Friday, July 13, 2007

Polaroid Lift Panoramas

I’m close to being finished with Polaroid lifts, at least for a while. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been making multi-panel panoramic images with them. I’ve got six of them completed, and one more which will be finished in a few days. I want to start moving into non-silver printing processes, so I will be getting into some research on making digital negatives soon, and putting work with Polaroid porcesses aside.

These panoramas were interesting, but they didn’t turn out quite like I expected. I’m going to post all of the panoramic lifts I’ve made, both the ones that work and the ones that don’t.

First, one that I like.

This is probably my favorite of the panoramic lift images. Everything works well with this one. The separate photos combine together well. The expected distortions are present, but not so much that they distract, and there is a good rhythm to the piece.

Now one that doesn’t work.

This one is a good illustration of one of the things that haven’t worked as well with these pieces. Basically, the geometry and perspective present in the original photos gets lost in the busyness of the lift images.
Take a look at the original panorama I made from the photos I took with my digital camera at the Field Museum:

The strong 2 point perspective and the advancing center section (the display of the antelope) work really well here. In the Polaroid lift piece, however, the sense of perspective is minimized, it seems too busy, and it lacks a focal point (you can also see the tonal and exposure limitations inherent in Polaroid film, but that’s another issue).

I found similar issues with some of the other panoramic lifts.
With this one, I think the image is just too busy and detailed to make a good Polaroid lift. That it is made from more than one photo joined together just adds to the busyness.

Again, here’s the test image I made with the original photos.

I really like the presence of the display cabinetry in the original, but that is mostly lost in the lift image. The color is horrendous (Polaroid’s fault), the overlap in the center is distracting, but mostly, it’s just too busy. This is my least favorite of all of the panoramic lift images. I probably should pretend it doesn’t exist, instead of posting it for everyone to see. Then again, I want to share both the hits and misses as I work through these processes.

Now another good one.

This is my second favorite one. The geometry of the display cases is retained, and while busy, there seem to be a couple of different focal points to draw your eye in.

Two more to go.

This one’s not horrible, but it’s not great either. It has the same faults I discussed above, but to a somewhat lesser extent.

This one’s not bad. It lacks a strong focal point, but does have a strong panoramic feel to it that I like. It wouldn’t be a first pick to put in an exhibition, but If I needed to show it I wouldn’t be embarrassed by it either.

The final piece I’ll post in a few days, it’s still being made.

So, I made seven panoramic Polaroid lift pieces. Assuming that the one still in progress is a good one (I think it will be), that makes three or maybe four of them I like well enough to consider putting in my show next Spring. That’s roughly half, give or take a bit. Not surprising for anyone who works in the arts. While it sounds bad, a 50% success rate is pretty good for photographic processes. I tell my students to expect to use two or three sheets of photo paper to get a good print. To put this in perspective, consider that I made lifts of seven different panoramic scenes, but the day I shot these at the Field Museum, I shot twenty-six separate panoramas (96 individual photos). Twenty-six edited down to seven, of which three or four ended up working. Of course, I’ll probably revisit these panoramas when doing inkjet transfers. Might end up using a few more.

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