What is an SX-70?
The Polaroid SX-70 camera is a folding single lens reflex Land Camera that was produced by the Polaroid Corporation in the 1970s. It was the first instant SLR and the first camera to use Polaroid's new SX-70 integral print film, which developed automatically without the need for intervention from the photographer.
The most important feature of the SX-70's integral print film was its ability to be manipulated while still developing. Because it is an instant film and develops over a period of several minutes, artists were able to "push" the emulsion material around the photograph to produce effects somewhat like an impressionist painting. This specific film is the original one that cured slower than the newer instant films because of this feature the SX-70 or Time Zero Film was the only type of instant film that could be manipulated. It was the window of time between the photograph being taken and its final state in which the magic happens when the final image came out of the process. The window varied based on climate conditions and age of the film. Once the film was cured it hardened and the image could no longer be manipulated.
Polaroid discontinued the camera in the 70's but continued producing the film for the cult of sx-70 artists. This was the only type of film with the chemistry that would allow for this type of hands-on manipulation. In December 2005 Polaroid announced the end of an era in non-traditional photography by ending its production of Time Zero/Sx-70 film.
Effectively ending the art of SX-70 manipulation rendering it...a dead art.
What is SX-70 to Me?
For me, the SX-70 Manipulation process blurs and challenges the definitions of painting and photography by producing paintings with a camera and sticks.
I am an award winning artist from northern Utah and have worked as in the graphic arts and commercial photography for over twenty years and because of the precise nature of this type of work, I tend towards more non-tradition and very hands oriented processes for my creative escapes. My first exposure to the process was in college art history courses in the late 90's but did not start working with the process until 2004. I started by modifying a Polaroid 600 series camera to take the SX-70 film and worked my way up to a full collection of vintage Polaroid cameras and original accessories. It forced me as an artist to work within the context of a time-based process and have a plan for where to manipulate the image. There is no stopping once the process is in motion. It is both mechanical and handmade at the same time making each image truly unique, one of a kind.
I have always carried and used a camera as a visual sketchbook both in my professional career, and personal life. Through this practice of carrying a camera, I have come to focus on the abstract views and non-traditional perspectives in my approach and finishing of my work. I work in the moment capturing the momentary and transient aspects of life. Seeing the ordinary and often overlooked objects out of the corner of my eye, trying not to capture them in a moment, but in a memory.
Due to these imperfections with the camera, the film and the process of finding and capturing these images for me is a challenge. It strips away the photographic process down to the very basics almost on the level of toy cameras. It requires just the right lighting conditions. Finally, it requires a timing and touch when moving the final image into place while the film is still developing. Its square format and the color shifts that also help in giving a truly unique vintage look in the finished prints. This process and its constraints force a new an often-unseen view of the world for me. I am able to escape reality for a moment and acknowledge the simplicity of the process, or image I am working.
I push the button... setting the process in motion, allowing it to take its part in the final work.