art exhibition image

Morning Light: Experiments with Polaroid SX70

Morning Light (SX70)

Stretch (SX70)

Apres la Douche (SX70)

Stairway (SX70)

These images were shot with a classic Polaroid OneStep camera first introduced in 1977. The film stock is an original Polaroid manufactured SX70 pack. Easy to use and totally reliable, this was a super little camera to explore instant image-making with.


Impossible Adventures

I had to pinch myself to check I was not dreaming, upon originally discovering that a company was once more making SX70 format instant film available. Square format instant film, as a means of expression, had been sadly missed, following its demise when Polaroid ceased production. I eagerly awaited delivery of this new discovery: a monochrome, sepia toned, instant film that would once more breath life into my empty camera.

After a few dull days, the sun returned with a beautiful bright morning, with temperatures plus 70 degrees, and all seemed like a perfect opportunity to trial my first ever Impossible Project PX100 film pack for Polaroid SX70 type instant cameras. Excitedly opening the packet, I then loaded the cartridge into my old folding Polaroid Alpha, and heard the reassuring whir as the dark slide, protecting the film, was ejected – a sound I had not heard for quite a while!

So, I was then off into the garden, shooting close to home for my first experiments. I fired my first exposure looking up into my clump of bamboo. I took the advice of one poster on the Impossible website, and taped the ejected dark slide to the film flap on the Alpha, to shield the film from light when ejected. Unlike old Polaroid prints that you could watch develop, this new film is particularly sensitive to light as it leaves the camera. Once ejected, I then slipped the developing print quickly into the box the film pack comes in.

Blowing in the Wind (2010) PX100

This temperamental process, is a challenge and an unpredictable medium to work with, but there is still a sense of magic, as the SX70 print ejects, at first blank, then an image forming around 60-90 seconds later. I guess that it is something similar to the excitement I always feel, as a printmaker, peeling back the paper from a freshly inked wood block, to reveal the image for the very first time.

It is expensive! 8 monochrome SX70 prints for £17, so faulty exposures are very costly. I was pleasantly surprised though, having read some dire experiences, and accepted the difficulties of use with sensitivity to light and temperature, that my first image actually worked at all. The 8 shots were then gone all too quickly. Exposure was difficult to judge, especially as the print seems under-exposed after the first 90 seconds, but then darkens through the day. Low contrast also seemed to be an issue, despite the strong sunlight. Fortunately I only had one image lost to a bizarre development irregularity – not a pretty sight, and a waste of £2.

I really wanted to continue experimenting, but my film pack was empty, and you can’t just pop along to the supermarket for one of these! My only real regret from the experiment was that I had not bought two packs. I had such pleasure just in my back yard, and have been, once again, totally bitten by the instant picture bug. Thanks to the Impossible Project for making it possible.