Sunday, November 20, 2016

Cigar Box Guitars- The most fun you can have with a few bucks!

Cigar box guitars are a tradition that stretches back to the 1830 when cigars first became available in small wooden boxes. Inspired by the African Bajar, the combination of a box, a stick of wood, and strings made a very affordable instrument for people who had little means at their disposal, such as African Americans, Appalachians, and various American rural populations. They were carried by civil war soldiers, and saw resurgence in popularity during the great depression. Many famous players, from Jimi Hendrix to Bo Diddley played cigar box guitars, and some, like BB King, cut their teeth on cbgs! Their most recent popular revival is going on right now, as a part of the DIY culture, and there are clubs, websites, products, and kits dedicated to the instruments.

I am a big fan of the DIY movement. I make these guitars in an effort to keep the tradition alive, as well as provide new generations access to this instrument. I have taught classes in making these, and have distilled the basic traits down to my own recipe based on sound and simplicity.
There are some great tutorials online on how to make these, so I will just go over the basics: The first and probably most difficult part is to shape the neck. I use a piece of 1x2 red oak(3/4 x1 ½ actual). The reason I use a hardwood is there will be a great deal of tension on the neck when it is strung. I cut away 1/8th inch depth for the head-stock, and ¼ inch for the body. I get my fret pattern from free online fret calculators. I use the standard 24.75 scale length (like a Gibson guitar). For my fretless version, I trace out frets with a wood burner, and add markers with a screw put into the end of the wood burner. It is up to you how round you want the back of the neck, but I leave the fretboard nice and flat so it is easy to play with a slide.
When it comes to the box, just about any box will sound pretty good- even the cardboard ones. The best sound seems to come from the all wooden ones, and they look great! Measure out the end dimension of the neck and cut out the space with a small saw and a utility knife. Any paper on the inside where the neck will be glued has to be removed. Cut the body end of the neck to length, clamp, and glue it. I make my tailpiece from 75lb picture hangers, but I have also used old hinges. Since the neck doubles as a brace on the soundboard, mount the tailpiece to it for strength. Use spade bits or hole saws to cut a few sound holes. Hot glue in grommet rings or drain screens for the classic look.
The rest is very simple. . I use threaded rod cut to length as the bridge and the nut of my guitars. Add tuners (any will do) or make your own from a screw eye with a hole cut through. I choose to string mine with 3,4, and 5 of guitar string and tune it to open g. 
Playing an instrument is such a joy. Making a workable and great sounding instrument is fun and easy. Caution: After you make one of these, you may try to tackle other musical instrument DIYs. I highly recommend it!  
This one is electric/acoustic.
This is a matching amp.

This is one of my typical design.

I prefer to have all of my boxes still able to open.

Here are some wonderful guitars that my students in Circle Round the Square made.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

My Polaroid Obsession Part Ten, Instant roll film cameras- where it all began.

It began with an innocent inquiry by a 3 year old girl in 1943. While Doctor Land was snapping pictures on the beach in Santa Fe, his daughter asked “Daddy, why can't I see the picture now?” He pondered that question the rest of the day, and had a workable answer that would drive his company for the next half century.

Though instant Polaroid roll film is one of the few types of instant film you cannot get anymore, the cameras form an essential part of my collection. The 95 was the first fully instant camera they rolled out in 1947. The first pictures came out in sepia tone and were prone to fading. This was solved by immediately painting on a sticky stop goo called the print coater. One would have to wave it back and forth to dry the coater. This is where the famous “shake it like a Polaroid” came from.

Originally the intention was to have other companies manufacture the cameras, but the cameras of the time were fairly inaccurate ( due to easy corrections that could be made in the darkroom). Obviously with instant film no lab based corrections could be made to the image. The cameras had to have very specific shutter times, so Polaroid started to manufacture their own cameras.

Polaroid got a reputation as a consumer point and shoot instant camera company in the eighties, but they were not always regarded that way. From the very beginning, Polaroid had the attention of professional photographers everywhere. Ansel Adams was a lifetime consultant to Dr. Land and a huge fan of Polaroid.

