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Roid Rage

This was the idea of my friend and fellow Norwich College alumni, Joey Dean, who asked me to write an article for this fine blog. I dug the idea primarily because back in college, the guy was a couple of years ahead of me in terms of cool stuff. See, being an immature, Photoshop filter reliant 16 year-old, I couldn’t quite understand what he saw in stuff like film photography. I mean, why would you want off-colours, not-quite-in-focus images and the inconvenience of not being able to see your shot right away? That shit is the past, it’s out-dated.

It wasn’t until my second year of university that the humble beauty of the stuff he had shown me really sunk in. It took quite a while for me to really ‘see’ what he, and the other millions of designers and photographers had been seeing for ages. It ain’t just photographs either, pretty much anything in our industry from times-gone-by excites me now like faux metal tutorials did back in college. Old book covers especially, which I have featured on my own blog quite heavily, have such a fantastic charm, a soul even, that I feel like I started seeing them with a different set of eyes.

While this is probably an unprecedented amount of body text for The Bastard Landlord I figured my recent foray into Polaroid photography would be a pretty apt subject for my guest spot, as it’s exactly the sort of thing I would have seen Joey checking out back in the day and I wouldn’t have appreciated.

I got my Polaroid One-Step 600 off eBay for under a tenner as the dude had no film to test whether it actually worked or not. I also got some advice from my good friend Kerry Armstrong who has his own Polaroid and put me onto The Impossible Project for new film. The camera and a pack of PX 70 Colour Shade film arrived literally within 2 hours of one another, and I followed the instructions carefully and inserted the packet. Well seeing and hearing this old camera roar back to life was simply awesome. I had no idea exactly what was powering this thing, but seeing this happen can be compared to Jetfire coming back to life in the god-awful Transformers movie.

Image One: My first ever Polaroid didn’t turn out too well. To begin with I figured I didn’t cover it quick enough, but I’m pretty sure the Colour Shade film just doesn’t like being indoors that much. This was the beginning of a frustrating journey into how to take a decent Polaroid, a journey which I’m still undertaking as the format is just so darn temperamental. Gone are the days where Outkast could just shake a photo and it would look good, now (thanks to the manufacturer not making the film) you gotta’ get the right amount of light, cover it right away and pray it isn’t blurry.

Image Two & Three: The shots taken outside came out much nicer, and thanks to a little post-scanning adjustment you can actually see what it is (almost). I really love how you can see all the tiny imperfections, where the light hit it a tad early or not enough, it has a very real and honest sorta look.

Number 4 & Five: One chap on Flickr commented ‘Great effect, how long has the film been expired?’ Leading me to believe maybe the camera is just getting on a bit, but who could blame it? I’ve found there’s just no telling how well a shot will come out until I’ve inevitably spent £2 (or however much one shot works out as) on taking it. I tried taking a couple more photos inside, and I think the term ‘epic fail’ is fairly appropriate here…

Number Six & Seven: I’d like to add the brightness was turned to maximum and these were both very well lit rooms. The second shot of the camera is just crap, but the first one, taken in a mirror alongside two friends (because Polaroids are hipsterific) although completely defeating the point of taking it, still looks kinda nice. In a Tate Modern, abstract beauty kinda way, I quite like it.

Number Eight: With my final shot of the Colour Shade film I prove without a doubt the medium’s crazy inconsistency, as this came out fantastic. Very little wear and tear, and really rich colours, this actually surprised me. My cat may look half asleep, but I sure am glad I took that.

One film later I’m pretty much no closer to working out how to get consistently good Polaroids as when I started, but it was a whole mess of fun trying, and I will continue to try as the results are just so intriguing. It’s a real shame Polaroid stopped producing the film, because if it were a little cheaper and stronger more people could get stuck in and give it a go. Still, there’s a massive following of really talented photographers and artists who seem to have gotten it down perfectly, I have spent literally hours going through no end of great photos on Flickr, and hopefully with a little practice and determination I’ll be able to do the same at some point.

You can view more of Chris' constant explorations into old cultural artefacts at his blog Coffee Stained Papers

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