No. 254

8 Exposures...with Jake Messenger.

Patrick Tobin | Dec 30, 11:00 AM

We’re happy to bring you another entry in our popular instant film question-and-answer series 8 Exposures! This week, we proudly feature UK-based photographer and digital artist Jake Messenger

1) Q: What kind of Polaroid camera(s) do you use?

A: Many! My favourites are my dad’s old original SX-70, and the SX-70 Sonar which belonged to his business partner. I also use a hefty 600SE; the quality you can get from it is fantastic, but it is a beast to lug about. My lighter pack-film option is a Land Automatic 250. I have a few other cameras knocking about – a Super Shooter, a 600 P, an SX-70 3000. On my shelf there are a couple of beauties for show: I love the 800 roll-film camera. Oh, and I have a pack-film back for my Holga!

2) Q: Why do you like instant photography?

A: I love the ‘thingness’ of instant: how you compose your picture, take it, and within a few minutes you have the physical object in your hand. While I love all kinds of image-making, the immediacy of instant is just magical. I love the fact that the film is its own darkroom, that once the image is there, that’s it – there are no processing decisions to be made.

I also love how it slows me down and makes me think more about which pictures I want to take. If I walk about with my digital SLR I may easily take hundreds of pictures, whereas with my instant shots I’m aware that each picture has more value (in terms of cost, and as an object), so I’m more deliberate. Where with digital I would take a picture for the sake of it, with instant I will more often than not move on and save that frame for later.

And finally, I love the community that has grown up online around the end of Polaroid film and the birth of The Impossible Project. Through Flickr and Twitter there are so many passionate, interesting, generous, talented people, all coming together to share images and ideas. The annual ‘Roid Week festival on Flickr is such a great way to see the work of so many instant film lovers.

3) Q: What is your earliest memory of instant film?

A: I remember my dad’s SX-70 back in the 70’s. He was a film director in advertising, and one of his clients gave it to him around 1974 or so, and he still has many of the pictures taken with it, including me aged three or four, above. We also had a Swinger or similar around the house, but I don’t remember it ever being used. I do remember playing with it, turning the knob and seeing “YES” appear in the viewfinder. In the early 80’s my dad gave me a grey “The Button” SX-70, and I have the results squirrelled away somewhere (although the camera is long gone).

I didn’t rediscover Polaroid until 2009 when I read online about the decline of the company, and these crazy people who were trying to revive instant photography. I looked longingly at the PolaPremium site, then remembered having seen my dad’s old SX-70 at their house. I bought some Artistic Time Zero film from the Photographers’ Gallery in London, and when I next visited I popped it in the camera, and took the picture of the glass vase. I was utterly hooked. My dad let me keep the camera, and here I am!

4) Q: What’s your favorite Impossible film type?

A: The thrill and magic of the original PX 100 was hard to beat, but I love the contrast and tone with the PX 600 UV+, and the Black Frames! Yum! And I was lucky enough to test out the Beta PX 680, which was crispy. It’s so exciting to experience the growth of these new films.

5) Q: What are your favorite subjects to photograph?

A: Forests, Provençe and corners in cities. I’m not a very deliberate photographer: I don’t tend to carry a tripod, and I don’t wait hours for the right light. I usually wander around, snapping what I find in front of me.

6) Q: Tell us about a project you’re working on.

A: No real firm projects at the moment. However, having recently moved to London (I had been commuting for nearly 7 years), I am enjoying exploring new areas and places and finding things to photograph. So corners, signs, trees…The usual.

7) Q: Who are your favorite photographers, instant or otherwise?

A: Oh, there are many! If you look though my favourites on flickr, you’ll see most of my Instant favourites. Particularly: Rommel, Jeff Hutton, Caballos Blancos, Gentleman Amateur, futurowoman, amamason, Grant Hamilton, Tubes, anniebee, jesshibb, lawatt…But I could go on forever.

Non-Flickr faves: Richard Misrach – Desert Cantos was very important to me early on; the sense of space and unreality in the weapons testing ranges is extraordinary. William Eggleston’s colour, Cartier Bresson’s use of the frame. And I have a book of photographs by Bruce Chatwin which are very much my kind of thing.

8) Q: If you could take an photo of anyone or anything what would it be?

A: I do need to stand in front of buildings in New York with my cameras, and Tokyo too. And I’d love to see the volcanos and glaciers of Iceland.

Endless thanks to Jake for taking part in 8 Exposures! To view more of his splendid instant magic, please visit his Flickr Photo Stream and his site, jakemessenger.com

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