Thursday, June 25, 2009

Memories Part II - Polaroid

In the spring of 1995 my husband and I made the decision to sell our house in the foothills and move into Sacramento to be closer to our jobs and to everything we liked to do – plays, concerts etc. I was excited about the decision and ready to go when our real estate agent informed me that I would have to take down the darkroom I had set up in one of the bathrooms. She was a friend, she knew how important that darkroom was to me – but she insisted.

About 6 weeks into this period of darkroom exile, I started feeling very depressed. Could photography be an addiction? It felt that way. Sure, I could still take pictures and have a lab process and print them, but it wasn’t the same. I wanted the magic of seeing an image emerge from nothing.

During this time, I started seeing a lot of alternative Polaroid work being done. It was cool, it was edgy and artistic and………you didn’t need a darkroom. So one morning I got up and decided that I was going to find a Polaroid SX 70 Land Camera to buy! I don’t have a lot of patience so I was thrilled when I tracked one down at a store in Sacramento that sold used camera equipment. I bought the camera and some film and started playing. The SX 70 film is the type of Polaroid film where the image develops right before your eyes (like in the darkroom). The trick was to get to the emulsion on the print while it was still soft and manipulate it with various tools.

© Dianne Poinski

It was great fun and instantly gratifying. Rhiannon Connelly has posted a wonderful description of the camera on her blog. In addition she has some beautiful examples of SX70 and other Polaroid processes on her website. Another one of my favorite SX70 artists is Lori Emmington. Polaroid has stopped making this film but I keep hearing of other manufactures experimenting with similar products.

My next Polaroid adventure required a Polaroid Daylab. The original purpose of this machine was simply to make prints of your slides. You would place the slide in its holder and expose Polaroid 559 or 669 film (depending on the size of the base), pull the film out, wait the required time and peel the film apart to reveal the image.

I played around with two alternative processes that used the Daylab and this type of film – image transfers and emulsion lifts. I won’t go into detail here, but the basic technique of image transfers involved peeling the film apart early and then taking the negative side of the film and carefully placing it onto another surface. I usually transferred the image onto watercolor paper but I also experimented with transfers on silk. This technique required a lot of patience and practice but I loved the results.

© Dianne Poinski

Emulsion lifts required taking the developed print and placing it in very warm water and gently lifting the emulsion off and placing it on to another surface. Again, I used watercolor paper. I loved the way these looked. Kathleen Carr is considered one of the experts when it comes to Polaroid manipulations and has written a couple of books about all the techniques I described above.

© Dianne Poinski

So there it is – my walk down memory lane. All of the examples in this post as well as the last one, were found in one box. This experience has reminded me what an important role photography has played in my life for many years. I consider myself very lucky to have found something I am so passionate about. It will be fun to see what I find in boxes 15 years from now!

Footnote: We finally did sell our house and we moved to house that was about a mile away from a rental darkroom that I used faithfully until just a couple of years ago.


  1. Beautiful Dianne. And, you are a great artist.

  2. Simply stunning Dianne. I too love polaroid transfers and have Kathleen Carr's book. Your images are wonderful!

  3. Thank you! I really enjoyed going through these older images.