The Polaroid 20×24 lives on

The Polaroid 20×24 camera, opened to reveal the film carriage.

Somehow, despite Polaroid’s recent near-death experience, the 20×24 inch camera format has survived. While traditional Polaroid films have disappeared, this most exotic product is prospering.

John Reuter is the long time operator and specialist in Polaroid procedures. He teamed up with some technical experts and Impossible Project founder Dr. Florian Kaps and raised $5 million to buy up two of the remaining six cameras and all available 20×24 materials. A dedicated studio now exists in Tribeca New York where a camera resides and can be hired for portraits, fashion shoots, and art production.

The process is involved and expensive. Studio hire is $1750 per day and each print runs to $200. The cameras are in demand though, the studio blog shows them travelling around the States on location and in studio shoots for portrait and fashion.

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Artist Chuck Close posing for the 20×24 inch Polaroid camera

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Obama Close

 Chuck Close, portrait of President Obama 2012

Chuck Close with President Obama selecting prints

Artist Chuck Close has made an official portrait of President Obama. Using the 20×24 inch Polaroid camera he made a series of colour and black & white studies which were transformed into tapestries and digital watercolour prints. Close stated that Obama was “was a dream to work with, hitting his mark every time, never moving while we focussed.”

Most of the prints are being sold as fundraisers for Obama’s re-election campaign and they don’t come cheap. A large tapestry made from Close’s artwork in an edition of 10 each costs $100,000. A large digital watercolor print (?) goes for $50,000 (edition of 10), and a smaller print is $25,000 (edition of 40). Any takers?

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The Crewdson academy

Gregory Crewdson, Untitled 2004, from Beneath the Roses

The Crewdson show at the CCP is an impressive spectacle, rooms full of very large photographs made with complex and expensive Hollywood expertise. The images are beautifully lit and staged with a theatrical precision normally beyond the resources of the photographic still. A camera usually just captures some pre-existing scene as in a snapshot, but Crewdson’s control over light, colour and composition brings his pictures closer to the realm, not just of cinema, but of painting.

In a painting marks go exactly where the artists wants them, and the totality should be a material expression of the artist’s conception. One style of art where this technical control reached a high point of skill was in the Academy art of the 19th century.

Crewdson is an academy artist for the present day. The similarity is striking. They are large narrative pictures, exquisitely fine in execution, created slowly and with large resources. They are expensive, beautiful objects and reference a known and established background of story-themes and visual traditions, in his case cinema.

William Orchardson, The First Cloud 1887

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Is this the first photograph?

Niepce

Joseph Niecephore Niépce made the first (known) photograph with a camera in 1826, a view of his farm buildings. But there is an earlier image, a contact print of a drawing and it’s from a year earlier.

The ‘photograph’ is of a drawing of a boy leading a horse. Sotheby’s, who sold it to the French government in 2002, listed it as “the earliest recorded image created by photographic means.”

How was it made? Not with silver salts: “Developing the plate with oil of lavender and white petroleum produced a negative of the plate. The image was then etched into the metal producing the plate”

It was not made with a camera obscura like the later picture, but it was made with light sensitive materials plus the action of light. It’s a photogram, and they’re photographs right?

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Talbot at Lake Como

William Henry Fox Talbot, Villa Melzi, drawing, 5th October 1833

The most important drawing in the history of photography!

In 1833 Henry Fox Talbot was on his honeymoon at Lake Como in Italy. One day he was trying to draw the landscape from the grounds of the Villa Melzi using a camera lucida, an artist’s device for focussing a view onto paper. His attempt, as you can see above, was awkward, and it …

“… led me to reflect on the inimitable beauty of the pictures of nature’s painting which the glass lens of the Camera throws upon the paper in its focus; fairy pictures, creations of a moment, and destined as rapidly to fade away.

It was during these thoughts that the idea occurred to me how charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably, and remain fixed upon the paper!”

Talbot returned to England and began experimenting with silver salts and within two years had made his first photographs.

Narcissa Milano, Lake Como from Villa Melzi, From Google Earth

W. Buerskens, Villa Melzi. From Google Earth

The Villa Melzi is still there, and seemingly unchanged in 179 years. Just past that third lion statue Fox Talbot sat and made his drawing which led him to invent photography! Villa Melzi is a hotel so it must be possible to stay there and sit in the same spot that gave birth to the medium of photography.

Google Earth view of Lake Como and the Villa Melzi.

GoPro landscapes

Stills from GoPro camera

Has sky diver Lucas Damm discovered a new technique for taking landscape photographs? His GoPro video camera came off his helmet as he jumped from a plane, and it fell 12000 feet to the ground filming all the way. Here are some stills from the video, taken while it tumbled to the ground.-

There’s something modern about them, like those apocalyptic Expressionist paintings from the early 20th century by Ludwig Meidner and Erich Heckel, where landscapes and cities are erupting and coming apart.

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