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The pen and the polaroid

I love instant film whether it’s Polaroid or instax, I just can’t get enough. I love the immediacy of it. It works really well as a way to get people to allow you to photograph them. Wim Wenders said that for every portrait he has ever shot on instant film he had to double up. He took one image for them to keep, and one for himself. A small contract or token of the meeting for each party. For me this is an ideal transaction that gives the portrayed more agency. Yes, it can be expensive, but if you love something then it’s worth digging deep for.

The expense of the film forces me to be less wasteful. I like to draw on the shots that I’ve fluffed up. My own interactions aren’t the important ones, they are the times I get the subject of a portrait to put their stamp or mark on it. It adds a much more intimate level to the image.

Back in 2008, I started to play around with the idea of collaborative authorship. At first I used medium format to take the images, and invited the portrait subjects down to the darkroom to scratch or draw on their own negative as a process of creative destruction. I created a print for each change, and I asked each person to make 4 physical changes to the negative. Each print made in the process was completely unique and could not be repeated as the master copy was destroyed.

As with most of the processes that I use, I continually revisit this as a system of creating art because it always produces interesting results. I have very little control of the image once I’ve handed it to the portrayed. Courting serendipity doesn’t always go as you planned. A true collaborative portrait should have the voice of the person as the loudest and most prominent within the image, with the artist acting as a vehicle for their expression.

Which set tells you more?

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