Playing with the impossible

The biggest challenge of our week in Morocco wasn’t the temperature (though it was really cold at night), the culture (despite the overzealous souk sellers) or the fact that it was our first time leading a retreat together (Jen and Amanda felt like friends I’d known forever). No, the biggest challenge was getting to grips with the instant film we were using.

We’d all rocked up with packets of Impossible film in our suitcases and the theme of the week quickly became How to Get the Best Out of the New Film. I’ve been eking out my remaining stash of original Polaroid film, not wanting to face the fact that my beloved film was no more, so I knew our retreat would be my chance to finally face reality and learn how to shoot with the new film. And learn I did…

Polaroid had had decades to perfect their integral film, so to expect the Impossible Project to have done the same in only two years is crazy. But they have achieved so much in such a short space of time. As many of the key chemicals used in the original Polaroid film are no longer manufactured, TIP has had to create their own instant film from scratch.

Every new batch of film is a leap forward from the last and I’m particularly impressed with how the Silver Shade films are progressing. I learned how to shoot on black & white film at college and have returned home excited to play with more of this film (PX600 and PX100). Without the emotional shorthand of colour to rely on, you’re left searching for light & shade and line & shape — I found the film worked best with strong compositions and punchy light.

Instant film is a physical, temperamental entity that requires patience and cunning to get it to do your bidding. The emulsion may crack (as you can see in the photo above). The photos need warmth to develop (cue 13 women warming their photos under their arms) and are so sensitive to light they must be shielded when they first exit the camera (the Impossible’s own darkslides worked best for me).

I shot this last photo in Le Cafe des Epices, the spot where all the tourists hangout, right in the middle of the medina. This isn’t the greatest shot in the world, but i love how the film really soaked up the sunshine, just like we were. The middle-aged couple sitting at the next table asked about my camera, intrigued that we were still able to find film for it (this wasn’t the first or last conversation I’d have about my camera that week — carrying an SX-70 is like walking around with a really cute show dog that everyone wants to stop and pet)

Moments later Abdul, the young and handsome rug seller, found me and asked if I’d be back the next day. But I’ll tell you his story tomorrow…

Look what arrived today!

The door bell rang — it was the postman. He had a package that wouldn’t fit through the letter box, so I buzzed him in and padded down the stairs in bare feet. Waiting for me was a package from Chronicle Books. Could it be…. ? I ran back back up the stairs (not a small feat), stood in my kitchen and ripped open the mailer. And there it was — the book I created with Jen and Amanda. :) There’s not much light today but I had to take a Polaroid of it — and here are the Instagram shots taken as I first looked through the pages. A red letter day, frends!

* The book won’t actually be available till May, but you can pre-order (and possibly get it sooner) on Amazon…

The beauty of Karen

Last week I enjoyed 24 hours of decent health before phlegm-gate started, which was lucky because that’s when Karen and I had arranged to meet at Jamie’s. We’d first met three years ago when she and her wee family were last in the UK visiting relatives, so we had a lot to catch up on — and catch up we did! In that time we’ve both written books, started teaching and built businesses that are manifestations of our hearts, so it was qute something to be able to compare notes and witness how far each other had come. Of course, after lunch we decamped to a Milsom Street bench to take the obligatory portrait-of-the-blogger, something that made us both squirm (okay, maybe I squirmed more — Karen, I’m sorry!), but we got the shots and with a breathless embrace we said our farewells. Just before we parted, we held hands for a moment and Karen told me I seemed happy now. When she’d first met me I’d only just moved to Bath and was getting ready to teach an evening class that would prove to change my life. Those first months here hadn’t been easy, and I remember talking to her about grief in a way that proved it was still so present in my everyday life. So to hear her words last week — for her to have seen and noted the changes in me — was a gift that I’ve been carrying with me ever since. Thank you for that, my friend x