In college I was one of 10 artists who received a scholarship through California State University to create my work on the legendary 20 x 24 Polaroid camera. The camera was flown from New York to Humboldt State University and Program Director John Reuter helped us photograph the setups we had been experimenting with on 4 x 5 and 8 x 10 view cameras.
Since its introduction in 1978 this camera has been recognized as one of the most unique photography tools available. Originally developed to accurately reproduce works of art, the camera was quickly recognized as a creative tool to make instant photographs of 20 by 24 inches. Early practitioners included Chuck Close, Ansel Adams and William Wegman. Only 5 cameras were ever constructed and sadly they will cease production in late 2017.
Transience, 20 x 24 Polaroid by Linda Robertson.
When the camera was first developed, the prototype weighed in at 600 pounds, featured a barber chair support as its tripod, and was completely immobile. But the modern version stands 5-feet high, has been trimmed down to a mere 235 pounds, given wheels, swings, tilts and rising fronts.
The use of special lighting in my images, including text projected on to my set through a slide projector, posed some technical challenges. My final photographs required an unusual exposure time of over 8 minutes, the longest they’d ever tried. No one was allowed to even walk across the floor during my sessions to keep from vibrating the camera!
After exposure, the film is pulled from the camera which initiates the processing, producing a finally detailed color print in just over a minute. The process for these large prints is the same as for smaller Polaroids we are all familiar with where the dye pack is peeled off the base revealing the photograph. It’s pretty exciting to see this done on such a large scale.
In the image below, that’s a real person in the background (behind paper eyes taped to a window frame complete with a real spider web). The poor guy had to stay perfectly still for so long that he kept getting cramps. I had to use a different person for each of my three images using that set since no one wanted to do it again!
These photographs (and some of my much more recent encaustic paintings) will be on display as part of the AIR Gallery Reunion show opening this week!
AIR Gallery Reunion show
Portland’5 Centers for the Arts
1111 SW Broadway, Portland, Oregon.
Show runs through May 31, 2017
Emergence, 20 x 24 Polaroid by Linda Robertson