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. 

Second, none of these albums truly present Polaroids to their best. There is no isolation of the photo from the background, such as a good mat would provide. In most cases, album pages display a gang of four prints cheek-by-jowl, on a single page.

Yes, these albums do have a casualness that is perhaps appropriate to the way Polaroids are typically consumed so I am not dismissing their utility and why they are so popular. But, to me, these albums are more of a warehousing approach.

I prefer a standard scrapbook with thick paper pages and photos mounted one or two per page with photo corners. When I turn a page, all I see is my photo nicely framed on a broad white or black background.

The problem is that SX-70’s are quite thick, much thicker than paper-based photos that are normally put in albums. Most scrapbooks are not designed to accommodate this thickness. Once a Polaroid is mounted on each page of a scrapbook you will find that the album bulges badly and the pages sag under the weight of an SX-70. Not ideal.

It is possible to modify a standard scrapbook to make it work but it takes some effort.

I started with a good quality screw bound album such as those made by Goldbuch. Their Summertime 25cm x 30 cm Extendable Screw Bound Album No. 26606 has a clean-looking linen hard cover and 20 relatively thick white pages.  One or two photos can be laid out on a page using clear photo corners. But, to make it work with Polaroids, I had to remove the screw posts, cut 20 strips of 2-ply conservation board to place along the spine and act as spacers between each page, punch the strips to match the album’s screw post holes (this requires an adjustable three-hole punch) and then reassemble the album using longer screw posts.

That’s a lot of work and, although the photos are presented the way I like and the album looks professional, I find the page thickness is still too light in weight to support Polaroids. 

Enter Grimm Books. Iris Grimm of Boston makes handsome custom designed archival albums and scrapbooks that are ideal for Polaroids. She does, in fact, make Polaroid albums and, although they come with the standard plastic sleeves, they look fantastic.

I went a different direction with my Grimm book. 

In 2020, I was researching album ideas for my “From Our Windows” project that would show my SX-70 photos at their best. My inspiration was the book “William Eggleston: Polaroid SX-70,” published by Steidl in 2019. It’s an extraordinary book showcasing Eggleston’s Polaroids, well worth owning, but I was particularly taken by the book design which, I understand, was meant to imitate the photographer’s own Polaroid-brand album. The Steidl book pages are black, the photo frames are spot printed with white ink and the images are spot varnished glossy, the most accurate reproduction of SX-70s I’ve seen! I loved the look and feel of the heavy black scrapbook paper. 

William Eggleston: Polaroid SX-70

Which led me to order a Grimm personalized 8 ½” x 11” portrait photo album with 80 pages. I chose the book cloth and end paper colours. At that time, I had not completed the project but was anticipating about 68 SX-70 photos spread over 72 pages with most of the photos laid out with one photo centred on each page in a two page spread. Any remaining pages would be used for text on paper inserts or ‘out take’ photos.

The linen cover cloth and endpapers comes in a wide array of lively colour combinations to choose from. The Grimm album pages are normally white but I worked with Iris Grimm to substitute these for a heavy black paper at a slight surcharge. Linen threads of the long stitch binding show on the spine of the album and can be colour coordinated with the linen cover cloth. For my book, a black linen thread was used to match the black paper. I selected my title, font and placement on the cover and Iris emailed me a proof for approval. She also determined the depth of the spine to accommodate my photographs while ensuring that it would not bulge when filled.

I made a couple of L-shaped paper templates that would help me position a photo or two on the page and used two small binder clips to pin the template to the top right corner of the page. Small strips of masking tape near each corner of a scrap SX-70. With a clear photo corner lightly stuck on a fingertip, I would push it tightly into a corner and use the masking tape to hold it in place. With all four corners attached, it’s a simple matter to position the photo against the template, press the corners into place, loosen the tape, remove the scrap photo and replace it with the good photo. 

The album comes with clear plastic photo sleeves that slip over the individual pages. At the time of ordering, I was not so averse to using plastic sleeves but, once I received the finished album and started loading the photos, it was clear (sorry) that they would be discarded.

I’m extremely happy with my Grimm album. It’s a well designed, good looking book. The black pages are thick enough to support mounted SX-70s and the pages lay flat when opened. One of the advantages of an album presentation is that the photos can be sequenced to develop a visual storyline from start to finish. It’s like a photobook except, in this case it’s a book of original artwork. And, if the urge or need strikes, the photos can be removed without harm and mounted in a frame using one of the techniques I’ve talked about in my previous posts. 

Of course, there is a premium to be paid for such a bespoke product, USD $128 in my case. But, considering the enormous film costs for this project it seems only fitting to get the best possible album. 

My recommendation: if you are serious about your Polaroid photography and if have an edited set of photos you are proud and want to share with others, seriously consider a Grimm album. 

Resources:

Grimm Books: https://grimm-books.com 

Goldbuch Summertime Photo Album, 25 x 30 cm: https://www.deserres.ca/products/summertime-photo-album-25-x-30-cm?variant=39362042790021

Goldbuch Bella Vista Photo Album, 25 x 30 cm: https://www.goldbuch.de/en/photo-albums/our-classics/bella-vista/1621/schraubalbum-bella-vista?c=541

More From Me:

Check out my SX-70 YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/c/WalkClickMake

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dfirman/

Firmangallery portfolio and store: https://www.firmangallery.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s