M i c h a e l . G o i n g Altered Polaroid SX-70 Photographs

About the process and artist statement

Altered Polaroid Process

The process of altering a Polaroid takes an instant film medium, the Polaroid SX-70 Camera
and its companion Time Zero film beyond it's original purpose of party and event snapshots.
I take the photograph with the Polaroid SX-70 Camera. The images are all actual instant photographs taken on location or in the studio. They are not copies of other works/photographs. Anything that a photographer might do in making a 'traditional' photograph from lighting, filtration, production, etc., I do as well. The Time Zero film is a single sheet that is ejected by the camera upon exposure and is a completely self-contained and fully develops in about ten minutes. The emulsion, containing the image is sealed in a clear acetate top sheet and paper backing.
After the film completely develops, I use various tools to press on the clear acetate sheet covering the emulsion giving the image its painterly brush like appearance. The alteration is quite time intensive to complete the alteration before the film sets. I do the alteration wherever I am taking the photo: on the streets, in a stadium, on the beach or my studio. The time I have to alter varies depending on the ambient temperature. So the entire process gets down to keeping the film warm and an adventure in getting it done before the film sets. I've resorted to hot water bottles, a small Igloo chest to carry them combined with always being on the look out for hot water.
If it is cold outside I go into a cafe and set up or if that is not possible a heated car. It seems my entire Polaroid life was a quest to always have hot water and find a place to alter film. I've often worked backwards by first finding a cafe and a hot water source close by and then shooting.
My work is instant and this is before digital. I see the fully developed photograph minutes after I expose the film. If I have several similiar images I need to make decisions immediately as to which image to work because it is impossible to alter them all since it can take up to a hour to alter just one image
To make prints of the original, I make a 4x5 inch transparency and print from that or scan and then make a print.

before and after sample of unaltered and altered similar Polaroid-Polaroid frame not shown

About my Work

I have always had a relationship with the camera. First, as a child model in front of the camera and then behind it starting with a memorable photography class in Junior High School which eventually lead to what is now almost 40 years of image making.
My Polaroid work strikes both strong emotional chords as well as physical responses that all go into the creation of the work. Emotional chords involving fantasies, beauty, aloneness, nostalgia and physical responses concerning the tactile, textural and transformation. I think there are often little back stories, mostly just fragments, behind the photographs. I am drawn to the ‘feel’ of things. The process of manipulating the film is a very tactile process.The emotional and the physical propel concerns with form, shape, space, light and the ongoing pursuit of the ‘perfect composition’
The physical process of creating my work has a particular appeal beyond the sensual textural and tactile level of working with the film. My work is rather instant. I see the fully developed photograph minutes after I expose the film. I then need to make decisions immediately as to which image to alter since there is only a short period of time to complete the alteration process. If there are several variations of the same image, I can’t alter them all so intuitive decision making is important.
Although my work is technique driven, technique alone can’t make a good photograph. The ‘technique’ can’t make a weak image into a good one. I truly feel that I need to start with a strongly composed and interesting image to transform it into an arresting image.
Often my photographs are literal candid documents-albeit with alteration. I call them ‘Impressionistic Documents’ I think that the emotional and physical elements combine to create an image that on first pass has a sense of beauty and on second pass a sense of mystery.

Michael Going 2005

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