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.

The legendary 20×24 camera is now available for private portrait sessions in the flagship studios in New York, Boston, and San Francisco. Bring your family, friends, lovers and pets to document them on the ultimate one-of-a-kind analog photographic process, the 20×24 Polaroid camera. The clarity and detail are unsurpassed, even when compared to recent digital advances. The negative is the same size as the positive, 20 inches by 24 inches, and this large format contact print captures the details and nuances of any event placed in front of it. The color film is Polacolor, optimized for skin tone rendition, but with life like detail that creates a treasure for future generations. The Black and White Polapan provides the classic look of traditional studio photography. It has been said that Polaroid 20×24 portraits document a reality on par with realist oil painted portraits, but created in an instant by a highly skilled technical and photographic staff.

Contact the 20×24 studios for more information:

20×24 Studio, New York, 212-925-1403 info@20x24studio.com

Elsa Dorfman Photography, Cambridge, MA, 617-876-6416, http://www.elsadorfman.com/

20×24 Studio West, San Francisco, 415-902-0320, http://www.mammothcamera.com

©2012 Jennifer Trausch

©2012 Jennifer Trausch


©2009 Tracy Storer

©2012 Tracy Storer

Tracy Storer Photography

From the 20×24 Archives, Jack Butler’s provocative exhibit from 1991:

The images in this group of 20 x 24 Polaroid’s are conceptually related to the subjectivizing power of domestic life. They are indicative of an investigation into the cyclictic nature of life and familiar (family) mores. The systematic association of 40’s and 50’s societal imagery with contemporary media based phraseology accomplishes what has been described as “time-bridging connections”.

My childhood serves as the experience for the emotional and psychological foundation of this work. Each piece is physically made up of four 20 x 24 Polaroid photographs. The images suggest “instant photograph” yet the scale and content deny that fact. Each piece is intended to pose a question, “to what extent have we internalized the rationalizations of false hope and expectations, and with them, the self-victimization that entails” and how does this manifest itself now in our current social existence.

The work has been critically described as “a valuable contribution toward demystifying a social climate in which a “return to family values” has coincided with an unprecedented and unimagined trend toward domestic maladies” and “opening the tightly sealed Tupper-ware world of socially supported physical and psychological violence within the American family”.

at Fahey/Klein and in With the Media, Against the Media at the Long Beach Museum of Art

Jack Butler’s recent Polaroid works provide us with a visual groundwork toward a genealogical investigation (in the Foucaultian sense) of the subjectivizing power of domestic life. White, middle-class family spectacles of private acts, tacit negotiations, and child abuse are among Butler’s concerns. In perceiving the cyclical quality in the evolution of social mores, Butler links imagery from the ’40s and ’50s (culled from Life and The Saturday Evening Post) together with a passive latter-day phraseology to draw time-bridging connections, as in “Getting Past the Present”. Collectively, the pieces mount a visual polemic against the uses of typecasting, from the stereotype to the Weberian ideal type. The quaternary panels reconfigure the relations of power required in sustaining social essences and ideal and general types (Words of Fantasy/Melody of Truth ) At stake are the forms of rationalization embodied in the deployment of ideal types. In its own way, each piece poses the question: to what extent have we internalized the rationalizations of false hopes and expectations, and with them, the self-victimization they necessarily entail?

These pieces represent a sustained attack on what Foucault has called “the government of individualization,” that is to say, those social practices that impose a determination on the individual and tie him or her to a constraining identity. In juxtaposing images and text, Butler draws out the operations of “disciplinary technologies” within the workshop of the home, in the production of the “docile body” (in both genders, as he points out, and with special emphasis on childhood and adolescent development) concurrently with the “productive body” (both sexually as well as materially). The texts are imbued with a contemporary banality (The Mind of a Failed Father ) and must be read not as illustrative of the images, but as equally symptomatic of the strategies of, rationalization in relation to excesses of power. Overall, Butler’s work makes a valuable contribution toward demystifying a social climate in which a “return to family values” has coincided with an unprecedented and unimagined trend toward domestic violence and homicide.

—G. Daniel Veneciano
You can see more of Jack’s work at Jack Butler’s Art.

Tim Mantoani: For the past five years, I have been making portraits of noted photographers on the rare and mammoth format of 20×24 Polaroid. In each case, the photographer is holding one of their favorite or most iconic images. Neil Leifer’s image of Muhammad Ali standing over a knocked-out Sonny Liston, Harry Benson’s epic photo of The Beatles having a pillow fight and Steve McCurry’s famed portrait of the Afghan Girl from the cover of National Geographic to name a few. At the bottom of each Polaroid, the photographer has been asked to write out a short story about their image in their own penmanship. In cases, these words are as revealing about the photographer as the image itself. This project includes over 150 photographers from a variety of specialties and has taken me across The United States, shooting in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston.

