The Polaroid portrait

These are some of the Polaroid portraits I took while I was away last month.

Nine times out of ten I get the shot on my first attempt, meaning I usually only expose one Polaroid, but sometimes that doesn’t work out and I take two or three (I did this with Bindu’s portrait below – I thought I wanted a more serious shot, but the one I liked best? The first one, of course :)

What I like most about taking a Polaroid portrait is how the combination of the camera + film + moment means I slow down and so does the person I’m photographing. I tell them to relax and close their eyes while I focus, then ask them to look at me/the camera, holding my breath as I wait for the right moment to press the shutter button. Sometimes I’ll say something silly to make them laugh; sometimes i don’t. Sometimes I ask them to think about someone they love. I can feel that they trust me, and that the camera is a part of me; by only taking a single shot there’s none of the awkward intrusion you get with a digi, when you’re firing off 10, 20, 30 frames like a machine gun.

There’s just one clunky vintage camera, and me and my held breath.

And nine times out of ten that is enough.

[from top: Bindu, Tammy, Meghan, Christine, Lisa, Bindu, Melissa, Liz]

So good they named it twice

I was so happy when this Polaroid developed. It was boiling hot and we were checking out Chinatown, sweatily and slowly; I saw this little girl with her mother and paused for a moment, knowing I had one shot left in my camera. I don’t often take photos of strangers, let alone random people in the street, but there was something i knew i had to catch, and as they walked towards me i quickly pressed the shutter button, with my breath held, trying to not look like i was doing what i was doing. When i see people wielding cameras in the street i generally avoid their lenses; i don’t think the camera steals your soul, but i’d still rather not appear in their holiday snaps. As a rule you should always ask people if you can take their photograph, and that day i understood why street snappers use the zoom lenses they do – all the better to get those candid shots. It’s unlikely that this woman will ever know she is here on my blog, but her Polaroid is my favourite from the 100+ I shot; I wish i’d stopped and thanked her.
Later, we were in the West Village, buying cupcakes and geeking out over Carrie’s house*. Looking like a more chi-chi version of Notting Hill, the West Village seduced me in seconds; I almost embarrassed myself stalking these two women along Bleeker Street, and while i’d have never had the balls to ask to take their picture, this shot perfectly encapsulates that afternoon for me.

My week in New York City can be summed up in eight words: absolutely amazing and i want to live there. I know i come back from every new city wanting to live there, but this time it was different**. I can see why London and New York are so connected; it’s as if they’ve scooped out the juicy flesh of London, plonked it on an island and sprinkled it with razzmatazz. I LOVED it. The first two days i walked around on my own and was in my element – cameras, coffees, a bit of shopping, people watching, chats with strangers, cab hailing (i got it down to a fine art) and plenty of oohs and ahhs as I wandered happily, Polaroid in hand.

This is a love affair that’s only just started. New York, my new love, I’ll be back next year…

* tragic, i know. we tried to play it cool
** I probably say that too.

Day six

Current bedtime reading. For the August break.

Side note: I bought this book while in Montreal last September and I love it to bits – it really makes me want to hang out with Miranda July and be her pal. I also love the physicality of the book – paperback books in North America have much thinner and more supple covers than books here in the UK; I love the feel of them and how they mould to my hand. This is why i could never swap my books for a Kindle. Ever. I mean, how would I scribble in the margins?

Day five

Blue things on my side table. For the August break.

As of 9:50am on day five of the August break there are 405 members and 1,171 images in the Flickr pool – it’s such a treat to be able to dip into so many worlds while I’m confined to my sofa writing my book (and by ‘writing’ i mean think-about-and-agonise. Maud had been locked in a cupboard but i can still hear her taunts. Buying ear plugs this afternoon.)