In my teenage years up through my late twenties I used to shoot photographs on one of those standard army-issue, grade A, 100-percent no-filler Pentax 35 mm cameras. Until the fateful day when I got my prints back from the photo shop (that’s what the ancients referred to as a physical location that would chemically develop what were called “photographs” and not the popular computer program of the same name you stole from your roommate’s workplace) and inside the envelope of my developed photos of a recent family trip was a note saying, “Hey Jack, I just wanted to let you know that I’m a big fan…” That was the last time I took photos in to be developed.
I decided to switch to Polaroid film from then on. It was instant, private and, I would later learn, could be manipulated in incredibly creative and gorgeous ways if you put your mind to it. I have a fondness for putting my mind to things like grindstones, so I started searching for and collecting all types of models of Polaroids—land cameras, “goose” models (the “600 SE”), passport cameras (I’ve got a lot of those), pinhole cameras, even an endoscopic Polaroid. I found exotic adaptors and lenses from Japan and from antique stores. Then, I started to experiment with “in-camera” multiple exposures; they’re done by using a sly trick that manipulates the camera into not ejecting the film, which most Polaroids are built to do in the post-land-camera years. At any rate, I’ve never gotten a digital camera, though it is pretty slick how portable they are and what nice pictures you can get from them. One drag about them, though, is that you hardly ever see anyone make actual prints from their digital cameras; they just end up being seen on computer screens and Facebook, it seems, or people have the photos on their phone until they break or lose the phone and then they usually have to start all over again. I like giving photos to people. You hardly ever hear of people making a photo album anymore, either. I used to love looking through photo albums as a child and trying to guess what the people in the pictures were saying when the photo was taken. Like silent home movies, old photos—especially black-and-white shots—seem to take on an air of romance for some reason. Probably because it’s nice for our brains to not have all the information, to have to use our imagination. I once won a Kodak disc camera in the ’80s as a prize in a fall festival contest. Those were a hoot for a hot minute, but such tiny negatives.
Well, here are a few pictures I took recently and a couple I found in my hermetically-sealed titanium shoebox under the bed. Any wild effects you see were done inside the Polaroid camera and not added later in post. Only contrast was put on the scans as I wasn’t sure if they knew how dark to print the blacks in the photos for a print magazine. I’d like to put out a book of all of the multiple exposure Polaroids I’ve taken over the years some day; maybe this will help me start putting it together in my spare time…or, at the very least, to take digital images of all of these real photos and start up a Facebook page. I’ll decide later.