Impossible PhotosSailor Girl (2014)

The Stanford marshmallow experiment has been a leitmotif in my life of late, i.e. the notion of an immediate, cheap thrill vs. putting time and effort into something more gratifying down the line.

Mostly, I’ve been thinking about this spectrum in terms unrelated to photography/image making but I think it serves here.

Plenty of folks more brilliant than I have used a marshmallow now vs. two marshmallows later as a reference for the digital vs. analog divide. I am absolutely inclined to agree with this premise but it does suggest an interesting question with regards to instant films: is instant film a one marshmallow or two marshmallow sort of thing?

Although the question invites an either/or answer, I think it’s actually neither. Or perhaps, it’s marshmallows are fucking disgusting or no marshmallows or maybe three marshmallows after 2-3 minutes.

I mean the Polaroid aesthetic–the sort of mid-50s through 70s overexposed, soft-focus, yellow shifting tinge–has become so ubiquitous as to be monolithic. Yet, the thing that–for me at least–distinguished instant film formats was their near-immediacy.

Almost certainly the absence of middlemen and labs was why Polaroid has this sort of illicit connotation. It democratized porn making, in a way. Instead of consuming what porn purveyors sold, one could–in relative privacy–produce images specifically tailored to individual tastes. And I think for me, the aesthetic has a believability to it.

The thing artist were slow to realize is that even considering the limits of creative control, instant films offered skill and patience the most exquisite rewards.

I don’t think the above images are great or necessarily even good (excluding the one in the upper left hand corner–which while I object to the decapitation of the model by the top frame edge gives a very rich since of location, texture), but they are interesting if for nothing else than the lucious tones. Plus, the defects and fingerprints contribute a sense of character to what are artfully executed but ultimately one-dimensional rehash of tired heteronormative erotic tropes.

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