About Polaroid Transfers

Aspen - 4x5 Polaroid Image transfer
Aspen © Marek Uliasz 1998
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Tulip - image transfer Polaroid image and emulsion transfers are alternative photographic processes which cross the boundaries of painting, printmaking, and photography. Both are utilizing peel-apart Polaroid film. An image is exposed onto Polaroid film by means of a slide printer, camera or enlarger.

In the case of Image transfer, the film is pulled apart before complete development and the dye-laden negative is rolled onto another surface, such as watercolor paper. The dyes develop onto the other surface and the image is transferred. The image may then be manipulated and handcolored if desired. Each image is unique due to the physical properties of the transfer process. Polaroid image transfer provides an extremely versatile vehicle for the visual artist, allowing for images with a painterly quality, as well as partially rendered images.

Tulip - emulsion transfer Polaroid emulsion transfer(emulsion lift) uses the same film and equipment, however, the results are completely different. The image is developed fully onto the positive print of the Polaroid film. The image layer of the print (the emulsion) is then removed with hot water and can be placed onto virtually any surface, including three-dimensional surfaces. The transparent emulsion can be sculpted, stretched and torn into different shapes, then handcolored if desired. The creative possibilities are limitless.

My fascination with Polaroid transfer started when I tried to learn large format photography and played with Super Graphic, an old 4x5 press camera. As a result I produced plenty of poor Polaroid pictures. Some of them looked much better when emulsion was transferred to watercolor paper! Grapes, Daffodil, Flute, and A Cup of Tea, are examples of these early emulsion transfers. Two others from the presented emulsion transfers,Sunset in Canyonlands, and Cliff Palace, were made from slides.

Garlic - Polaroid image transfer Much later, I started to experiment with an image transfer technique. All my image transfers have been made so far from 35 mm color or b&w slides using a Daylab II slide printer with 4x5 base and Polaroid type 59 film. I have tried wet transfer on various hot and cold press watercolor papers. Most of the transfers are made on hot press Lanaquarelle paper but my favorite one is a cold press Fabriano Artistico paper with a unique linear texture visible, e.g., in Garlic I or Strauss Cabin images. An original slide picture of the garlic transfer can be seen in The Garlic Symphony gallery. I have not felt in love with Arches paper yet. Sometimes, I use the Polaroid positive, left after image transfer, for emulsion transfer(Cliff Palace).

Grover Railroad Depot - Polaroid image transfer After initial experimentations with the technique, I am currently working on several personal projects. Images from the Past include historic sites from the Northern Colorado and other places which have attracted my attention in the vicinity of Fort Collins. This project is getting more and more serious as I am getting more involved in tracking the remains of prairie ghost towns. My images in this series are inspired by beautiful books of Stephen Rothfeld (French Dreams, Italian Dreams, Irish Dreams). My another projects include Aspen Grove series, which is not very surprising if you live in Colorado, adobe churches of New Mexico, and some architecture abstracts.

s/y Zew Morza - Polaroid image transfer The Polaroid transfer technique gives me occasion to reexamine some of my quite old slides and photographs. The original picture of an old Polish sail yacht, "Zew Morza" (Call of the Sea), was shot more than 15 years ago when I used to sail on the Baltic Sea. This picture has a special meaning to me since "Zew Morza" rests now on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Recently, I started to re-photograph old family photographs and then use them for transfers. It is just a beginning of my Family Album. Equally personal is my newest series Returns to Poland.

How to start with Polaroid transfers?

For beginners, I would, recommend to visit Polaroid web pages first. They have some instructions on-line. Polaroid used also to have two free booklets on Polaroid transfers and SX-70 manipulations: "{Inspiration} A Step-By-Step Guide" and "Polaroid Guide to Instant Imaging - Advanced Image Transferring". Call Polaroid at 1-800-343-5000.

Then, I would suggest to examine the on-line book on Polaroid transfers by Holly Dupre. There are also two great books published by Amphoto: Polaroid Transfers by Kathleen Thormod Carr and Creative Photo Printmaking by Theresa Airey and the newest book Photographer's Guide to Polaroid Transfers by Christopher Grey.

You are welcome to visit my "Polaroid transfer & manipulation resources" to find more links to instructional places, exhibitions, workshops, mailing lists, books and the guest gallery. Finally, you can post your questions to Polaroid transfer discussion forum.

"...handmade Polaroid transfers whose muted colors and soft lines
seem to arise not from camera but out of memory itself."
- inside the cover of "French Dreams" by Stephen Rothfeld

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