finding a course for my horse
I love it when I get something new and it gives me something to work on.
I got a polaroid SX-70 sonar from ebay and praise the noodly one himself, it turned out to be in perfect working order! I’ve been really loving the quirkiness of it – the actual mechanics of taking a picture and having it pop out the front, the unpredictable overexposure and skewed, muted colours, the square format, and the novelty of not processing the results – what I get is what I get. But most of all I’m enjoying figuring out what works best with it.
I wasn’t really conscious of the process when I did it before, but it’s exactly what I did with the holga lens when I got it. I tried it out in different situations, to see what felt right. I discovered that it worked better with things that I hadn’t been inclined to shoot before, like proper Dublin brick walls and glass fronted buildings. I think of it as ‘what it likes to look at’, and when I shoot what it likes to look at, I get better results. So now I’m trying to figure out what the SX-70 (nicknamed “the batcamera” because of the sonar autofocus!) likes to look at, and this is what I’ve been thinking about so far:
– Somewhat predictably, retro stuff looks good. But in a predictable way. It’s not quite me. It seems too ‘easy’, and possibly a bit twee.
– I’m tempted to try shooting flowers because I’ve seen a number of absolutely breathtakingly beautiful polaroid flower shots. But I’m very wary of falling into a particular niche, and want to find something different than what’s already out there. Flowers are me with the vanilla lenses (glass ones that produce sharp images) but polaroid flowers seem more like me trying to be something else, so I’m treading carefully there. But: I will be bringing it to the botanic gardens soon enough, to find out.
– I was surprised to find that my tendency to simplify and minimise doesn’t seem to work so well with it. I don’t know if it’s the white border, but somehow by isolating one or two elements in that square frame, it’s introducing a certain sense of claustrophobia. This one has kind of knocked me for six because, well, if you read my last post, I’m all about the simple. I do think though, that it isn’t as simple as that (boom boom). I think the distance from the subject also has an impact on how claustrophobic it feels, because beach shots with just one or two lines and shapes don’t feel like that but a slatted wooden door next to a painted white wall does. Maybe horizontal/vertical lines are bringing in the walls and diagonals are pushing them out.
I think it’s more than just choosing a subject though. It’s to do with choosing how to approach each subject. Small details like looking up or down can affect the feeling of an image, placing objects in the centre or close to the edges of the frame, balancing a composition or bringing in tension, and using scale and proportion all do their thing with different subjects in different ways, so I have a lot of (expensive!) experimentation ahead of me. I plan to visit a forest or two, and I do have a sneaky little idea to try it out on landscapes, because I like how the paleness works with wide open spaces. (Update on that after the May bank holiday weekend in the Burren!)
I do wish I could use it for the SoFoBoMo project but I’m not sure I can justify using up 35 frames on it. bah :(