| Dec 10, 11:00 AM
Hello friends, and welcome back to 8 Exposures, our instant film Q&A series! This week, we’re happy to bring you London photographer Cyrus Mahboubian…
1) What kind of Polaroid camera(s) do you use?
I’ve collected an unhealthy number of Polaroid cameras in my time and I’ve used most of them, apart from the very early models. My favourite is the original SX-70, but the one I use most often is an SLR 690. It was made in the 90s, based on the SX-70/SLR 680 design and it’s a wonderful camera.
2) Why do you like instant photography?
I like it instinctively, I’ve been hooked since I shot my first Polaroid and watched as the image appeared. Whenever I try to explain it in words, it always comes back to two things: the tangible nature of the prints and their singularity. For those reasons the photographs are more than just photographs, they’re objects. I also like the integrity of instant photography; once you’ve shot the image, there’s nothing more, you can’t edit it – actually that will make you a better photographer. Today everything is digital, but it’s hard to connect with digital images – the vast majority exist only on computer drives and will never be printed. It’s sad. Instant photography is the remedy.
3) What is your earliest memory of instant film?
I remember watching somebody use a Polaroid camera as a child and being fascinated. My earliest memory of using it myself is very clear. I bought my first Polaroid camera in December 2006, right before setting off on a road journey with my girlfriend of the time. Somewhere in the middle of the English countryside, near Bath, we came across the timber skeleton of what must once have been a barn. We pulled over and that’s the place where I shot my first instant pictures. The sun was setting and we took pictures of the structure silhouetted against the sky. We also photographed some defunct machinery that was lying around and, of course, a few portraits of each other. Unfortunately I haven’t seen some of those images in years, I hope I’ll see them again someday. That’s the thing with Polaroids – they’re originals, they have history. When you come across one you haven’t seen in a long time it’s like being reunited with an old friend.
4) What’s your favorite Impossible film type?
I’m loving the latest Color Protection films. My favourite is the PX 680, it’s a genuinely good film. I’ve found it particularly good for night-time shots, when using a long exposure and no flash. I’d really like to try some 8×10 film at some point.
5) What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
When I was starting out, my best shots were usually of static objects – trees, road signs, buildings – I was learning about composition and lighting and needed subjects that weren’t fast-moving. Increasingly, though, I find that the most interesting subject is people. A good portrait is really difficult to achieve; you have to get through to the sitter and that can be especially difficult with somebody who isn’t naturally comfortable in front of a camera. One of my favourite portraits is of someone who always said no to having her picture taken. Most of her face is actually covered in the portrait, but it’s really honest, it tells me so much about her. Now I’m a more confident photographer, I’m about to start a proper portrait series. I’m making a list of people I’d like to include – whether they’ll agree is another matter.
6) Tell us about a project you’re working on.
I’m planning to publish my first artist’s book in 2013. I think we are at a really interesting, transitional point in terms of instant film – original Polaroid stock is mostly no longer useable and Impossible film has become very good – so I want to publish a selection of my favourite images shot on original Polaroid film. It would be my way of marking the transition and embracing fully the new era of instant film.
7) Who are your favorite photographers, instant or otherwise?
Swiss photographer Robert Frank’s book ‘The Americans’ (published in 1958) made a huge impression on me. Frank travelled across the States for two years photographing American life. It’s a fascinating body of work and his devotion to the project is inspiring. In terms of instant photography, I think Arno Fischer’s attention to detail in his collection of Polaroids ‘Der Garten’ (The Garden) is amazing. Those images taught me to look really closely, even at mundane or “ugly” things. André Kertész and David Hockney are two others whose Polaroid work I admire.
8) If you could take a photo of anyone or anything what would it be?
I’d like to embark on a road journey across America, birthplace of instant photography, and make a photo-diary full of real American imagery and strange/wonderful encounters. It would be a 21st century homage to Frank’s ‘The Americans’ shot on instant film.
I’m an artist-photographer from London. My work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in solo and group shows, and I teach a monthly photographic workshop for Impossible instant films/Polaroid cameras.
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