Here are some of Jennifer Trausch’s personal recollections from her days on location in the South:
“It was the hottest day of our trip and we were quite run down having driven some three thousand miles in the last couple weeks. The night before my assistant, Kim, and I had worked at a Zydeco dance hall outside of Opelousas, Louisiana. We had shot late into the night until the dancers had worn themselves out. We were covered in bug bites from loading the equipment into the truck in the pitch black near railroad tracks we had only heard signs of. The day before the truck had broken down for the second time. It is hard enough to haul around a 235 pound camera, but having to move it in and out of a broken truck was yet another test of our determination. We had to get back to New York soon, and were driving northbound in Mississippi when we saw a handwritten sign for a fair and followed it, intrigued. The fairground was so small that you could walk through it in a couple of minutes. It was the middle of the afternoon and the air was heavy and the old rides were still. The location was perfect for our way of shooting; It was small enough that we could negotiate our way around with the camera but big enough that we would have a good selection of subjects to work with. I immediately gravitated toward the dunking booth; It was a simple box of water with a splintered board to sit on. Life preservers were hanging on a fence nearby just in case. I used my digital camera to make notes, circling the booth to find the best vantage point. One could only imagine who would be sitting up there later.
Read the whole story and view location photos by Kimberlee Venable
has been Director of Photograph
y at the 20×24 Studio
since 2003. In that time she has worked with dozens of artists, both in the studio and on location. No one knows the possibilities and limitations of the medium as well as Trausch. Known primarily as an indoor studio camera that uses high powered electronic strobes as its light source, the 20×24 camera is capable of location work. It requires a very large truck, substantial support equipment to protect and stabilize the machine outdoors, but more importantly an understanding of the camera’s capabilities and even more crucial understanding of the film’s response to rapidly changing light conditions. Trausch’s experience with the camera put her in a unique position to exploit the potential of ultra large format photography on location and minimize the disasters always awaiting the inexperienced. Leaving the powerful strobe lighting behind in the studio, Trausch instead exposed with available light, often requiring long exposures, even with the more sensitive Black and White Polaroid emulsion. One must work quickly and confidently to calculate the considerable bellows extension and stay on top of ever-changing light conditions. The technical tour de force alone makes this body of work noteworthy. More impressive are the relationships Trausch develops with her subjects, making connections that few photographers attempt to make.
Here are some of Trausch’s own words describing her project; “In my current body of work shot in the American South, I chose to put the 20×24 Polaroid Camera in active and unpredictable circumstances on the road. In doing this I am filtering out all of the traditional notions of 20×24 shooting, defining my own vision for it. Having operated the camera for seven years, I am very familiar with this handmade machine and understand how colors and light render on its film. I am one of the few people who are not intimidated by its mass, the sheer physicality of shooting on it, and its cumbersome and awkward nature in the field. I have chosen to eschew structure in favor of a looser, more intuitive approach of finding my subject. I depict the subtle progression of a subject or environment over a long exposure. During these long exposures a subject may move, the light may change and embracing these details rather than avoiding them is how my own work differs from the typical approach to the medium.”
One of the more unique artists working with Polaroid 20×24 technology today is Ellen Carey. Ellen first began using the 20×24 in 1982 while it was housed at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston. Ellen’s first work was a series of self portraits, lit with colored gels and later painted with enamel paint. These evolved into another series of self portraits made in New York that combined close up portraits lit with colored gels with intricate collages of black and white graphic images.
These multiple exposures blended the abstract and narrative in compelling complexity. In the 1990s Carey moved on to produce the series of “Pulls” and “Rollbacks”. Eliminating the figure altogether, Carey created these abstract images taking full advantage of the camera as a printmaking machine. Exploiting the roll film nature of the system, Carey produced pieces sometimes seven to ten feet in length by letting the camera run beyond its usual stopping point. At times, the positive would be cut away from the negative and “rolled back” into the camera for additional exposures and developing.
Ever wonder how 20×24 pods are made? This video shows our pod machine in Putnam, CT taking the Polaroid reagent mixed at our site In Dudley, MA and loading into the individual foil packets or “pods”.
One pod is used to develop a 20×24 exposure.