Saturday, June 30, 2007

Still Working...

Another productive week, but still not much to show you. I’m in the middle of making several multi-image panoramic Polaroid lifts. The previous lift has to be completely dry before placing the next photo, which means that I can do one section per day. I finished a couple of them today, several more will be finished in the near future.

Unfortunately, all this will need to be put on hold for a few days, because I’m traveling to Michigan to visit family over the July 4th holiday. I’m leaving tomorrow (July 1) and returning on Friday the 6th. So, expect another week with nothing much to show you. After next week I’ll be able to scan some of the finished pieces to post them here. Of course, I’ll be bringing my toy cameras and plenty of film to Michigan, so I won’t be completely stopping work while I’m away.

The Polaroid lifts I’m working on now are interesting, although I’m not finding them all to be as successful as I would like. I made several panoramic scenes at the Field museum, and the lifts are of these scenes. The simpler ones seem to be the most successful. The busier images don’t work as well as Polaroid lifts. I’ve got 10 panoramic scenes in progress, which will likely be narrowed down to 5-6 that I think are good enough to show.

As for technique, I’ve discovered that the temperature of the water you do the transfer in should be cold. I’d been using warm water, based on instructions I’d read. Cold water makes the image a little more difficult to work with, but the benefit is that the gelatin which holds the image to the photo paper quickly returns to a semisolid state, making it much easier to remove and dispose of.

I’ve hit a bit of a snag with the Polaroid 669 film. I started work on a multi-image piece that relies a lot on color to be successful. Unfortunately, Polaroid 669 film is notorious for having a distinct cyan color shift. I have a slide that is bright green, but when I make a Polaroid of it, it turns out bright blue. I put a bright green gelatin filter in along with the slide, but his exposure came out a slightly greenish bright blue, not much different from the first one. So, this project is on hold temporarily, until I figure out what to to. I have an idea, but I’ll need to wait until I shoot a roll of slides to work with.

I also experimented a bit with some Polaroids I wasn’t using for anything else. I found that you can do a lift onto an old photograph. I also discovered that you probably wouldn’t want to. The photo and the lift compete for attention, as you can see here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Work in Progress

I've had a pretty productive week, although I don't have anything to show you right now.
I spent a few hours in the Field Museum here in Chicago shooting museum displays. The Field Museum is a natural history museum full of taxidermied animals and dinosaur bones, etc. This is the second time I've shot there. I went in March, and mainly concentrated on closeup shots of dioramas and objects on display. This time, I shot entire displays, and did pieced together panoramic views. Some of these will likely show up as Polaroid lifts.
In addition, earlier this week I made some images in Photoshop and shot slides of them to use when making Polaroids for use in transfer processes. Rather than describe what I'm doing, I'll just wait until they're done and post some scans.
I also tried some inkjet transfers (they were a dismal failure). These have been more difficult than I anticipated, but I should be getting some help soon. Someone I met online (Yahoo has a mail group for people working with inkjet transfers) contacted me, and we're going to teach each other. I need assistance with transfer processes, she wants to work with cyanotypes, VanDyke Brown prints, etc. She teaches workshops on transfer processses, so she'll be a good source of info. I'll post scans of inkjet transfers once I get some good ones.
Meanwhile, I've got lots of slides to shoot if I'm going to make Polaroid lifts of the photos I took in the Field Museum.

Friday, June 15, 2007

More Polaroid Lifts

Here's a few more Polaroid lifts I've done over the past week.

This last one is overlapping lifts which create a panorama. Polaroid emulsions are transparent, which makes it easy to overlap images. The first layer has to be completely dry before adding the second, etc. so this one was done over a period of three days. Not bad for a first attempt, and as panoramic images are an interest of mine, I'll be trying more of these in the future.

I'm trying to figure out what else to do with this process. I like it, but it's almost too easy, and seems to want to be pushed a little. The panoramic image is a good start, and I've got a few other ideas to explore as well.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Polaroid Lifts

I’ve always liked the look of Polaroid lifts. The wrinkled, stretched look of these images with their irregular shapes is intriguing. I also like the look of the transparent, thin photographic surface that you get with them.
For a brief description of the process used to make Polaroid lifts, read this.

First, the slides. Using a slide printer is definitely the way to go. These devices basically take the image from a 35mm slide and expose it onto a piece of Polaroid film. Much better than shooting with a Polaroid camera, as you can remake the same image multiple times.
Daylab is the well known brand, but their machines are expensive. I found a Vivitar slide printer on Ebay for $70. It’s not as sophisticated as the Daylab, but it works fine.
I shot a roll of slide film as an experiment, and found an easy and effective way to get slides of any image. First, open the image in Photoshop and select full screen mode (which centers the image and puts a black border around it). Hit the tab key, and all of the tools, etc. will disappear. Load your camera with daylight balanced slide film, mount it to a tripod, and aim it towards your monitor. Make sure your camera aims squarely at your monitor, and that your monitor isn’t tilted. I didn’t even bracket my shots-I turned off the room lights, metered off the screen, and to my surprise, got a perfect exposure every time. I have a flat-panel LCD monitor, which I’m guessing made this much easier.

Now on to the transfers.
My first attempts were a disaster. I made two sticky, wadded gobs of what had been photographic emulsion. Then I discovered that the tray of hot water I was using had cooled significantly. I called it a night, and did some more reading on the process.
The next day, I tried using an old slow cooker to hold the water and keep it hot. This worked much better-too well, in fact. The first one I tried, the water was too hot, and the emulsion started falling apart, making it hard to control.

Here’s the result. Its an old slide of my mother as a teenager. I used Rives lightweight paper, which is a little thin for my liking.

The second lift I tried went much better.

I turned the heat down a bit on the slow cooker, and the image stayed intact. I was able to easily move it onto the paper, although two of the corners folded over and I was unable to move them without tearing the emulsion. It looks pretty good that way, though. The image is a blend of two unrelated photos done in Photoshop. This one is on Arches 140 lb. cold press, which is a great paper, but I’m a little unsure about the texture with these images.

Here’s lift #3. This image you might have seen in an earlier post.

The photo was made with my Holga camera in Chinatown. I scanned the negative, and manipulated the color in Photoshop before shooting the slide. There’s a smalll tear in the emulsion, other than that, it turned out fairly well. I used a piece of archival inkjet paper for the lift, which I didn’t like at all.

Here’s another lift made at the same time.

The more of these you do, the easier it becomes to control the image. Many of the crinkles, etc. in this one are there because I wanted them there. This one is a toy dinosaur on a magazine page, shot in my studio. The lift is on Arches 140 lb. cold press.

One more for now.

This is a display in the Exhibit Museum in Ann Arbor, MI. The curve in the image was done deliberately. I used Rives lightweight paper for this one.

I’m surprised how quickly this process was to learn. After only seven attempts (the five you see here and the two gooey lumps I mentioned earlier), I feel fairly confident about having continued success with Polaroid lifts. There is a lot of unpredictability-the emulsion kind of goes where it wants to, and fighting it destroys the image. That’s part of the fun, however.
There’s still more to learn, I’m trying different papers to find one I like that works well with the process. I ran some more slides through the Vivitar printer today, so that I can try some more lifts tomorrow.