The earliest instant roll film cameras were very heavy- weighing in just above 5lbs! This was due to a tax break on “professional” cameras- the professional determination was based solely on weight! The 95 was a consumer designed product, but it was followed quickly by a string of professional grade products including great fully manual lenses and shutters, the 110,110a, 110b, and 120. These cameras are still highly sought after by Polaroid fans. Today there is a small cottage industry that creates packfilm conversions of these cameras which then sell for around 700 to 1500 dollars.

There were several other versions with this general shape- each refining the product. The last one, the 850 and 900, included the “electric eye” which allowed for the first automation of exposure. One version, the 80 “Highlander” was the first portable Polaroid camera. The J33 and J66 were roll film cameras that started to hint at the design of the later pack film bellows cameras, the Automatics.

My absolute favorite of this line of cameras is my 120. It is a fully manual camera manufactured by Yashica for Polaroid for international markets, and it has an aperture range from f4.7-90. It needed a tiny aperture like 90 to compensate for incredibly fast film speeds(3000). With such high film speeds in black and white, one could take indoor pictures with no need for a flash.

When I think of instant cameras, I am always reminded of Arthur C. Clarke's three laws:
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

This followed by the famous quote of Dr. Land himself: Don't undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

My Polaroid Obsession Part Nine, Geeking out on special use cameras.

Dr Land and Polaroid came up with a million ways to use instant photography, much of it in professional fields. From dentistry and forensics to passport photos, the ubiquity of instant photography ideas were endless. Not only were cameras constructed for very specific applications, but films were made with built in grids, heightened uv sensitivity, and never before achieved film speeds (iso 20,000).
My collection mostly falls into three categories: dental macro cameras, oscilloscope cameras, and passport cameras. I also have a couple stand alone oddballs like the microscope camera. The film ranges from traditional pack-film to specialized Spectra film. Two are full slr cameras. Others have preview windows built into the hood, and some use two lasers that form a cross on the subject when you are in focal distance!
I am sure there are millions of these special use cameras out there. If you get the chance- snag one. They are quite fun to shoot, and the looks you get are worth the low dollars they typically command! 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Armoire amore – Re-purposing outdated furniture

Somewhere along the line the transition occurred- maybe the early nineties. Entertainment centers were out, and a reinvented version of your grandmother’s armoire was in. Designed to hold a tube T.V. of great size and weight, the backs of these entertainment armoires had holes cut in them so the tube could stick out without making the furniture too large. A convenient shelf was included to slide your vcr, dvd, or laser disc player in. Below those shelves were often either drawers or shelves to hold your media.
Soon after there were entertainment armoires, there were computer armoires. Intended as a stand alone home office, they included slots for media, shelves for printers, a compartment for the tower, a keyboard tray, file drawers, a desk top, and more.
And just like that- they were obsolete. Tube TVs were replaced by wide flat screens that no longer fit in the space provided. These tvs can be mounted to the wall, and no longer needed a piece of furniture that hid their ugliness. Vcrs went the way of the dodo, and dvds are fast on their way out the door as well. Most computers no longer have towers, and many are made so portable that they don’t need a dedicated storage space. Printers are often wireless, so they don’t need to be physically tethered to a computer. I wonder if there has ever been a piece of substantial furniture with a shorter usable life.
Craigslist was full of them- armoires that once fetched 1500 to 3000 dollars were being sold for next to nothing. Many were good pieces of furniture made with quality woods. Since they were being dumped en mass, that hurt their value even more than the perceived obsolescence! Not only were the average homeowners looking to get rid of their dated furniture, but the hotels and motels nationwide were purging themselves of these pieces. Some of these contained recessed lighting and built in power strips. The hardware alone was often worth more than they were asking for the entire unit!
There was a downside for an interested buyer. Armoires have always been fairly large and heavy- and these were no exceptions. Built in conveniences like lazy-susans, hide away doors, shelves galore, and many other accoutrements , added to the weight substantially. The buyer would not only have to find transport, but also to find a way to carry this weight into the house to the appropriate floor. I found this to be a challenge, as I broke my ankle moving one into the house!

