instant love: guest post by susannah conway.
Last year I spent six months writing a book, a wild ride made all the more challenging because I was co-authoring another book at the time too. Crazy, right? Somehow I made it through, hitting all my deadlines on time and fueling my brain with many jars of Nutella.
But even though the books look very different on the outside — one is a creative memoir; the other is a photography how-to — there’s a common thread running through them that helped keep me focused: they are both filled with lovely light-infused Polaroids. There was no way I could write my heart out without sharing my images too — words and photographs are how I make sense of the world around me.
The photographs in my book,This I Know: Notes on Unravelling the Heart, were all shot on expired Polaroid film, my swan song to the film that’s delighted me since I first picked up a Polaroid camera. Polaroid stopped manufacturing instant film back in 2008 but luckily a pioneering company called The Impossible Project took over the factory in the Netherlands and announced their plan to reinvent instant photography. Needless to say the instant film community felt all their Christmases had come at once. It thrills me that a new generation of instant shooters will be able to experience the magic of this medium for themselves.
So if you’d like to give this pony a ride, first you need a camera. You’re probably most familiar with are the 600 and One Step series cameras — Polaroid made many versions over the years (including Barbie and Hello Kitty cameras), but the most recognizable are black or white, made of plastic, and have a rainbow on them. These cameras are super easy to use — just insert the correct film, point and shoot.
The camera that I personally use is an SX-70, first launched on the world in 1972. Considered to be one of Polaroid’s greatest technological achievements, the SX-70 is an SLR (single lens reflex) camera which allows you to manually focus and achieve delicious shallow depth of field effects (when the object in the foreground is in focus and the background is blurred out? That’s a shallow DOF).
Inevitably buying and using a 40-year-old camera requires some cunning. When searching for an SX-70 on eBay or similar sites, be sure to read the descriptions carefully. You want to locate a camera that’s been tested with film. Anything that was found in someone’s attic and is ‘sold as seen’ is best avoided.
Next you need to buy some film. Expired Polaroid film is still available on eBay but the prices are astronomical, so I recommend heading straight to the Impossible Project’s website and start practicing with the film that’s the future of instant photography. The site has lots of videos and articles to help you confidently use the film and start making images that you’ll treasure for years to come.
As for me, I’ve used up the last of my expired film stash and am now exploring TIP’s beautiful black & white film. As my book baby makes its way out into the world I’m already planning the next one, knowing full well it’ll be filled with more magical squares of light.
Susannah Conway is the author of This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart (SKIRT!, 2012). A photographer, writer and e-course creator, her classes have been enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world. Co-author of Instant Love: How to Make Magic and Memories with Polaroids (Chronicle Books, 2012), Susannah helps others reconnect to their true selves, using photography as the key to open the door. You can read more about her shenanigans on her blog at SusannahConway.com and connect with her on Twitter: @SusannahConway.