The Analog Revolution Part 2

Sandy Ramirez and the Analog Revolution Part 2


Polaroid SX-70 and Impossible Color SX-70 Film


In the first installment we discussed a bit of the history and the different cameras one can use with modern instant films. While we all love playing with these cameras in today's society we must get our work shown. The quickest way of course is to digitize the materials and post it online. Prior to scanning though there are a few tricks that one can do with instant film prior to converting it to a digital image. These consists of manipulations, image transfers and emulsion transfers.


Preparing The Materials

With integral films like Impossible products all one can really do is scan the material with a scanner. Prior to that however one can manipulate the image as it is developing using blunt objects such as wooden dowels and sculpting tools. Polaroid's films developed quite quickly so doing these sort of manipulations were very time sensitive. An excellent demonstration of this is done by Mike Doukas using the old Time Zero film. Impossible's products however take much longer to develop and set giving the user more time to work with when manipulating the image.


Portrait of Maia Cabral SX-70 Impossible B&W


While  SX-70 film was much preferred for this sort of work the longer development times of Impossible products does allow for such manipulations to be performed on the 600 series products including the 8x10. Of course one thing the SX-70 film does allow is Emulsion Transfer – a technique more common to type 100 films (peel apart). Using two trays, some hot water and of course some wonderful paper, rocks or fabric you can transfer your Instant image to almost anything. Doing this with Integral films is more involved the results can be just as wonder as Chris Osborne's wonderful demonstration video shows.


Maia Cabral SX-70 Impossible Color Film


Please note that you do have to let the emulsion harden completely before trying this type of transfer/lift and according to Impossible their instant films can take up to 30 days to fully harden. Of course the king material to use for emulsion transfers is peel apart films like Fuji's FP100C. Please note there is a difference between an image transfer and emulsion transfer.


Image Transfers must be made immediately after the film is pulled out of the camera, as in this situation you are changing the receiving material for the emulsion. Emulsion Transfer is done after the print has developed giving you more time to select images from which you wish to attempt an emulsion transfer with.


A example of an Image Transfer by Tomasz Mosionek


For image transfers you will need the following items (most available at Adorama)


The steps are pretty straight forward. First dip your paper into the water in your tray for about 15-30 seconds. This will make the the paper more accepting of the emulsion. Once wet remove the paper and squeegee the excess water from the paper and place it on your plexiglass, taping it down if you wish. If shooting on location a tent is recommend for the next few steps covered with a darkcloth much like one would use when focusing a large format camera. Now using whichever camera you may like that can use Type 100 film shoot your image, keeping your scissors nearby. This next step is very important, before pulling the film out of the camera get near your receiving material. Pull out the shot and very quickly cut off the chemical pack edge. You have about 15 seconds before the image transfers to the actual receiving material that comes with the film. Separate the negative (the part with the black backing) from the receiver and quickly place it on your watercolor paper. Please note that the negative is still light sensitive at this point so try to do this very quickly and in as dim a light as possible. Using the roller press the negative using continuous rolling pressure for the full development time. 90 seconds should be sufficient for FP100C. Remove the negative and what you should have is an image on your watercolor paper much like the image above. Keep your negative as it will be useful in another process later on.


An Emulsion Transfer by Alessandro Paolini   


Emulsion transfers transfer the actual final developed image onto another medium. The beauty here is that unlike an image transfer where you are restricted to watercolor paper, Emulsion transfer can be done to practically any material from wood to sheet metal and of course paper as long as it is either reflective or light in color. For this you will need the following


  • Two Trays, one with cold water, one with hot water (just below boiling)
  • Tongs
  • Brush
  • Watercolor Paper, Sheet Metal or any other transfer material
  • Acrylic Clear Coat



There are several methods that can be used to do the emulsion transfer. The materials listed above are for my preferred method. Once can use a piece of acetate instead of the second tray for example as shown in Scott Wittenburg's tutorial for both emulsion and image transfers (he uses a Daylab to make his initial prints).



First step is to take your Polaroid and place it in the tray of hot water. Using a brush (or agitation) slowly lift the emulsion from the original receiving material. Please note that the emulsion is fragile so use very light pressure working first from the edges. If needed keep adding hot water until you get the emulsion free. Using the dowel of the brush transfer the emulsion to the cold water tray or onto a piece of acetate depending on the method you choose. If using acetate make sure you have the image reversed and as flat as possible on the acetate. If using the acetate method have your receiving material wet and place the acetate on the new receiver with the emulsion in contact and use a roller to press it in. If using the two tray method, play your receiver material in the tray and using the brush apply it to the surface, removing any bubbles underneath. The benefit of the two tray method is that it is easier to reposition the emulsion on the receiver. After you have your image as you like, allow the image to dry. With watercolor paper allow about three hours. After drying apply the acrylic clear coat to protect the fragile surface.


One final thing you can do, no matter if you've done an image transfer or emulsion transfer or just simply developed your peel apart print normally, is to recover the actual negative for use either in an enlarger or scanning. Scanning of negatives will give you a much higher quality scan that the actual print and better dynamic range in the digital file. To reclaim the negative you will need the following items




  • Plexiglass
  • Tape
  • Bleach
  • Kleenex




First remove all paper and other material from the negative and tape the negative on all edges to the plexiglass, making sure the side that contacts the receiver is face down with the black backing face up. Once that is done pour a small amount of bleach onto the negative using some Kleenex to spread it evenly. Let this sit until the vast majority of the black turns white. Take the plexiglass to your sink and using warm water wash off the bleach to clear the negative. Once that is done allow the negative to dry as any other negative in your darkroom. Giorgio Bordin has an excellent video showing the entire process.



In our next article we will very quickly discuss some of the various options for shooting 120 or 35mm film that match the current “lo-fi” trend.



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