“From Our Windows” is directly influenced by the 1981 book by photographer André Kertész. At that time, he too was constrained by the walls of his twelfth floor apartment overlooking Washington Square, in New York City. For Kertész, it was frailty and old age—he was 87 years old in 1981—that limited his movements and frustrated his creativity as a venerated street photographer. And he recently lost his wife. And he felt trapped in America, barely acknowledged for his earlier photographic achievements in Europe. So he channelled that creative energy through an evocative series of SX-70 Polaroid photographs, looking to the world beyond his windows and reflecting on his life just inside those windows. The result was his book, “From My Window”.
I haven’t overtly drawn inspiration from Kertész in my own work or thought much about his photographs for many years. Yet, somehow, in this time defined so completely by the Covid-19 pandemic, I drew on some long-past memory of Kertész’s book, “From My Window”. It is a book I vaguely remember holding shortly after its publication decades ago, and revisited just weeks ago, at the start of our lockdown, with the acquisition of my own used copy. It confirmed what I subconsciously remembered about Kertész’s series. I saw the parallels, the frustration of being contained, the mind willing but the willing body restrained. And I saw the beauty that flows from those limitations.
“From Our Windows” is part homage to Kertész’s precedent-setting photography and part response to our current pandemic with the self-isolation it demands. The intent is to weave between these two worlds, separated by forty years yet sharing so many common threads.
“From Our Windows” will consist of instant photos taken from the vantage point of self-isolation using a vintage SX-70 Polaroid camera (introduced in 1972). Polaroid has been out of business for a number of years but the film for the SX-70 cameras is now being remanufactured by Polaroid Originals (formerly The Impossible Project).
Much like a daguerrotype, Polaroid instant prints are miniature, unique artifacts. There is no negative, no ready means to reproduce them. There can be only one original. My intention is to eventually exhibit the series. But, more immediately, there will be a self-published book with a selection of scanned instant prints and a personal essay.
While Kertész’s use of the Polaroid instant camera is an obvious precedent, conceptually the idea of a unique image fits well with the singular situation created by the pandemic, one that forces us to abandon the pattern of our everyday lives. And, more personally, the pandemic has required me—or offered me—an opportunity to conjure a creative panacea to my temporary confinement.
We will see where this goes.
If you wish to follow along, I will be posting to my blog WalkClickMake.com (click the Follow button to have updates delivered to your email inbox) as well as Twitter (@firmangallery), my personal Facebook newsfeed (David Firman), my Facebook page (walkclickmake) and Instagram (dfirman).