Presenting Polaroids Part 7: Making A Portfolio Boxed Set

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

In this final episode of Presenting Polaroids I’m going to look at a hybrid approach that lies somewhere between an album and a framed print hung on a wall. A portfolio box is basically a set of matted prints stored in a presentation box. It’s an approach you might use for a set of curated prints that hang together thematically. Or they might be a collection outstanding Polaroids taken over a period of time. Unlike hanging a few framed prints on the wall—and let’s face it, finding a good amount of wall space can be difficult—showing matted prints in a box allows a viewer to sit down and browse an entire series of photos. And, compared to an album, viewing a set of SX-70 prints highlighted in a white mat conveys a sense of value that you, as the photographer, place on your images. And, if you were pursuing gallery shows, showing a boxed portfolio of your Polaroids set in clean white mats is an expression of your professionalism, that you are serious about your craft.          

Continue reading

Presenting Polaroids Part 6: Framing the Image

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

Most publications displaying Polaroid SX-70 images will include its iconic white frame. After all it is an intrinsic part of the presentation, a self-contained frame that needs nothing more than to be held in the hand to be a complete presentation. 

However, as a photographer, my focus is on the image I want to make, not the white frame that makes an appearance after the film is ejected from the camera. When I look through the viewfinder of my folding SX-70 camera, I see only the image area, not the frame. Edwin Land was very specific in wanting nothing to interfere with the image seen through the viewfinder; the image was everything to Land. 

Continue reading

Presenting Polaroids Part 5: On With The Show

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

Here’s a short video tour of my recent photo exhibition, “From Our Windows: Polaroids by David Firman,” held at the Winnipeg Architectural Foundation (WAF) in Winnipeg, April-May 2022.

I hope you enjoy the show (of course) but the primary purpose of this video is show how I used the techniques described in my previous post and video, “Presenting Polaroids Part 4: Framing the Icon.”

Continue reading

Presenting Polaroids Part 4: Framing the Icon

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

To my mind, there are two paths to framing Polaroid SX-70 prints. The first is to highlight the image, making it the focus of the framed print. This path will be considered in “Part 6: Framing The Image.” 

Today, I’ll delve into the second path: a celebration of the iconic form of the SX-70 photo, which includes not just the image area but the entire “frame” of the print as ejected from the camera. It’s an industrial design form that anyone, anywhere, can easily identify as a Polaroid. It is so embedded in our cultural psyche that it is still borrowed for countless advertising campaigns. Think of how rare that is.

The other feature of the SX-70 is its tactility. When it’s ejected from the camera, you grab it by the edges. Arguably, you can hold it while it develops. And 15 minutes later, you can pass it on to others to gaze upon the magic of an “instant” picture. There is a solidity to the object that feels good in the hand. It’s thicker, much thicker, than your average photo. And it seems to fit between the fingertips so naturally.

The first series I completed after being reintroduced to SX-70 photography in 2020 was “From Our Windows.” Right from the get-go, I was thinking about how I would eventually present these photos if I was to have a show someday.  I wanted to emphasize the images (of course) but also the iconic SX-70 form and the tactile, hand-holdable nature of an SX-70 photo.

It struck me that my SX-70 photos needed to float above the mount board and be held in place with finger-like mounting strips or corners, almost as if I’m holding the photo in my hand and saying to the viewer “Look at this!”

Continue reading

Presenting Polaroids Part 3: The Grimm Truth About Albums

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

There are many options for storing SX-70s in albums. Polaroid makes them. There are crafty versions on Etsy and elsewhere. There’s the 3-ring binder approach using with PrintFile 44-8P print preserver sheets. All work and most are archival safe. 

I have a two issues with these types of albums. 

They all use some form of plastic sleeve to hold photos. Sure, they’re sold as ‘crystal clear’ plastic sleeves but pop in a Polaroid and all I see is the shiny dimensionality of my photos being sapped by the reflective and slightly cloudy plastic sleeves. 

Continue reading

Presenting Polaroids Part 2: Conservation Tactics

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

Before getting into the meat of presentation techniques, I thought I should discuss the conservation materials used in the upcoming posts and videos. Coming from a black and white gelatine silver print background, proper processing, storage and display to maximize the longevity of my prints has always been a concern. I can’t help but be equally careful with my current Polaroid SX-70 integral film photos.

Most photographic print materials typically have an exposed emulsion layer on a paper substrate which makes them particularly vulnerable to acidic materials, physical wear-and-tear and what-have-you. This demands mount boards and mats that meet conservation standards and mounting corners or hinges that are not only acid-free and archival but allow for the print to be removed (to be repaired or reframed) without physical damage.

