A5 scanning Polaroids

One of my tutor’s suggestions for reworking A5 was to look at alternate camera technologies such as scanners and old digital cameras. As my old digital camera seems to have been thrown out, I investigated scanning on our basic HP inkjet.

It’s definitely a promising approach in that it gives me something in between the sheer physicality of the Polaroid and the modernity of the macro shots taken with my DSLR . Unlike the Polaroid, it’s digital so I can use it in other ways. I’m thinking more about a photobook, with a modern photo on one half of the spread and a scan on the other, probably offset, possibly with the two images both relating to the same original Polaroid. I could attach an actual Polaroid inside the front or back covers, using either Velcro dots or transparent cd wallets, to allow the photographs to be removed and handled.

On the scanned Polaroids I like the inverted images – it ties in with Fox Talbot’s invention of the negative. More to follow…

A5 – post Skype and pre written feedback initial thoughts

I need to do more on this work, neither me nor my tutor is exactly sure what that “more” is.

I think the content is ok, I don’t think I need to shoot more Polaroids.

My tutor suggested the following:

  • several practitioners to research (this was very helpful in freeing up my creativity once again)
  • looking at “time” as an aspect of the work and investigating making lower-res digital copies of the polaroids (backs I think) using either a scanner or an early digital camera. She observed that this would develop the idea of photographing Fox Talbot’s home with a camera that’s out of modern production. Thinking about it, I have the macro jpgs to represent the current technology.
  • thinking about a “perfect bound” book rather than my current loosely associated pages
  • She said that the fronts of the polaroids (ie the normal side) were rather less important to her on viewing than the altered backs. This allows me to explore other forms of presentation where the front is harder to access.
  • She liked the acrylic blocks and the way that one of them allowed the objects inside to move slightly. One option is to explore making use of more blocks.
  • More contextualisation. Her suggestions will help here, particularly the VR artist Mat Collishaw’s installation of a FT exhibition.
  • She kindly offered more feedback in the summer before I start putting everything together for assessment.

So where next? I have updated my post on the OCA forum. I will do a test scan and see if I can source a very basic digital camera. I need to decide how important the actual physical polaroid is to me in the presentation of this work. Am I happy to dispense with them and present for example scans, using the two acrylic objects to show the physical traces, in their almost museum context of being preserved in “glass”? I am wondering about a photobook, on thick paper, with one side printed with an image and the opposite side holding a polaroid that’s secured to the paper in some way (either removably or not). There’s the potential to match polaroids with the macro shot of the same back.

I need to pull the work together a bit more. I don’t necessarily want it to feel “resolved” but I do want it to feel unified.

Assignment 2 rework – notes

I have mainly stayed with my tutor’s recommendations. The first book was deconstructed to make the revised one, however videos of both will be available in the assessment post.

I considered my tutor’s comments about how an edit of just the children, or just the women, might read. I decided to present the work as a sequence of paired images of the children. I do think this works better, although I am not sure why. I suppose because maybe a child faking a smile has different connotations to a woman faking a smile, though both are for the benefit of a third party.

I removed the original “outro” about “smile love, it might never happen”. I did consider my tutor’s suggestion about using it as a title, but it had too many characters for the smaller album whereas the larger album had too many pages for the set. I also removed the original “intro” and replaced it with something simpler.

I didn’t follow my tutor’s suggestion of retitling the album “Smile, it might never happen” (formerly on the outro) as Paperchase had stopped selling that size. I also like the “Give us a smile” title because (a) the smile used is portable and passable and (b) phoograph albums are typically shared by hand too.

This left me with eight trimmed passport photos of women with fake smiles, which I had removed from the album. For a while I’ve been playing around with the idea of inserting photos of real people into a dolls house context and it seemed obvious to continue with this. Practical issues appeared such as securing the right size of frame and the right scale of prints for paper and fabrics.

Here’s the first pass:

I posted one of these over on the OCA board and received the interesting comment of “domestic hegemony” which got me thinking.  I went to a local shop that sells dolls house supplies and bought a few things to ty out. I wanted to work at a slightly bigger scale. I’ve been a fan of Lauren Child’s collage work for some time, and wanted to explore layering photos and actual stuff.

Here’s the result so far. It’s a mockup so nothing is trimmed to size or glued. I need more frames that are better sized, I want to spray the wooden frame to work with the metal ones and I need to clean that mirror in the middle. I think if this did go in for assessment I’d have to include the smile prop too. I think it’s at least as promising, if not more, than the reworked album and will be asking my tutor her views tomorrow.

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Re-work of exercise 4.2

I wasn’t very happy with my first attempt at this (here). It did the job, in terms of showing how the light changed over a day, but it wasn’t successful aesthetically and there wasn’t enough of a narrative there for me.

So today I re-shot. I have probably gone more the other way now and sacrificed light for narrative. My washing machine broke down a few days ago. I’ve made the choice between repair and replace and now I’ll never know if repair would have been cheaper.

I decided to make a sequence of images documenting the machine in its broken state, a requiem to its nine years here. One image from every hour or two through the day. The changes in light are more or less incidental (ba dum tish) to the work rather than the subject of it. I used ISO100, F8 and a tripod/beanbag throughout; working in manual mode the required shutter speed is longer when there is less light and shorter when there is more light. Lens was my 100mm macro. I need to say that I detest these exercises where I have to talk about my settings. I’d rather let the images do the talking. I’ve taken out the sensor mark in Lightroom, cropped where needed, and applied auto levels in Photoshop. I’m still not wild about the work, but it is better than the last version. My utility room doesn’t have the broadest range of light, and the weather was mainly overcast. It does have plenty of light, plenty of shiny white surfaces and I thought it would be interesting to see if the changes in light were as minimal as I expected. I hadn’t realised that my camera clock hadn’t been changed to BST, and the half-past after sunset was just too dark to get a focussed image without faffing around in bulb mode, and I’d had enough by then. Anyway, in darker conditions the white has a purple cast to it. Even though the day was cloudy I could see the light getting brighter as time went on, the brightest light was mid afternoon.

Click to go large.

Contact of selects showing shutter speed, aperture and the hour (GMT) in which each image was taken. ISO was 100 throughout.

selects contact sheet

Self assessment

I’m still a bit stunned that A5 is finished. It seems to have been here for ages, we’d got used to each other’s company. It’s over, but I’m not finished.

What went well?

I feel as if my technical skills are improving, though this has not necessarily been the project to showcase them. Exercise 5.2 was a watershed moment, and I am happy with the jpgs of the Polaroid backs. I’m even reasonably happy with the picture side of the polaroids, they worked well in black and white and carry the mood of early photography. I’m happy with the work creatively too. I tried absolutely everything that occurred to me, some ideas worked, some didn’t, but I feel as if I explored it from the inside out, and extensively (not completely, there is always more). It feels like my work too.

What didn’t go so well?

Decisions! Well the easy ones were fine. This is going to sound like an ungrateful complaint but sometimes it felt like I could barely keep up with my ideas, which is probably a good thing as it took me to some interesting creative spaces, but I do wonder which bit of my brain is in charge sometimes. I’m aware of a lack of polish on the physical work too. One of the acrylic blocks didn’t clean up too well after I decided against the emulsion lift on it… I should have bought a spare. I could have done with more polaroids too, as I used quite a few testing out techniques and making test books. Contact sheets caught me out, I should have photographed them as I went.

What would I do differently?

Everything identified above. I want to continue developing this work, the next step is photographing emulsion lifts in water to show motion, both sides, and the light through the image.

review against assessment criteria