Armoires can be re-purposed for a lot of things, from simple to sophisticated. With very little effort and some creativity- the sky is the limit! I chose to pack one room of my house with armoires like prior generations did with bookshelves to create a library. Some basic purposes for my armoires: A closet for guitar storage, a place for my Yamaha keyboards, a place for musical miscellany, a home studio for recording music, painting storage, a place for Ann’s collections, a craft armoire full of craft supplies, and a home office.
I have found that just about any hobby or interest can fit in these nicely- especially the computer armoires, as they have a nice desk top that pulls out. You can easily build shelves in them, as well as store all sizes of plastic totes. Aside from great storage, a benefit is how easily you can close the door to your chaos when the guests arrive.
If you really want to blow some minds, store clothes in them!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The DIY Aesthetic- How we can still reach out to each other through art.

We have entered a new era of creation. Scrapbooking tools like Crikut and Silhouette replace jobs normally done by commercial vinyl cutters, and 3-d printing has made one off production not only possible, but commonplace. Photoshop has been manipulating images in ways only dreamed of in the days of layout paste-up and darkroom processing. WYSIWYG(what you see is what you get) website programs have made it easier than ever to look the part of a professional operation. New printing processes make archival color printing affordable and commonplace. A hd camera can be paired up with a small drone and grab sweeping images of scenes that used to cost major movie houses thousands of dollars. The average individual is being given the production capabilities of a major corporation, albeit without the benefits of economies of scale. Availability often equals democratization, and that is good.
Though all of these processes are quite miraculous, I find a great deal of it as lifeless as the made-for-commercial-consumption products it immitates. In this post-digital era, I find myself more than ever enamored with the tactile and the evidence of process.
Don't get me wrong- I like a good gadget/toy. I just happen to find evidence of the human hand in craft ever more satisfying. There was a time when a craftsperson desired perfection in the honing of their craft. I feel that pulling back on perfection is pulling back on that temptation to be more like a machine. Show a pencil mark, show the track of the saw blade, the groove of a carving tool.
This is the new DIY aesthetic. Ironically, the internet allows creative types the world over to teach each other how to carve, how to paint, how to create the dirty old-fashioned way.  There have always been makers like these, but somehow they have become more important of late, my cult heroes.
An incredible find on a very hot day.
Two of my favorite musical instruments carry the clear mark of the craftsperson. One is a Puerto Rican Cuatro that Ann and I found in a junk shop on the market square in Santurce, San Juan. It is a 60s home made instrument that would make a luthier cry, but makes me beam with pride! The front, back, and neck are made of a porus island wood, and the sides are crudely stacked with castellations of wood with a veneer stretched over to indicate the ribs of the instrument. Inside can be seen streaks of sloppy glue, and a black and white photo of some palm trees. Instead of inlays of semiprecious gems, it has glued on decorations including a diamond shaped slice of veneer stained and mounted to the back.
I coaxed this beauty to life by removing, steaming, and flattening the bridge, carving a new cow bone nut and saddle. I love the way it looks and sounds. I wonder about the well worn neck and all of the alley sessions it may have had. I think about the amateur craftsperson who made this instrument that looks so crude yet sounds so sweet.
The second instrument is a guitarron made by the Familia Timaure of Carora, Venezuela. I never traveled to Venezuela, but by the time I received my guitarron I felt like I had! The internet was my passport.
I enjoy playing my upright bass, but at times the size can be a burden. I tried an accoustic bass guitar, but it greatly lacked in volume. I saw guitarrons and wanted to dig deeper and find out all I could. All hail Google. Guitarrons are the giant guitars that the bass player uses in mexican mariachi bands.  Since they play in octaves and have very short necks, there would be a steep learning curve. I don't claim to be brilliant, or even the master of my choices, so I set about getting one.
At the time of my search for this instrument, ebay only had two versions. The made- in- China Lucida instrument seemed to be a decent enough starter instrument, but the other listing- this choppy, barely intelligible description paired with photos of the instrument leaning against a couch felt somehow more right.
Guillerno Timaure y Nieto Adalberto Timaure.
After a challenging spanish back and forth with the seller ,Augusto, I found out that a father and sons outfit in Carora would be making my instrument. He gave me the name " El Torrense" Timaure and Sons.  I Googled it, and I came across a Flickr album where a photographer visited the family of instrument makers.  The craftspeople were working away under a shed roof with the most basic of tools making some wonderful instruments.  Though this was Venezuela, I could see a family in Appalachia doing the same thing. These images somehow made me feel the beginnings of kinship to the makers I would never meet. Augusto warned that it would take more than a month and a half to ship, but I was already sold on it. Over that month and a half I had several phone conversations with him.  He would call as a courtesy to tell me when the item cleared customs, got past government screenings, etc.  The first month was spent getting the guitarron out of Venezuela. Once free of the border, the package moved with incredible efficiency to my door.  Upon my receipt of the package, I wrote Augusto and thanked him. I felt like someone who just got back from a vacation and decides to thank the kind host.
The guitarron is very well made, but there is evidence of the hand of a human being everywhere. The bindings are wrapped with bands of wood, each chip a little different from the last. You can almost make out the brush strokes of the finish on the wood, and if you look inside, you can see a ghost of a streak of glue here and there. Somehow that just makes it more special.
The next time you buy something hand crafted, try to remind yourself how lucky you are to share that experience with the artist. They likely could have just printed it off for you , but they made it with their own hands.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Polaroid Conversion- My Messy Manual Polaroid.