However, SX-70s are significantly different; the emulsion is sandwiched between polyester sheets front and back with white plastic seals along all edges. To that extent, you would think SX-70s are less vulnerable than paper-based prints to acidic matting and mounting materials. It’s hard to gauge because so little is known about the longevity of SX-70 photos. 

Continue reading

Presenting Polaroids Part 1: Getting Started

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

So far, my Polaroid-centric videos and blog posts have focussed on the technical side of getting a good SX-70 image on that shiny piece of plastic that comes out of the camera. Many will be duds but, with luck and a little bit of skill, some of those photos will be so beautiful that they demand some way of presenting them to the world that capitalizes on and reinforces their beauty.

Back in my darkroom days, spending hours tweaking an image to make the best possible print was a rewarding process. But when I matted them, framed them and hung them on the wall, well, that took the experience to a whole different level.

The Polaroid experience is different of course. The little package of polyester and chemicals that ejects from my camera is the negative, the darkroom and the print all in one. When it works, it is a truly rewarding experience and, just as I did with my darkroom prints, I have that same urge to make the best possible presentation out of my little SX-70s.

That’s what this series of posts is about. I want to move beyond pinning a bunch of Polaroids to the wall or, what I would call, warehousing Polaroids in plastic sleeves in an album.  I want to take my photos to the next level. I want to see them—and for others to see them—as the extraordinary little jewels that they are. In short, I want them to pop.

Continue reading

A Last Walk With Styxx

This week, Gail and I bid farewell to Styxx, our much beloved greyhound/lurcher.

Styxx came into our lives on December 14, 2013 after a journey that started in Ohio and Michigan and ended at his forever home that cold winter night in Winnipeg. So began the adventures of we three comrades, bonded by unending loyalty and affection. Adventures that would see us wandering through our city, across Manitoba, and as far west as Vancouver. We shared salmon pasta at home, shawarma and fries on Garbage Hill and pickerel in Gimli. He supervised wine tasting in the Okanagan and cider-sipping in Saskatoon. 

And, of course, he was the subject of many, many photographs.

Continue reading

Plane Jane: A Walk to the Airport (2022 Edition)

Looking for a good long walk on one of Winnipeg’s first spring-like days? This Saturday, join tour leaders Gail Perry and David Firman for a unique walk from our house to YWG, Winnipeg’s international airport. It’s our contribution to Jane’s Walk 2022.

This is a fun but long walk so be sure to read the following not-so-fine print:

Date and time

Sat, 7 May 2022

12:00 PM – 3:00 PM CDT

You can register for this free walking tour on Eventbrite but, if it’s a last minute decision to join in, just show up at noon on Saturday.

The walk starts at 521 Raglan Road, in the Wolseley neighbourhood. This is our home. We will gather in the front yard. There are major bus stops at Raglan Road and Valour Road serving all Portage Avenue bus routes within 290 metres or a 4 minute walk.

This is a fun but long walk so be sure to read the following not-so-fine print:

Continue reading

Your invitation to my photography exhibition: From Our Windows

I’d like to invite you to my upcoming photo exhibition, “From Our Windows: Polaroids by David Firman” at the Winnipeg Architectural Foundation (WAF), 266 McDermot Avenue in Winnipeg. 

“From Our Windows” is a personal story of life contained within four walls. Set during the early days of COVID-19, the story explores the relationship of sanctuary to the now-viral world outside, separated yet connected through thin sheets of glass. In the late 1970s, photographer André Kertész was living a parallel narrative. Old age and isolation—his wife had recently passed—left him looking through the window of his New York apartment, a story he told through Polaroid pictures and his 1981 book, “From My Window”. Separated from Kertész’s by forty years, I see my work as a synchronous search for beauty in the face of loss.

The show runs April 1-29 and will be open for viewing noon to 4:00 PM, Monday to Friday.

On April 1, 7:00 to 9:00 PM there will also be an ‘alfresco’ opening, meaning that I will greet you on the street in front of the WAF gallery.

Note that, due to the tight exhibit space, masks are required and access is limited to two people per visit.  

I’d love to meet you at the opening but feel free to pay a visit anytime during the month of April. And, if you can’t get to the show, all the photos can be viewed on my website, www.firmangallery.com.

Lastly, there is a companion book, “From Our Windows” available for purchase at the opening or on my website www.firmangallery.com.

Regards,

David