In a couple of posts I’ve written about my enjoyment of (and struggle with) instant film cameras. While I have enjoyed using the Polaroid Camera/Impossible Film/Photoshop combination to create work I’d be happy to exhibit, I can’t claim to have much mastery of Impossible film.
This week I want to look at the work of a real master of this medium. Ritchard Ton. Ritchard is not only able to conjure technically excellent results from the new Impossible film, but he is also adept at the art of polaroid manipulation. In the days of polaroid-manufactured film, many photographer/artists worked with the still-pliable fresh exposures to create distorted artworks. A famous example is the slightly creepy Peter Gabriel 2 record cover:
(I nicked the above image from an interesting article on the cover’s designer, so please follow the link and they might forgive me.)
There is a lot more that could be done with Polaroid, including lifting the emulsion from the print altogether.
Ritchard does a lot of things to his film, whether it be original SX-70 or new Impossible Project film. I don’t pretend to understand the technique, or even tell what is intentional distortion and what can be put down the the personality of the quirky film, so I won’t be speculating on how these images were created. I’ll just be discussing why I admire them.
Clouds, Ritchard Ton
This demonstrates the beautiful tones of the new Impossible Silver Shade film. Not so much silver as sepia, the film’s softness suits the subject so well, and the black border sets it off elegantly.
Untitled, Ritchard Ton
This is a simple and beautiful composition of three elements: the spindly, spidery plants, the smooth patterns of the water’s surface, and the huge void contributed by the Impossible film being just a little too impossible. It would have been a simple, elegant, Zen-like shot without the intervention of the stubborn film; now it is even more poetic.
Spoon, Ritchard Ton
It’s a solid metal spoon and an ethereal topography; an eating utensil and four blobs of ectoplasm. What has Ritchard done? I’m not sure – poked, prodded and scraped the still-soft print, I imagine. Why has he done it? Because he could see it. It’s always a pleasure to see an aesthetic sensibility so alien to one’s own, but so easy to appreciate on its own terms.
Egg, Ritchard Ton
A minimalist, textured, processed Polaroid that seems bigger than its contents. Another visual haiku, something I seem to see a lot in good Pola work.
Polaroid as a slice of space. Polaroid as a palette.
Shore, Ritchard Ton
A reminder that, while people like me and the Hipsters have really taken to Polaroid film, it is “real” photography, and a good polaroid camera (or a polaroid back for a good large format camera) can form images of great beauty on strictly traditional terms. This is such a classic image.
Of course, in interpreting these images for myself, I know that there are real object behind these pixels. The black borders really are black borders.The ragged edges are part of the print. I wonder if we would react differently to these images if they were digital simulation?