Area photographer finding infinite variety
Most of us are familiar with Polaroid, both the camera and its photograph. But for a moment let us be the photographer.
For July there are a series of subtly toned, subtly captured Polaroid prints lining the long wall at Press Cafe in Ithaca.
Polaroid cameras produce a boxy frame that you need to stick your nose up to, to where you can take a peak inside the world of local artist Roslyn Julia.
The exhibit is just a sampling of what Julia can do with an “old fashioned” camera.
The Polaroid was billed as an all-in-one package; camera, negative, chemistry and positive. The thing produced is an analog bottom weighted image framed in white. As a kid I always thought this extra matting was a place to grab hold with thumb and forefinger and fan the alchemy into action–an early from of going digital.
Polaroid the camera is a mechanical gizmo with spinny gears and limited intelligence. The human pointer finger trips the shutter, rollers draw the print from the mouth of the camera body ready to be plucked free from it’s mysterious innards. After exposure the ejection process doubles as a way of developing the film.
This untitled polaroid above, photographed by Julia, is bottom heavy because the chemistry is housed in a photo-chemical pouch. On ejection the exposed image is doused in this slurry and an “instant” is squeezed into existence.
Polaroid cameras are a bring-your-own-postcard-maker born out of the “auto-matic” syndrome of the 50’s. A hand-me-down token of the past experienced in the present.
Photographers aim to bring something to light. What Julia brings to light is transience. Things aren’t permanent and there is a special quality to the present moment. Her works are fleeting glances that resonate with a feeling of the eternal, reminding me of the 1989 R.E.M song “Stand,” combined with the start of William Blake’s “To See A World”–
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Within the confines of the frame she captures a vital energy, or in popular parlance, a George Lucian “force.” Those extra-special specimens seem to simultaneously be a photo of everything and nothing.
Photographers bring with them their best intentions, relying on equipment and intuition. The results may be one of three things; their exact intention, an unintended happy accident, or a disastrous blob. For Roslyn Julia her results are hard proof of presence and remembrance, capitalizing on imperfection and uncertainty. As in the leading featured image.
The image is of a murder of crows tracked by the photographer in a moving vehicle at perhaps 45 to 55mph. Prior to exposure imagine road clutter like traffic signs, power lines and underbrush whizzing through the viewfinder. The photographer knows there is a decisive moment somewhere in there where something unique and different can be captured. But mostly nothing happens at all.
Just as the shutter opens the birds stop their motion and by happenchance a water tower is caught in frame–both out of focus and motion blurred. The overall image introduces the viewer to other – worldliness, an experience of an undefinable macrocosm or perhaps a microcosm of life and movement. Without being clever this photographer captures immediacy and intimacy.
Many of her images have recognizable outliers in the frame like a tree branch or a power pole or bubbles that we could call “subjects.” These subjects weigh down the image while her sensitive use of negative space releases you from the confines of the frame and refer to something beyond.