20×24 Studio bio picture
  • 20×24 Studio, the Home of Large Format Instant Photography

    It has now been five years since 20x24 Holdings LLC took possession of the film inventory and production equipment required for large format 20x24 instant film from Polaroid Corporation. In that time we have set up production facilities in Ashland, Massachusetts.. We continue to offer access to this venerable technology through our studio at Lincoln Center as well as the 20x24 Studio West space in San Francisco. Film is also available to owners of 20x24 instant systems through direct sales. The New York Studio and 20x24 Holdings LLC is managed by Executive Director John Reuter. His experience spans nearly thirty five years in large format instant photography. Joining him is Nafis Azad, Director of Photography, and Theo McLelland, Director of Research and Reagent Manufacturing. The 20x24 Studio will expand with two new cameras in 2015, one in NYC and the second in Germany. For further information e-mail us at info@20x24studio.com or call our Google Voice number 347-614-1818.

In 1987 Polaroid sent John Reuter and the 20×24 camera to Miami to work with renowned multi-media artist Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg had used photography extensively as collage material in his own paintings but was not known as a photographer. Rauschenberg had many ideas for location shoot images and at a pre-shoot dinner he described to Reuter what kind of situations he would like to put the camera in.  Reuter would diplomatically counter with the physical restrictions and limitations of the 235 pound camera in outdoor location scenarios.  After the fourth or fifth qualification from Reuter, Rauschenberg proclaimed in exasperation “why, it sounds like this camera is made out of string and cardboard!” ” Not quite”, Reuter replied and the next few days the camera travelled the streets of Miami capturing the grit and strange beauty as only Rauschenberg could see it. As they were working Reuter described a film he did not bring to Miami as it was not requested.  That film was Polapan 400, a Type 52 equivalent that required a print coater and so was not suitable for outdoor location work.  Reuter told Rauschenberg how this film had to have the coater painted on with a foam paint brush or the silver would bleach away.  Rauschenberg immediately got the idea to partially apply coater to the image and allow the bleaching process to alter the image.   They would meet again in the New York studio in 1988 and Rauschenberg brought many of his favorite black and white images to re-photograph.  They decided to make some single panel enlargements and some much bigger multi panel enlargements.  Rauschenberg applied the coater solution to the images in the studio in a unique Rauschenbergian way.  The images were sent to his studio in Captiva, Florida and subjected to all of the elements Rauschenberg could throw at them, sun, brushes, bleach, and high pressure water.  At the end of the process the images were mounted on steel panels.  These images were shown recently at an exhibit at Pace MacGill gallery in New York and can be seen in a book on Rauschenberg’s art by Phaidon.

andromeda 7In 2013 artist Jeff Enlow approached the 20×24 Studio with the idea to expand his project “Parallelograms” to the 20×24 format. Jeff had been working for some time in 4×5 format and dreamed of scaling it up to the pinnacle of the large format instant experience. After a half day test session to be sure it would work Jeff embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to fund further shooting sessions. This was the first Kickstarter we know of to underwrite a 20×24 project and the response was enthusiastic. With the Kickstarter proceeds Jeff was able to fund several more sessions, completing his vision for the Parallelograms series with a flourish.



Behind the scenes photos by Bryan Derballa.

Jeff writes of his experiences with the 20×24:

I first discovered the 20×24 as a young student flipping through an American Photo Magazine. There was a small feature on the camera at Sundance. I remember being amazed by the size and weight of the camera. I always loved instant film but this was something else all together. At that time in my life using the 20×24 camera was well beyond my means or skill level. I stored the idea in the back of my mind till I had a project that called for the camera.

When I first conceived of Parallelograms, central to the project was that the images had to feel physical. I wanted to make an image that felt more like making a painting. There is a certain draw to seeing an original one of a kind painting in a museum or gallery that I felt is lacking in photography. Shooting on instant film became the bridge between those two mediums.

Visually, Parallelograms is a study of the topography of the human body. Multiple exposures allow the eye to wander in and out of the intersecting and diverging hills and valleys of the human figure. The unexpected shapes that are revealed in the merging of the two exposures is a wholly new creation—a sacred third entity—that exists in no other plane but on that single instant film sheet.

I start with a general sketch of an image in my head and first shoot it on 4×5 Fuji pack film.  I collaborate with the model and decide the basic structure and flow I am looking for. From there, there are lots of micro adjustments like “drop your chin down, pull this arm back, hide that piece of hair;” I shoot one exposure, then we reset and do it all again. I mark on the ground glass the outline of the first image; so that when we shoot the second image I can try and guide it to flow well.  I can steer the image in the direction I want, but the final print has a gestalt that is beyond omniscience.

There is a bit of translation that happens between shooting on the 4×5 and the 20×24. Using a medium as big as the 20×24 I had to rethink my relationship with both the model and the camera. I couldn’t just show up and reshoot my existing 4×5 images. I have a greater level of flexibility in the smaller 4×5 camera. I can push the camera into different positions and angles that aren’t possible when you are working with a camera a 1000 times larger.

Despite having this massive impedance between the model and myself I was able to achieve an intimacy on the 20x24s that I hadn’t reached before. The intense detail captured transforms the photos into truly rich character studies. It takes a lot of bravery for a model to stand nude in front of the camera. There is little you can hide from a 20×24 Polaroid, every freckle, blemish, and hair is exposed and enlarged.

Using the 20×24 forced me to dramatically slow down. Because of the size and complexity of the camera, along with the rarity and cost of film I only shot 10 – 12 images in a day. This makes little room for error, but also makes for an interesting and nuanced edit of the images. Additional versions of the same image are presented next to one another to highlight the subtle shifts that happen while shooting.

Working with the 20×24 Polaroid creates a craftsmanship to each image that elevates the photo beyond just the culmination of pigments in emulsion. Like brushstrokes on a canvas, subtle details reveal the hidden history of each image. The temperature and humidity in the room, the age of the film and camera, the motion of how the emulsion is pulled—all these elements combine to make a final image that has a visual language and personality unique to itself.

Camera Ready is a documentary film about the origins and history of the Polaroid 20×24 Studio. Directed by John Reuter the film will chronicle the artists and people inside Polaroid Corporation that made the 20×24 a legendary medium. With interviews of artists, curators, museum directors and the people inside Polaroid who made it happen this film will tell the story of this amazing project. The expected release is in early 2016.