Over forty years ago I worked in a camera shop, which meant that I got to play with the new toys when they came out. In 1972, the toy of the year was the Polaroid SX70. It was a very plush toy, with a space-age folding aluminum body covered with a rich, brown leather. It had a new type of film pack in which the print was contained in a sealed pouch, embedded in a clay substrate. Unlike its predecessors, the SX70 spit out a complete, stable image which developed in your hands, but without the chemical waste and mess of the other Polaroid processes. The images were pretty neat, too – brilliant but with subtle colors that almost had a glow to them.
As I said, I got to play with the toys when they came in and I experimented with the SX70, shooting several packs of the film. This image was from one of the less conventional experiments, wherein we broke a film pack apart to see what made it work and used a straight edge of some sort of straight edge to push the chemicals in the little pouch across the light sensitive backing to see what we might get. I recall that we used various sorts of styli to push the chemicals around to achieve fanciful patterns and abstractions.
This image is the only survivor of those experiments, having survived laying on top of my messy desk for at least the last decade. We also have a couple of SX70 photos in the family archive, but those have not faired as well as this despite better care. Barb has a shot of me from that time in the frame of the dresser mirror. The image media – the substrate – has dried out and become very brittle over the years (somewhat like me!), and it is beginning to break up (like me, again!) much like peeling paint, although the colors are still brilliant and stable (not at all like me!). I wonder how our digital images will age in the decades to come ….
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