This picture is from a trip I took about two weeks ago to Hong Kong. I lugged a backpack around (with the husband’s help) containing a field camera, a lens, Polaroid back, Readyload back, meter, dark cloth, loupe, a tripod, and of course film and Polaroid. I wanted to make the effort to try to shoot 4×5 on a trip, just walking around taking in a new place. It wasn’t that easy or quick, but I gave it a whirl and took a few pictures I liked.
I know I’m not the first person to speak on this topic, but with the recent announcement by Polaroid to cease production of all large format polaroid I feel I need to share my opinion. I am predominantly a large format (4×5) shooter. I’d say about 80-90% of my work in the past five years has been 4×5. I shoot almost all of my portraits that way, and I recently acquired a Wista field camera in efforts to take the same approach with my personal work. I have feared that this day would come, and still worry that Kodak will soon follow Polaroid’s lead and stop manufacturing large format film.
I bet there is a reason why Polaroid has made this decision, and that reason is that they are not making enough profit on the sales of their large format materials. Agreed, it’s not the quickest and/or easiest format to shoot, and the prices have risen quite a bit in the last 10 years or so. It’s now around $85 for a box of my beloved Polaroid Type 59 (now discontinued), but who cares?? People who love the format will continue to pay for it, and I wish we could make the decision ourselves – whether or not we want to shell out the money – rather than have it made for us.
In the past year or so (yes, I’m behind), I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that eventually I will have to succumb to technology. I have in every other aspect of my life. I have a bluetooth connection in my hybrid car. I enjoy the Blackberry very much. I devised a nerdy filing system for all of my negatives and contact sheets in FileMaker and am proud to show it off every time someone comes over. I just don’t want to have to give up my 4×5. The Polaroid Type 59 has been instrumental, to say the least, in developing my personal aesthetic. The palette is so beautiful – a little pastel, a little cyan, a little perfect. Now I have three boxes in my fridge that I will be guarding with my life, and I’m on the hunt for however many more I can get my hands on.
I wonder where this and other recent developments will take photographers and photography. There are SO MANY photographers these days, and everyone shoots 5Ds and H3s. The choice of camera is narrowing, or at least it’s becoming more and more difficult to continue on the path of shooting film. What is going to separate us from each other, other than this guy shoots still life, and this girl shoots portraits, etc.? What will determine personal style? I understand lighting (or the absence of) plays a large role, but I am not convinced that alone is enough personal expression for my photography. I guess we’ll have to see where it takes me and my fellow view camera buddies.