In February I was asked to design the programme for Do I have to paint you a picture?, an international Polaroid exhibition and symposium. The brainchild of photographer Sam Perry, the exhibition and symposium had a good timing now that theoriginal Polaroid film is no longer being manufactured.*
This was one of those projects I can honestly say I enjoyed working on very much. Our meetings took place in a relaxed but productive atmosphere at an arts centre café/bar, usually over a coffee or a glass of wine. We had great conversations about the meaning of Polaroid and its unfortunate demise – and this shared interest formed the foundation for a good client-designer relationship. I actually saw myself as more of a consultant, advisor and collaborator in this project, which made the project run smoothly and the client feel more at ease. The more I work on freelance projects directly with a client, the I more I realise the importance of really listening to your client.
It was fantastic to take part in the symposium, listen to some inspiring talks by Polaroid photographer artists, researchers and journalists, and feel the shared connection in the space. Mark Arkless, a Welsh photographer with a passion for Polaroid, mentioned how the slowly disappearing Polaroid film stock has forced many photographers slow down and think through their process a bit more – the opposite of the effects of digital photography. He also talked about the preciousness and physical nature of Polaroids and how for him the colour variations of the classic SX-70 film express the Welsh concept of hiraeth, a kind of a deep longing for home. A real sense of ownership, care and curiosity was present both in the words of the speakers and the questions of the audience.
I agree with many who say Polaroids work best when they document everyday moments. The unexpected blurs, colour shifts and hues almost mimic the way our memory works – it’s not quite sharp in places and the tone of memories can change over time. For me it’s the size and weight of a Polaroid that makes the physical snapshot of a moment so much more precious – it becomes an object of desire.