If you know anything about me and my love of photography, you know how much I adore Polaroids. I got my start shooting on a 1980's era Polaroid One Step that shot 600 series film. This camera was the prototypical Polaroid that most 80's and 90's kids remember. Plastic, boxy, and the images it produced were only "ok". No matter, because this was only a gateway. From there, I stumbled upon some yard sale Polaroid variants, dating back to the 1950's and 60's, some of which still were usable, others that became $2 camera displays in my trove of old film cameras that adorn a wall in my house. It might seem unbelievable, but instant photography has had a major influence on my style and shot selection when I am shooting digital. At this point, I have been the beneficiary of other people's camera donations and a few thrift store scores, accumulating varying Polaroid models from different eras.
One of these is a rare and oddly put together camera, produced for only 2 years, from 1971-1973. Aptly named, the "Big Shot" is a lightweight but bulky camera with a long lens, hand grip on the left side, and a flash diffuser on the top. With a fixed focal length lens at approximately 220mm and a focusing distance that is sharpest at 39 inches away from the subject, this camera was meant for one thing and one thing only. Close up portraits. This camera has gained cult-classic status, producing iconic images with an instantly recognizable look to them. Famed artist Andy Warhol popularized this camera with a series of portraits that he shot in the 1970's. In fact, this camera became synonymous with him, thus growing the legend of this short lived legend from Polaroid. When I first got this camera, I was so excited to use it, but I couldn't. It was missing a piece and until just yesterday, I hadn't been able to find a replacement part. That all changed on my trip to Seattle and when I returned home, I quickly threw a pack of film into it to (hopefully) put it to use.
As I thought about who I wanted to be the first photo I'd taken with this newly restored classic, I came up with an immediate idea. In Yakima, there's an eclectic and very niche store, located in the Union Gap area, called "Somewhere In Time". It specializes in memorabilia from the 1970's and the owner Richard is a very mellow straight-shooter who keeps the doors open day in and day out. When I first discovered it, I fell in love. Racks upon racks of old vinyl. Vintage clothes that would never fit a guy of my size. Gaudy 70's necklaces and accessories. Memorabilia from an era that was colorful, but not overly excessive. Simply put, it was my kind of heaven. Since my first visit, I make a regular route to go and visit him, picking up a collectors item every so often, recently purchasing a custom built tomahawk for my son's 12th birthday for a mere $5 bucks. (It was probably his second favorite gift that he got, in case you were wondering). If there was anyone deserving of being the subject for the first click that this iconic 70's camera had seen in decades, it was Richard.
About mid-day, I went down to pay him a visit. There he sat, in his comfortable chair, puffing on his vaporizer and listening to Eric Clapton on the turntable. Quintessential Richard. I brought the "Big Shot" in and immediately started conversing with him about it. Ironically, this was a Polaroid model he wasn't familiar with all that much. From there, the conversation twisted and turned, meandering from cameras, to why I was in Yakima, parenting, and finishing with tales of Justin Bieber. Really. The length of this conversation carried on for over 90 minutes. After, I popped the question. "Would you mind being the first test subject for this camera?" His response was humble and deflecting, just as I imagined it would be. "You don't want me to be your subject! Don't waste precious film on me! You've got all kinds of famous people you could shoot." But here's the thing. First of all, no, I don't have famous people. And if I ask you to be my subject, I've already planned this out. I'm not wasting a photo. So Richard complied and I walked him outside, planted him in front of his vintage VW Bus and stood approximately 39 inches away from him and fired off my first shot. #UntilWeMeetAgainProject. Day 11.
This was shot with Fuji FP-100c film at approximately f/29 aperture. Natural light. Scanned into the computer and cropped to size. The negative, below is the second half of the film, which has to be pulled apart after 60 seconds of developing time.