No. 473

8 Exposures...with Toby Hancock

Patrick Tobin, | Jun 22, 12:00 PM

Photo by Rommel Pecson

Hello, Impossibles! We’re back with another entry in our instant film Q&A series, 8 Exposures. This week, we are happy to bring you LA-based Brit wonder Toby Hancock

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

I built an extensive collection of Polaroid cameras in the 1990s, which was a time when they could be bought dirt cheap at flea markets and on eBay. So, I regularly use two somewhat beaten up SLR 680s and two or three SX-70 Sonars. I usually have at least two on hand loaded with different types of film. I have turned my 680s into Frankenroids by swapping the film doors for SX-70 ones, which has resulted in fewer divots (not that there’s anything wrong with divots!). Impossible Project’s Dr “Frankenroid” Love has a very informative blog post about this simple transformation HERE.

2. Why do you like instant photography?:

As many before me have said, it’s magic in the palm of your hand. It’s unpredictable and often creates unexpected, but beautiful results. Undoubtedly, the more you shoot, the more predictable it becomes, but there’s always the potential for one of those perfect mistakes to be lurking around the next corner.

3 simple rules to shoot Impossible film by:

1. Always expect the unexpected and embrace the fact that it might give you some of your best images
2. There’s no such thing as a wasted Polaroid
3. Never throw any photograph away
4. There’s probably a fourth rule, but I can’t think of it right now

3. What is your earliest memory of instant film?

Unlike many people, there wasn’t a Polaroid in my household while I was growing up, so I don’t have any of those cute or embarrassing stories to share with you.

My lawyer has advised me not to answer this question and to give you my second earliest memory, instead. The earliest one is boring and I don’t really remember it very well, except to say that it definitely didn’t involve a Straight Shooter, and activities that may or may not be illegal in some countries. In any case, all the photos were overexposed. Maybe overexposed is the wrong word to use here?

My second earliest memory was in the early 1980s at the beginning of my career in TV and film production, where Polaroid film was ubiquitous. It was an industrial tool used by casting directors, the wardrobe and art departments, script supervisors, cinematographers, etc., etc. It was a major part of any production. Of course, it was also used to take fun pictures of co-workers and everyone had a few Polaroids stuck on the office wall. I never dreamed it would ever be anything more than that to me.

But that all changed, when I met…

…to be continued in Question 7 (I love a good cliffhanger)

4. What’s your favorite Impossible film type?:

Some weeks ago, when I first started to procrastinate about answering these questions, I would’ve said PX 600 UV+. However, since then I’ve had the chance to use the newly released Cool films and my new favorite is PX 680 Cool, closely followed by the latest PX 100. As someone who’s been a “color guy” for decades, all the Impossible black and white films have been a revelation. In the end, I’ve had great success and enjoyment shooting all the different editions and flavors, so to try to pick a favorite is similar to asking a parent to pick their favorite child. My parents would have picked me!

5. What are your favorite subjects to photograph?:

I shoot many subjects. I’ve always loved night photography & landscapes, but I also like portraiture, aerial photography, abandoned places and things, food, nature. If I can point a camera at it, I’ll take a picture, provided the security guards don’t get to me first.

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

Nothing specific at the moment. One of these days I hope to publish a book or two of my hundreds of Time Zero manipulations and Impossible images. Unfortunately, scanning and curating them will probably take the rest of my life.

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

Previously on 8 Exposures with Toby Hancock – But that all changed, when I met…

Michael Dare, who introduced me to the miracle of Polaroid Time Zero manipulation. Watching him do his brilliant work, completely changed my concept of instant photography… In an instant (pun intended), it went from a bit of fun and invaluable work tool to a pretty serious art form, although still fun.

Other instant photographers? Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Ansel Adams (instant and other), Helmut Newton (instant and other). And then there’s the incredible Flickr community – way too many people to mention, so I’ll offer up three guys and three girls. Ladies first, the outstanding Rhiannon Adam, the wonderful Jessica Reinhardt and the extraordinary Kim Oberski. And these dudes: The Gentleman Amateur, Brandon Long and Rommel Pecson, who captured my double chin so perfectly in the portrait that accompanies this piece. These six, along with dozens and dozens more favorites, are an inspiration to me everyday. It goes without saying that the folks at Impossible are an extremely talented group of shooters.

Non-instant photographers – Brassaï and his brilliant night and street photography, the amazing Sally Mann, the really rather good Man Ray, not bad for a girl Annie Leibovitz. And again, too many others to mention.

8. If you could take any photo of anyone or anything what would it be?:

I’m a big fan of clichéd, iconic, tourist attractions. I always hope to find a different angle or take on something that’s been photographed literally millions of times before. So, with that in mind, I’ll say the Taj Mahal. Honestly though, while that’s something I’d like to see in person, I’d be just as happy jumping in my car with a bag of cameras and driving out to the desert in search of an abandoned gas station or rundown small town.

About Toby

British-born Toby Hancock has been living in Los Angeles for over 30 years. He is a semi-retired veteran of the TV and Film business, but would consider coming out of retirement if Mr. Spielberg called. When he grows up he’d like to be a photographer.

You can follow Toby on Twitter at @tobysx70

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  1. And what isn’t mentioned here is how generous Toby is with his help and advice. He’s a constant source of inspiration with a wicked sense of humour. Not bad for an “old” bloke :)))

    said Meredith | 1561 days ago
  2. Yay!!! An overdue 8 exposures. Excellent answers Toby! I liked the cliffhanger especially. ;)

    said Jetsetter23 | 1562 days ago