Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Past & Presence
Douglas Dubler created a historical and artistic project that was ideally suited to the unique qualities of the legendary Polaroid 20x24 camera
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
Several weeks before the actual shoot, Dubler met with John Reuter at Lincoln Center, where Reuter was shooting, to check out and study the camera. Among the crucial parameters was lighting. The 20x24 Studio provides lighting and backdrop, but, as lighting is a crucial part of all of Dubler's work, he wanted to set up his own lights in order to give his Polaroids a distinctive "deep" look. Meanwhile, he went to Charles Broderson for a hand-painted muslin backdrop, with an eye toward developing a look reminiscent of Degas' ballerina paintings. Dubler directed each element in the project toward a synthesis of creative tensions, the culmination of histories of dance, art about dance, the classical impulses—all in creative synthesis with the immediacy and freshness of this young ballerina, and the instantaneous nature of the Polaroid process itself.
A shoot with the Polaroid 20x24 camera isn't like a contemporary photo shoot. "Everything slows down," Dubler says. "Instead of taking hundreds of pictures in a day, we might spend 15 or 20 minutes between individual shots." And, then, of course, there's a 90-second wait to see the finished image. That moment when the sheet is pulled away to show the picture is fraught with suspense, anticipation, gratification—a kind of wonder as the actual photograph is revealed. "To see these prints come up," Dubler says, "is magical."
Di Stasio agrees. "Everyone would gather around to watch the cover being peeled off, to see the print emerge. It was very exciting."
Lighting is a significant element in the look of a Douglas Dubler image, and he didn't want to sacrifice his own vision to the technical needs of the Polaroid project. Images from the Polaroid 20x24 camera tend to be lower in contrast and, because of the film speed and bellows extension, require excessive amounts of light. The challenge was to maintain his distinctive lighting style, while putting out the kind of power necessary.
"For me, it's all about the light," Dubler says. "Light is a photographer's medium, after all. We paint with light, and I want my signature to be on that. I wanted high contrast from the lighting because the Polaroid film is flat. So I had to build contrast into the lighting, knowing I would lose it in the film."
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