Monday, February 11, 2008


The news that Polaroid had decided to close down their Massachusetts site didn't come as any great shock but as practicing Large Formatist it broke my heart. There are plenty of people still in the business who remember the days before instant film but for myself Polaroid was thriving and King when I entered the game. I remember my first job at a big time advertising studio, putting the the order to Alkit for the new batch and had to ask the first assistant three times, if in fact this was correct. I couldn't imagine anyone would use that much 'roid. And the price, suffice it to say they spent more on Polaroid in one order than on my salary for half a year. We ordered Type 55 B/W Pos/Neg, we had to have the neg. How could you tell it was in focus if you didn't close down to 32 or 45 and pull the neg and look at it on a light box. When I was first shown this I thought this is the game for me, all these little nick/knacks, love it. Type 59 Color, Type 809 Color and the great Type 803 B/W. Cross processing the B&W and Color became a bit of a thing for many photographers. Robert Maxwell, Jose Picayo among others were all great practioners. Whenever I shot people I always tried to get the people in charge of the dough to try cross-processed. Can you imagine if you based your look solely on that, you would be up shit creek? But most people were smart enough to see all this coming. I stopped using 803 on my personal work a while back, because a) with Time exposures it was kind of pointless, and b) the real reason, I just couldn't afford it unless someone was paying for it. I adopted the slogan ©Polaroid is for Pussies, you should know how to expose at this point, but that now seems a little harsh in sight of our great loss. My fave Polaroid story comes from a few years back, I was shooting Lou reed, who would rather have been anywhere but getting a photograph taken. He wanted it done at the double. No problem, only two shots I told him. Great!. Only one camera, no back up so this was it . Ready and......Anyone who has ever heard Polaroid getting stuck in the processor rollers knows from where I speak. Think large cats in heat but with a little added crunch. This did nothing to bolster Lou’s view of me and when my assistant put it in the second time and it happened again, this only louder and longer, you can only imagine the faux look of "no big deal ' on my face. He's a mean bastard Lou, so I had to grab a quickie while he wasn't looking. Not my greatest, but these things happen.
Now it seems like I also now have 3, door stop like Processors for sale. Who knew it would all end like this. From the heady heights those greats have fallen.


robert said...

I could never remember if it was the bw film combined with the color print or the color film with the bw print? only works one way right?

William said...

The pos/neg days were a fond part of my past, and very much a metaphor for the 90's. I remember once being out in the middle of nowhere on Long Island as an assistant, having to manage floating polaroid negs in an improvised tray of water with loaded with fixative, if i'm recollecting correctly...

Great post, Ber!

I can almost smell the developing jelly....


sexy said...