Monday, December 20, 2010

Chad Coombs' Polaroids

Chad Coombs Photo  Polaroid

I wanted to share with you a very interesting story related by Chad Coombs about a unique working photographic process the artist accidentally discovered back in 2003.

Ah, the Golden Days of Polaroid!

The Poladroid is enjoying a vogue on Flickr, but we all know that oddity doesn't possess the magic of the Polaroid itself--which is being rapidly ushered towards extinction now that the film is no longer being manufactured.

The Polaroid was unique for so many reasons, and many of those reasons had to do with the wonderful accidents that occurred during the development of each photograph, its singular sensitivity to the atmosphere of its birth.

And to state the dunderheaded obvious: a Poladroid is digital and lacks physicality. (I mean in the wonderfully grubby, human, hands-on sense.)

You can't attack a Poladroid with your wild ideas for manipulating the image: scratching it, painting on it, burning it, etc.

Although, lest you think these are paintings, I would draw your attention to the opening lines of Coombs artist's statement below.

In this case, the manipulation is actually an artist assaying the archeological strata of the Polaroid image.

I find it fascinating that by removing these layers, Coombs arrives at near replications (or simulacra anyway) of some of the Greatest Hits of European Art in the 20th century.

There are Klimt-like pieces, Matissean portraits and even works that look like some of the productions of the second wave of German expressionists who flourished in the 1980s.

Okay, the artist does admit that he scans the peeled Polaroid, then manipulates it with the "saturation, upsample and sharpen" in some processing software (perhaps Photoshop?)

So these are digital art based in the archeological excavation of Polaroid film.

I think that would be the most succinct way to state what these works actually are.

I like the way Coombs' peeling process often yields strikingly archetypal female forms, strange goddesses that one might see on ancient frescos, also peeling.

You can check out Chad Coombs' entire Polaroid gallery here: The Polaroid and the Unicorn are Moving Closer Together.

Here's the fascinating backstory about how the artist created those:

Most people dont realize a few things about these polaroids.
One that they are in fact nothing more then just that, a polaroid.
Two it is ALL done by hand, every little aspect of it.
Three I am the only on in the world who does this with time zero film apparently.

The reason I say I am the only on who does this is because back in 2003, I got mad at one of my hand manipulated polaroids, threw a hissy fit and tried ripping it in half out of frustration with how much I sucked.

To my surprise I am weak and couldnt tear it in two, but instead it peeled apart like a sticker. I had to layers, back and front of the polaroid now. Which looked like two walls with layers and layers of paint and the image chiseled out of it. I then went through ten boxes of the stuff, all I had left trying to make this newly discovered process work out and have a "good" end result. 100 pictures later, I had 15 that were good, and at $27 a box of ten, its a costly learning process.

So I then emailed my chosen 15 images as a submission to the Official Polaroid website, which was KICK ASS back then, when it was at its prime. Anyways, I got given a Pro Portfolio page the next day as well as a reply email from one of the Polaroid people asking how the hell I did what ever it was I did to make my polaroids look like this.

After explaining, they told me they had never heard of anyone doing such a thing.
I didnt believe them so I google searched for a week straight and off and on for the next four years before I believed I was infact the only one, I still to this day have yet to discover anyone who does this same thing with there polaroids.

Its not a transfer because I dont tranfer anything, All I do is peel, then scan one of the inside sides. thats it. Then play with saturation upsample and sharpen so I can print these puppies a lot bigger then polaroid size. I still have every single polaroid I have done this to ever in a photo album, who knows they might be worth something some day.

I have yet to ever do a full show with these, but think my next one might be only polaroids. I have how ever sold maybe ten total of them, but havent sold a single poaroid for 5 years I think. I feel they are my best photographs because its the closest I can get to painting. Scratching each line, dent, hole etc with the same deck screw I have used for the last decade of polaroiding. Hell maybe that single deck screw will be worth something some day, doubt it, ha.

Anyways, I hope to do a Canvas Art show with these in the next year, but canvas is expensive and its the only way these should ever be printed, fine art paper looks ok, but its the canvas and canvas wrap around that truly finishes the image.

maybe if I ever move out of this place I can sell enough images I dont have to work pain in the ass full time jobs anymore, ha. not that I can complain right now, I havent worked for the past month, but I dont know how im going to make rent for next month.

Anyone wanna buy a polaroid canvas? or two? or ten?
Limitted edition as always....

Chad Coombs Photo  Polaroid

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