I, like many Polaroid nuts, love the style of the Automatic Land Camera pack cameras from the sixties, but need more control. Though the Automatics offered many more options than the current point and shoot cameras(5 apertures, flash or no flash, variable focus), I desire a fully manual camera on occasion. My 195 is wonderful but a bit rare and expensive, so I wanted one that I didn't feel quite so attached to that I could be more rough and experimental with.
I come from a maker family. My mother made it a point to expose us to art shows and art museums. We grew up watching her paint, draw, and enter shows. My older sister was also creative. When my sister and I wanted a toy, we figured out how to make it. Her efforts were always much more refined than mine. I can still remember those sloppy, loping stitches on that terrible looking doll I made, with eyes of smeary marker. A lifetime later, I still do that same thing. When I want something and it is financially out of reach, I try to make it!
There is a tradition of converting the lower priced packfilm cameras to manual, so I wasn't a pioneer. For my inspiration I turned to a wonderful Flickr collection of images by Option 8(a handle known to many a Polaroid geek). There are tons of great ideas for Polaroid conversions, but I have to warn you- it is an addiction. If this link is dead, just google Polaroid conversions and you will find the image thread rather quickly. Though there are some gorgeous ones done with wood veneers, color leathers, and bright paint, the ones that appeal to me are the cameras that look very mechanical and a bit steam-punk.
This is my proof of concept for something that has been done hundreds of times- I was just proving it to myself. My Polaroid conversion is quite basic. I took a Polaroid Automatic 100 packfilm bellows camera that was inoperable as the donor body. I removed the shutter button and cable, the lens and all of the stuff built into the front standard, as well as from the battery compartment. I gave it a new bellows from a broken 104. I mounted a 127mm lens and Prontor shutter I got from a piece of Polaroid medical equipment on the front of the standard quite easily by widening the lens mounting hole with a Dremel tool. Then I filled the exterior holes on the front standard with scissor cut black metal off of an old packfilm pack. The inside of the standard was filled with black craft foam ( the kind you can buy by the sheet)to eliminate the possibility of light leaks. Felt would work just as well.
The final touches were to drill a hole in the back of the battery carrier to mount my development timer, and shape a lid to cover the now larger lens. Shaping the lid was pretty easy. I chose a lid that was shaped for the pack cameras that have the viewfinder permanently out, as the viewfinder would never fold back down with the new lens. I then propped the lid up between two bricks and stretched out the front to accommodate the lid by pressing the cold clip against the plastic while applying heat with a heat gun to the front of the lid. Take your time at this so you don't accidentally warp the whole lid, but just stretch the front.
That is pretty much it! Easy, right? If you looked at the images from Option 8's conversions you would see that the process can be done with a lot more grace and style than I applied!
Since my camera is intended to give me far more creative options, I carry a brief case full of goodies to go with it. I use short and long shutter releases, a manual timer, an exposure timer, ground glass, close up and portrait lenses with viewfinder diopters, lots of funky lenses, filters, and flash filters. I also made a very simple flash mount from a cold shoe and a 268 flash base so I can use an electronic flash. When the camera is weighed down with all of these gadgets it is so ugly it is beautiful!
Voila, fully manual camera!
So far I have done purposely messy pulls, dumped salt in the pack (it gives a star like effect), ran tape through it, as well as questionable expired film! It performs like a champ, and since I can attach all manner of stuff to it, the possibilities are endless. I can't wait to try wet plate collodion with it!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Polaroid Obsession, Part Eight: You win some, you lose some. 500 series cameras.

