Friday, 9 July 2010

Photography as an Event

I'm sure you can imagine my delight when my son Jim shared this image with me on facebook. It was taken by a friend of his called Annah Legg, she is at the same university, the picture is of her and her flatmates at their 'digs' (over a diner where you can get obscene stacks of pancakes with bacon and maple syrup!)

For me there is a delicious irony in the fact that this polaroid picture has been photographed with a mobile phone in order to share it with a wider audience via Facebook. If one were to be strictly logical about the situation then obviously the picture would have been taken with the mobile phone in the first place. If it had though then I for one would probably not have given it a second glance. There is something so very special about Instant Photography - Polaroid in particular - it makes an event out of photography.

I honestly do not believe that most people would go to the trouble of setting up a photograph like this one only to take the picture with a phone - no, this required the arranging of the flatmates at their respective windows, the enlistment and briefing of a photographer (Jim tells me that it was a complete stranger who happened to be walking past! - which, if true, makes the story even better) and a clear idea of what could be expected, in short planning.

Then, when the Polaroid has been taken you have that excitement of waiting while the picture emerges from the chemical soup between the layers into some approximation of what you had hoped for. In this case I'm sure Annah and her flatmates must have been dead chuffed!

Having seen the picture on Facebook (currently Annah's profile picture) - I got in touch with Jim and asked him if he could get the original, or a scan so I could write about it. Well there do seem to be some differences... I tried to figure out from the pictures which one was the wrong way around and which was the closest to the correct colour but in the end I felt that it didn't matter...

It's a great picture and it celebrates the fun side of photography.

I could have left it there, with a huge vote of thanks to Annah for agreeing to let me write this stuff about her - without discussing the circumstances with her at all so I hope the actual 'event' was not too far from what I have described... However, I thought I should have a look at her pictures on Facebook. This one was such fun I thought there might be more - and there were! plenty and of a great standard.

I chose two more, the first here because again it is a picture of a Polaroid - a very nice Polaroid. I like this on several levels, I like it because it is both a nice Polaroid picture and a nice picture of a Polaroid, in a way this makes Polaroid both the material and the subject.

The last picture so beautifully illustrates another great charm of Polaroid I just couldn't resist. Four friends recording their having been together. A Polaroid taken, by the looks of it, with a great deal of hilarity and then inscribed by each of them. That is a real 'Polaroid' thing, the possession of a physical object straight away, not a list of binary code that needs to be extracted by a computer but a proper photograph.

So, thank you Annah for so beautifully illustrating my thoughts about Polaroid, making an event out of photography and for enjoying photography with such abandon!


  1. My guess. The photo was not taken on a mobile, but using the camera in a Mac laptop and it's set up to mirror the picture.

  2. Good thinking, it would explain the eye peeking round the side of the picture.

  3. hah true, it was on photobooth! but the same idea as a mobile!