October 25, 2012
When I was handed a refurbished Polaroid camera from the 1980s and told to go play tourist, I smelled adventure.
Photojournalists work within tight guidelines compared to most professional photographers, so it’s great to be given some creative freedom.
The handicap of having to work with a far more basic camera than usual was offset by the licence to roam and to shoot in a non-assignment, non-literal way. I had a total of 60 frames available (three packages of Polaroid film) and, contrary to my initial assumption, the limitation of the number of frames provided was quite freeing.
As my perception of the value of each frame and each opportunity increased, my process changed. I slowed down and became selective about pressing the shutter. That gave me the time not only to see but also to hear and smell everything around me, which is not only freeing but also educational. Making a good image means recording more than visual facts.
Walking around with a rather retro camera hanging around my neck, I found my curiosity better tolerated. Folks seemed to trust me more, because how much “damage” can one do with a Polaroid camera? Besides, the proof popped right out of the camera. “Oh, how cool. Can I keep it?” Trust became palpable and the pictures an object.
The subject’s experience was enhanced. Digital files don’t evoke that feeling.
* Silvia Razgova