This rather small collection within a collection is of the 500 series film cameras. The flagship of the line is the Captiva or Vision camera. If it was intended to go toe to toe with the billion 80s and 90s point and shoot cameras, then it succeeded. And like those cameras, it is totally uninspiring and boring- and from a collector's standpoint, nearly worthless now. It had a simple automatic two phase focus, all exposure automatic with a built in flash and self timer. It ejected the pictures into an internal chamber for storage, so you could get the pictures later. I have no idea why that would be important as most people want to see the images instantly (kind of the point of instant photography). The pictures were small- just a bit bigger than Fuji Instax mini. 
The sole redeeming characteristic was that it was a folding SLR. Folding SLRs are amazing- the SX-70 was revolutionary. It is kind of sad that they put that much engineering into such a boring camera.  Why not a Spectra SLR? Perhaps it was used for ID badging, as it was also branded as Badge Cam.
The Joycam was the cheaper version, and by far the worst camera Polaroid ever made. It was intended for re-use, but built like a disposable. The film door was held on by a sticker. The film was ejected manually by a rip cord type apparatus. I personally thought manual eject was a great idea to reduce cost and weight. They should have had more cameras that used manual ejection, like the Kodak Handle.
The final one was a disposable instant camera called Pop Shots. You could send it in to Polaroid once you were done with it, or just pitch it. The problem with this idea was that there was no significant incentive to mail it in. I believe you got a coupon. With the typical disposable camera, you had to send it in to get the images. This camera was actually a bit better than the Joycam! 

As a camera maker of more than 50 years, Polaroid is getting a pass from me for building such pigs as the 500 series. Based on the size and depth of my collection of Polaroid cameras, you have to assume I am all in- a couple of duds don’t wreck it for me. I am, however, trying to think of the next great hack to turn these pigs into something more interesting…

Friday, October 7, 2016

My Polaroid Obsession Part Seven: Folding SX-70- Dr. Land's crowning achievement

Perhaps the most popular Polaroid camera today, the folding SX-70 was a design miracle at it's inception. It was the first folding slr, and the first camera ever to use integral instant film. Prior to this camera, the film shot from an instant camera required you to peel away a negative and dispose of it and some other scraps of paper. The breakthrough was that the integral film contained everything within one picture and ejected it out as a fully contained unit- no messy stuff to dispose of. Another miracle of this film was that you could have the experience heretofore only known to the darkroom lab worker- you could witness your picture developing right before your eyes.
In the age of miracles and wonder, we may not appreciate what it required to do such white magic. Polaroid integral film has been described as one of the most complex man made chemical products ever. This is because so much happens in fractions of seconds. Darkroom photography happens in stages: exposure, developer, stop, fix rinse, all with different chemicals over a period of minutes in a dark, controlled environment. Rinse alone can take 15 minutes, and this is just black and white photography! Integral film had to put all of that into a tiny pod and have it spread evenly, temporarily creating a darkslide (opacifier) that disappears after a few seconds allowing us to witness the picture emerging!
Another miracle was the camera itself. Dr. Land told his engineers that it should fit in his jacket pocket, and showed them a Cross pen box. Somehow, in the early seventies, they created a folding slr that was not too much larger than the pack itself! Later modifications offered the sonar auto-focus, among other advances.
These cameras were used by artists and professional photographers alike. The early SX-70 film could be pressed around and messed with to painterly effect for hours after taking the photograph. Andy Warhol is just one name in the “ who's who” of famous artists who worked with SX-70.
Fast forward to 2008. Polaroid discontinued their instant film and The Impossible Project(TIP) stepped in to fill the gap. With the next generation of film, The Impossible Project brought about a renaissance in the use of these old cameras. Available through TIP, Ebay, and Amazon, these cameras are afforded a second life. The “skins” or leatherette covers, are often worn or cracking, so enterprising people have stepped in to offer skins in many more colors and styles than were ever available before.
My collection consists of mostly re-skinned SX-70s, one re-skinned in actual wood veneer! The one with the gold skin is actually my favorite- given to me by my father in-law. He handed me this dirty chunk of something and said he thought it might be a camera, but he couldn't be sure- he didn't know how to open it. That chunk of something is what I enjoy shooting with today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bus stop