The series contains numerous historical images and image makers, and has evolved to become a vehicle to preserve photographic history. While people are familiar with many of the images, including numerous Pulitzer Prize winning photographs in this project, most would otherwise never know the photographers who made them. My hope is that this project will become a way for future generations to not only appreciate the photography of our time, but the photographers as well. Cameras did not make these photographs, the photographers did. Without the dedication of photographers, like these passionate men and women, history would not have been recorded through their eyes and these moments they hold would not exist for our observation. Some of these photographers not only documented their generation but, their photographs have defined it.

This book is an incredible historic document, to order your copy go to www.mantoani.com.

“On the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Monster Children found themselves two blocks from Ground Zero. In a photography studio with a 6-Foot tall By 4-Foot wide Polaroid Camera. In the search for something unique for The Monster Children Photo Annual, of course we had to choose the most expensive of all the ideas. We put the call out to the vast Australian contingency in town for various occasions; Fashion Week a Surf Contest, Movie Premieres and a few that now call the city home. As well we also talked Julian Casablancas to spend his afternoon with us, twelve hours later and at $200 a Shot, the budget was well and truly blown. However what we had produced was both the realisation of a shoot we had wanted to do for years and the process an educational experience.” Chris Searl, Photographer

All photos ©Chris Searl 2011

Chris on using the camera –
I’d been eyeing off the 20×24 for sometime. So much so, I’d even tried to ship it down to Australia for a project. So when the opportunity to finally shoot in the NY Studios came up, I jumped on it. For me, whenever I saw the images in print or online were always amazing, but it’s not until your actually hands on and involved in the process that it really takes you back to enjoying the Art of Photography. I grew up on the tail end of film and the crossover to digital, so to go back and have to actually think about how you want someone to stand and visualize the final image was so refreshing. I almost wanted to throw my digital cameras out the 3rd floor studio windows. The people I shot were a bit of a mix really. Whether they were surfers, models, musicians or assistants they were all relevant to the youth culture I’m surrounded by I guess. But essentially I just wanted to use the camera on friends that were available that day.

Here Chris talks with Polaroid guru and 20×24 Holdings Executive Director John Reuter about all the intricacies of Polaroid, the technology and who’s stepped in front of the 20×24 Camera.

Using the 20×24 recently was such an amazing way to shoot and really took me back to enjoying the art of photography. Can we first start by asking you to give us a brief explanation of the cameras history?
The Polaroid 20×24 Studio had its genesis at the height of the Polaroid Corporation’s reputation as a cutting edge company creating exciting consumer and professional instant photographic products. Edwin Land, the founder ofPolaroid was still very active in the company’s research and development. Riding high on the success of the SX-70 product line, Land and his group turned their attention to the traditional peel apart film that professional photographers used. In the marketplace, a 4×5 inch was the largest film sold, but that was about to change. Polaroid embarked on a program to make the film available to professionals using 8×10 inch view cameras as well as some very specialized larger cameras that Polaroid itself would produce. In the push to create the 8×10 Instant processing system, Dr. Land directed his engineers to push further and called for the creation of a prototype format of 20x24inches. In addition to the 20×24 unit, theresearch group also produced a 40×80 inch camera. This successful reception of large format Polaroid film led to a project to create multiple 20×24 cameras in 1977 and 1978. The research group headed by John McCann built five general purpose 20×24 cameras as well as several others designed for scientific and military use. Polaroid embarked on a program to bring this technology to photographers and artists, allowing access to Polaroid staffed studios in Cambridge and Boston, MA. In exchange for use of the cameras and film, these artists donated a portion of their production to the Polaroid Collection. These artists included Chuck Close, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg.

That’s some incredible history and so amazing that the cameras are still in operation today.Do you know what happened to the 40×80 Inch camera?
The 40×80, created and owned by Polaroid since 1978 was later sold to artist Gregory Colbert, who used it to make large scale image transfers. Artists such as Chuck Close still used it until Colbert dismantled it in 2008. There is no longer any Polaroid film for it.

For people that aren’t familiar with the operation and mechanics of the camera can you give us an insight into how the camera works and produces such a large format Polaroid ?
It is remarkably similar to any peel apart process. The negative gathers the light on silver crystals and transfers the image information directly (BW) or through dye developers (colour) that migrate to the positive material once activated by the reagent, which activates the silver or dye developers present in the negative and begins the diffusion transfer process. In 20×24 the processing machinery is contained in the back of the camera. with a pair of motor driven 22- inch rollers. The film is in roll form and each individual exposure is cut off as it exits the processing rollers, setting up the camera for the next exposure.

