holidays resorts using out of date film, which gave interesting colour casts to the shots and added much character to a faded past.

But the current exhibition of Wim Wenders at the Photographer’s Gallery in London has accelerated me from interested party to enthusiast.

As I become more serious about honing photographic skills, the less controlled Polaroid image offers some light relief, especially as it is likely to be more blurry, high contrast with metallic blues and yellowing whites. Black and white film tends to fade to sepia quite quickly.

Polaroids have all the unpredictability of a lucky dip in fact, a crapshoot, a shot in the dark. The imperfections are a major part of their charm and there are likely to be many.

The square framed format is what we most associate with Polaroids and one which Instagram has made much of. However the camera on my wish list is the Spectra – the 600 iso film is slightly more forgiving of  lower light without flash, than the original s-70. It produces squat rectangular image in a ratio of 1:0.82 to be exact. This gives wider/longer frames for landscape/portrait and has some additional switches for effects such as double exposures.

The Polaroid cameras have more than a few drawbacks in terms of image production and not least the cost of the film. In the Photographer’s Gallery there is a video of Wenders repeatedly churning out shots –  not something that these days we can afford to do since the film is in much smaller production and hence retails at higher prices – average £2.00  per shot – must make every one count.

I know there are online sites like PicMonkey and Photobox as well as apps which emulate and/or print Polaroid effects – fun but faux. After all they are virtually too instant and miss out the waiting and watching for the developing image – keeping it warmer for toasty hues and cooler for a bluer cast.  Not unlike magic painting. Bring it on Santa.

Jon Nicholson – Seaside Polaroids
Wim Wenders – Instant Stories – the Photographers Gallery

Top five reasons to buy a Polaroid Spectra
An Introduction to using Polaroid Cameras & Instant Film

Polaroid Originals [was the Impossible Camera Co]


12 thoughts on “And now for something completely different

  1. I used to have my eye on the Polaroid Instax, and after reading your post I looked it up again to see whehter prices had dropped (cause it would only be a fun camera for me, so wouldn’t want to pay a lot). However, seeing all the options and film choices etc, which means decision making, I put it on the back burner again.

    Hope Santa will make your wish come true!

          1. Oh, it didn’t put me off, but not having been properly informed before and just thinking about the fun factor of such a camera, I just realised I don’t really “need” one 🙂

  2. Love the look of those first polaroid-lookalikes, Laura. The mention of Wim Wenders also whets the appetite. I don’t think of him churning out photos – which is silly really. Given me the urge to come to London. I miss the galleries. BTW Have a wonderful Christmas with your new delivery. Tx

    1. Wenders has an eye for a good Polaroid though he no longer owns one! Your hills give me the urge to flee the Metropolis so we are like day trippers heading in the opposite direction!
      And thank you for all your support Tish – have a good Christmas -warmer weather due so I wonder if you’ll be harvesting Christmas dinner from the allotment. Hope 2018 is a happy healthy one for you and yours.x

  3. I remember the Polaroid camera well, and it was on my Christmas wish list when I was a girl. Santa gave me a Kodak Instamatic (110 films) instead. Even though it wasn’t what I wanted, it was the start of a life-long hobby (or would that be obsession? lol!).
    I have the ancient Picasa 3.9, too. Fun, even if it is old (in internet terms). I enjoyed the images in this post (and the title, which I recognized immediately).
    Happy Christmas, Laura! 🙂

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