In the back of our crabgrass choked lot there is a small cement pad-nine foot by nine foot. Originally the home of a hot tub, it became an informal place to play music when the hot tub was moved closer to the house. Some friends of mine and I would get together semi- weekly when the weather would allow, and play until we couldn't see our notes(or our frets). Often in the fall, we would feed the cracked iron chiminea with whatever scrap I got from my basement art projects and dead fall from nearby trees.
This small pad was like a kitchen at a dinner party- everybody would gather on the pad. It was as if there was not room on the surrounding grass for standing or sitting. My friends would slip seamlessly from tune to tune while I would urgently try to find my notes and my place. Even my upright bass, the boat-sized instrument that it is, would find a home on that little pad.
Years went by and the group got smaller. Friends moved away. There were more pressing engagements than music in the back yard. The remaining players spent less time at the pad and more time in my painting studio. Temperature control and lack of mosquitoes won us over.
My friend Pete got a home on Armitage Road next to the bike path. The location is wonderful- an historic house with gardens all around at the end of a winding road, surrounded by the best of southeastern Ohio nature. The bike path is a rails- to- trails setup that is smooth and even for miles with a wonderful canopy of trees.
He suggested I bring my bass and we play at one of those small shelters they put along the bike path. I am not one to play for an audience, but he assured me that our audience only consisted of weary bike riders who may stop to draw from their water bottles. I found myself once again playing on a small pad, standing next to a picnic table. The roof overhead was a nice addition to a pad of concrete.
I started to dream up a plan for my backyard pad. It would definitely need a roof to keep out the light rain and snow. I would build something more intentional out of that little pad. Maybe I would include some seating that maximizes the space. The limiting factor would be money-I don't have any.
Within a month, my brother had donated a little red roof off of his grown children's playhouse, and his father in law gave me piles of scrap left over from a disassembled deck. I decided to add some old doors I had in the basement , and the project is underway! I can already imagine music and conversation in this old/new space.
Though it is well underway, it still looks transitional. It may always feel transitional, and that is OK. The odd shape and size asserted by the materials available makes it interesting and a bit awkward. My wife called it a bus stop(and follows the comment with “bus stop, wet day, she's there, I say”), and it is a bus stop. People coming and going, but it stays put for them.
The other day, I sought shelter from the rain under the little red roof, and I felt the energy of our little sessions- still there. This is going to be a great project!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fuji Instax Wide and Mini, dual film camera- how to hack the Instax Wide.

When you have the D.I.Y. Bug, sometimes you do things just to see if they will work. No true major goal, just will it work. I do a lot of that. Do things wrong, do things backwards, see what happens. As a painter, sculptor, and photographer, I love to push the medium. I like things a bit messy. When it comes to the mechanics of a camera, I like to see what else I can get from it. The camera is just interpreting reflected light, and I like to see if there are any fun ways to make it less literal, maybe more poetic. I also just like hacking stuff.
Fuji has two types of integral film for their instant camera line, Instax Wide and Instax Mini. A third type is on it's way- Instax Square. I just came up with a simple hack that makes the Instax Wide 210, and possibly other Fuji wide cameras accept all three packs. The mini is just simply a wide cut in half. The square, according to the news on this product, will just be a square a bit bigger than the mini(but no taller). So all three types should fit into the cartridge holder and likely will use the same eject engineering. The mini and wide already do, we will see about the square. 
Do not try this on a camera that you are not willing to break- there is a reason I called it a hack!
This hack is super simple. Slide out the pressure bars in the back of the film door. Be careful not to lose the spring. Cut an inch out of the center of the bar and then cut an inch out of the center of the mounting portion of the bar, but be sure to keep the backing that slides into the door. Experiment with empty packs of both the mini and the wide to get an idea of clearance necessary. Tape the open ends, and put the pressure bars back in the door.
Now you have an Instax Wide camera that can shoot both wide and mini (and most likely square). Why? I don't know. Maybe you only want to carry one camera. Maybe you just want to get messy and do things wrong, do things backwards. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

My Polaroid obsession part six: Spectra cameras- point and shoot with creativity!

