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#134 :: Polaroid SX-70

June 23, 2004

seek look ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>About 35 years ago, a student of my father’s pulled a slick slab of leather and chrome from his overcoat pocket and performed an act of origami sorcery I’ll never forget. Polaroid had given the guy one of the first SX-70 instant cameras, a few bricks of film, and marching orders to test it wherever and whenever he could. He pinched, and lifted and the slab unfolded in a slow, balletic explosion of inclined planes, black bellows and pivoting glass. I was completely mesmerized. He aimed, focused, and snapped, and the thing extruded a squarish rectangle that went from a white mist to a full-color photo of my little brother and me. Then with a pop and shuffle, he collapsed the camera into a slab again and slipped it back into his pocket with the slyest grin a recent college graduate could muster. I was used to Flash-Cubed Instamatics that teased and tortured, making me wait for weeks to see my photos until my Dad retrieved them from the drugstore. This – this was miraculous. I got a non-folding SX-70 for high school graduation years later, and spent the better part of my time in photo classes blowing through packs of film, gouging and abusing freshly-shot emulsion in a juvenile attempt to imitate Lucas Samaras and Les Krims. I found this top-of-the-line model in an antique store in Ventura a few years back – to replace an earlier folding model I owned. You can still buy the film – mostly at professional photo stores, though occasionally you’ll run across it at drug stores. You can use the crazy-fast 600 film if you don’t mind stopping everything way down and just dealing with the overexposure – I had a nice portfolio of stuff I shot at Joshua Tree not long back on the black-and-white stock. The cameras can be had on eBay for a song, and if you’re a true ‘Roid geek, you’ll enjoy the Hacker’s Guide to the SX-70.”

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