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Beginning my journey into Polaroid photography

In 1981 I friend introduced me to a new camera he had just bought. This new Polaroid camera was a SX70. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Everything about it was beautiful, The way it folded and unfolded, the chrome and leather, the huge viewfinder, and of course the sound it made taking the picture was magic. It was the image quality though that really did it for me. These prints had a thickness and colour that I found very appealing. Not only was the character of the image unlike anything else but it emerged out of the camera as a finished singular print. As a twenty year old photographer I understood that this was important even if I didn’t know way, I was too wrapped up in how cool this process was.


Not long after acquiring my own SX70 I saw an exhibition of Andre Kertesz SX70 photographs at the Jane Corkin Gallery on Front St in Toronto. I remember being impressed that the polaroid process was used by such a respected artist. Of course that was only the tip of the iceberg. My next revolution was the Ansel Adams book on Polaroid photography. Seemed like every major photogr apher of the 80’s used Polaroid photography. As a young photographer I didn’t think much of it at the time as I was more interested in making photographs than thinking about them. I just knew that the images struck my imagination.


Years later I came to realize what was so appealing to me about the Polaroid. At the core of it was the idea of pure or straight photography and the concept of pre visualization as put forth by Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and other photographer of their time. To me that meant the photographer had to have a complete understanding of the camera and materials they were using so that the end result was envisioned at the time of exposure.(this has been interpreted many different ways over the years by many different people) Polaroid process to was the pinnacle of this concept. It wasn’t about realism, it was about using the characteristics of the materials to express my ideas.


Polaroid has in its nature the contradiction of real and surreal. On one hand the finished print comes straight out of the camera, no darkroom manipulation. On the other hand the images can look surreal and dream like. This paradox was the underlying idea behind my exhibiton at the WLU Langdon gallery in 2001.


My photograph, “121 King St” represents the beginning of my journey with Polaroid. Its both real and abstract, using the literal representation of an instant photo and interpretation of the photographer to create an image that could be from s dream.

For historical context my first apartment in Kitchener in 1981 was at 121 King St. This bathroom belonged to the apartment across the hall and all that separated it from the hallway was a curtain.

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