The Polaroid Spectra line was made with the high end in mind. The film is the largest film they sold, wider by 5/8 inch. It could still function like a point and shoot camera, but came packaged with lots of versatile features, . like glass coated lens, timer, auto-focus, tripod socket, chime, flash on and off, and even accessories you could buy like closeup stand, effects filters, and macro lens. The most feature rich of the entire line, the Polaroid Spectra Pro, also came with creative features like multiple exposure, time exposure (like bulb), built in intervalometer, backlight compensation mode, and manual focus control. And if those features were not enough, in James Bond License to Kill there was a Polaroid Spectra that shot killer laser beams. I don't think that feature was available to the general public.

My collection includes a few strong favorites. The Pro Cam, for how ugly and big it is, the spectra pro for artistic versatility, and the image lcd for its folding lcd screen viewfinder- a last gasp attempt to appeal to the new lcd screen crazy digital population.

The top of my list is a very rare (in the states), Polaroid Spectra Blitz Street Camera which features wide angle, wide angle close up, and exposure control. It was a joint venture between Polaroid and the Lomographic Society ( the company that makes crazy creative cameras that artists and hipsters love but many gear snobs hate).

If you like integral film, but want more creative control- consider shooting with the Spectra line. Spectra film is available through TIP(the impossible project) and it is getting better all the time. You will have to add your own laser beam.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Polaroid obsession part five: I-Zone cameras- no rationalizing this!

How does one become a collector? Though there are many ways to rationalize collecting (preserving, sharing, specializing in, investing in, etc.) I chose the low road- denial.
My father has always been a collector, collecting stamps, postcards, military patches, and license plates. He knows just about everything there is to know about his license plate collection. His last apartment was basically papered in license plates, and he has a story or connection to each one. To the outsider, this collection bordered on obsession.
So when my wife pointed out that I was a collector of musical instruments, full blown denial kicked in. Though I have always heard that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I didn't want to be so easily labeled. What collection? All of my musical instruments are fully functional, and all are occasionally played. I don't own a single wall- hanger(useful only for aesthetic purposes)! Surely if they are all functional, then it is not a collection as much as a group of tools.
When I started collecting Polaroid cameras, I continued to employ this skewed logic. All of my cameras are fully functional and they still make film for them. If you have been following my Polaroid obsession, so far I have only shown cameras that are fully functional.
When I started collecting the I-Zone cameras, I had to learn to accept my addiction. Hello, I am Aaron, and I am a camera collector. The reason for my acceptance is that these cameras don't take any kind of film that is available. Even the expired film I have found has not worked in them. They are officially for legacy only. They also may exist as a cautionary tale!
Dr. Edwin Land, the inventor of Polaroid, was very much against making cheap, mass consumer products. His idea was to allow everyone access to cameras and instant development, but never at the cost of creating a bubble gum and sugar cereal type product, and this is exactly what the I-Zones were. They were marketed to children and tweens, and they were a powerful short term market. They made them with bright colors, simple use, sticker backing, and convenient size. They were an early version of the facebook post. You snapped them, shared them, stuck them on your wall, and wrote on them. Dr Land would have liked that part of the product, as he wanted shooting instant film to be an event. What he wouldn't have approved of is chasing the latest trend- the flash in the pan. He was about long term innovation.
Business wise, they were the hare, when Dr. Land preferred the tortoise. Not to say that he was slow, but he was steady. Dr. Land actually has the second most patents secured ever, with only Thomas Edison as his better. This “hare” shareholder and bottom line mentality was eventually the death of Polaroid.
So here is what collecting has become to me. It is a legacy preserving action, the parts forming the whole as a unique art piece. The collection is about content- not just about surface. There is a deeper read. Obsolescence captures the movement of time, and often the color, design, shape, and purpose of the object captures the spirit of the era. Oh, yeah- it is fun, too.