Seven Months In

Going back to instant photography has given me a new lease of enthusiasm for this hobby. I’ve told several people this story so maybe it’s about time, I write it here. Instant photography is expensive. Very expensive.  Not silly designer wear expensive. But expensive enough for you, and everyone around you to notice. A pack of film can buy two people a meal, can buy you two or more CDs, a good book, or a pretty decent video game on most platforms. Five packs would probably get you a cheap digital camera. Ten or more and you’re in Canon / Nikon point-and-shoot territory.

  

Using PX 70 Push! Notoriously difficult film but one of my favourites. L-R: Prudence, Wee Nee, Zev

So when people ask me, “why do you do this and do you know it’s expensive?” – I give them this kind of “a-ha” look. “No sh*t Sherlock, you know.” I’ve been trolling the Impossible website for years (since they were called unsaleable) asking myself if I bought a new SX-70 to replace my wife’s 600 Spice Cam would I enjoy the hobby well enough to justify the cost? How would it also benefit others?

Well seven months in, the answer is Yes.

  

First experiments with PX 70 Color Protect. Very good, reliable film. But a little yellow at times. Prudence and Michael

My “current” iPhoto library shows more than 19,000 photographs. Most of which will never be printed or shared. That’s not to fault them, it’s just the unpleasant side-effect of digital photography in my opinion. Having to “pay” for every instant photograph and being forced to scan each into my computer encourages a kind of focus for each shot you take. It has encouraged me to prioritize the important things, both in terms of subjects and in terms of my photographic attitude.

PX 70 9/11 was really one of the worst films I’ve used from Impossible. But this shot of Prue at East Coast is one of my favs

My family has been amazingly tolerant of me during this time. Even 3 year old Prudence has posed repeatedly. Michael has had to wait and stand in the sun. Zev has had to smile and re-smile while dad gets his exposure and focus right. But it has really paid off for me.

The SX-70 has gone to our neighbourhood park. It’s gone to the beach. It’s been to family meals. It’s been to holidays. It’s been to parties. And it has allowed me to “focus” each and every time I take a shot on my beloved subject,  for that moment, that instance. No instant photograph is ever shot without a thought or focus. No instant  photograph is fired off as part of a series of “let’s just shoot as much as I can and hope for a good one later.”

   

Swim Party with PX 70 Color Protection. Good film that is finally starting to act like the old polaroids. L-R: Michael, Zev/Zev

I think discovering this attitude in myself, has been one of the most rewarding things about instant photography. I like taking the photographs and I like who I am when I’m taking them. I like telling people about it and sharing the joy of something most people have never seen or have forgotten from a long time ago.  Each photo is tangible. Each photo is a limited edition. There’s no marketing here.

Prudence posing comfortably on a sofa in Ben’s & Jerry’s. PX 70 Color Protection + decades old GE Flashbar doing a great job here

But I haven’t perfected my art of sharing. One of things I’m still trying to get used to is taking photos and giving them away instantly. This is hard, although it should be second nature to the hobby. It’s hard of course because each photograph costs money, but more so it’s also because you really are “giving away” what you’ve just taken without any record or copy for yourself.  That’s it. It’s gone. It’s not yours anymore.

   

PX 100 B&W yields some very nice tones even with flash. L-R: (Mika, Prue, Zev); Wee Nee, Michael (and his Superman)

This is a strange feeling to have in a digital age. But you know, it’s a good one.

And one I hope to continue have and share for a while more to come.

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