Has the film always been made by Polaroid? And when they announced they were ceasing production on Polaroid film, how did that effect the operation?
The film has always been made by Polaroid. All of the stock they manufactured was always large, 44 inches for the positive and 60 inches for the negative. The trick was picking Out the cleanest and best performing sections of a
given base roll and then optimizing a reagent for the selected cut. We knew as early as 2004 that Polaroid would be exiting the film business and planned accordingly. Initially it led to increased business, despite our assurances that we were not going away. And how many 20×24 cameras that you know of are alive and working right now? There are six working all in one” cameras, the five original production models and one hybrid, based or) an early prototype and a new front end. There are also over a dozen field cameras with removable cassettes made by the Wisner Company. Unfortunately, they were not well designed or manufactured, and all but one are not in use today. 20×24 Holdings have commissioned Mammoth Camera in California to build 2 new units, which we expect to be completed by the end of the year.

How did you come to work with the 20×24 camera – it wasn’t a planned out career path right? More something that you fell in to? I was an artist who used Polaroid film for my work in graduate school at the University of Iowa in the late 70’s. Upon receiving my Master of Fine Arts degree, I expected to teach on the university level. When that did not happen, I interviewed at Polaroid for 2 jobs, one a research studio and the other the 20×24 studio, which was just starting up in the fall of 1978. I was actually not interested in the 20×24, I much preferred the research photography position and in fact accepted that, even though I was offered both jobs. After a year a half, the position became open again and this time I accepted.

Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Julian Schnabel have previously used the 20x 24 Polaroid Camera for creative projects. Can you share an insight in to working with such artists?
I was present when Andy Warhol was photographed; I would not characterize his session as “working” with the camera. I adored Robert Rauschenberg and my time with him was very special, although he was distant from the actual production. Julian Schnabel was perhaps the most impressive, fearless in his use of the machine, going against all expected use of the medium. It is always a privilege to work with such accomplished artists, and you feel pride that you can bring the most of the experience of the camera to take advantage of their vision.

Are we right in saying that the highest price paid for a Polaroid was of Andy Warhol for $254K?
I guess there’s plenty of interest and intrigue surrounding Warhol. Honestly. I was not a fan then. I felt it was a superficial session, it only lasted a half hour. My opinion of Warhol changed greatly when I visited the Warhol museum in 1997. I did not regard him as a serious artist until I saw his early work.

Can you give us an insight into the shoots you were present on with him?
I really felt that he was barely there, he was incredibly guarded, a prisoner of his fame.

Lady Gaga, Presidents, film stars…there is a long list of identities who have posed for the camera. Who else has found themselves in front of the lens of the 20×24 with you?
My favourites: Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton, David Byrne. Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock. Spike Lee, Ringo Starr. Paul Simon, John Malkovich, Jodie Foster, Susan Sontag. Al Gore. Sting, Danny DeVito. Dalai Lama, Bill Bradley, just to name a few.

And what about photographers – who are some photographers that have used the 20×24 over the years?
Again, some of my favourites: Tim Burton, Robert Wilson. Chuck Close, Mary Ellen Mark, Bill Wegman, David Levinthal, Timothy Greenfield- Sanders , and Joyce Tennseon.

Where are the more adventurous places the 20×24 camera has found itself?
Death Valley, the swamps of Hilton Head,South Carolina. Hotel lobbies in old Miami Beach and the forests and lakes of Maine.

And what’s one of the more outrageous things you’ve witnessed being shot?
You know I cannot tell the truth about that.

If you could have one 20×24 Polaroid on your wall from over the years which would It be?
I have several, images of my children. Hands down.

Interview reproduced with permission of Monster Children, may not be reused without permission.

In conjunction with the Wadsworth Atheneum’s exhibit of Patti Smith’s “Camera Solo” John Reuter, long time Polaroid artist and Director of the 20×24 studio explores the spirit of creativity spawned by Polaroid materials in the 1960s and 70s. From Marie Consindas, Lucas Samaras, Rosamond Purcell, Robert Mapplethorpe and others through to Patti Smith, Reuter explores what was so special about working with Polaroid materials that allowed non-photographers and photographers alike to broaden their creative horizons with this amazing medium.
This lecture is supported through the Photography Department at the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, in memory of M.I. Cake. October 22, 2011 2-4 pm
Wadswoth Atheneum Museum of Art
600 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103-2990
(860) 278-2670