Instagram Archive – Ashley Gates

Ashley Gates

Ashley Gates

Guest Programmer

Ashley Gates is a Mississippi-born photographer living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been exhibited in galleries across the U.S. including the New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery, Aperture Foundation, and the Eudora Welty House and Garden. Her book of found Polaroids, We Didn’t See Each Other After That, was exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum and was selected as one of photo-eye’s Best Photobooks of 2016.

Canton, Mississippi, shot with a Polaroid Land Camera and Fuji FP-3000B This is Ashley Gates @cosmopsis taking over @packpeelpour

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Instagram Archive – Thom Bennett

Thom Bennett

Thom Bennett

Guest Instagrammer

Thom Bennett is a New Orleans-based commercial photographer; his day job is as staff photographer at M.S. Rau Antiques. He has been using the same SX-70 since buying it new in 1979 and still wishes he had used it more than he did.

This is @thomnola taking over @packpeelpour for the week showcasing photographers who have utilized Polaroid and instant materials in their work and continue to inspire us. Guy Bourdin (1928-1991), a protege of Man Ray, upended the fashion world with his surrealistic and evocative images for Vogue, Chanel, and, most famously, Charles Jourdon. Bourdin created scenes that built upon sensual, absurd narratives that made the images, not the products, the focus of attention. He is credited with redirecting fashion photography away from glamour and glitz and into the realm of art and the imagination. His work is held in the permanent collections of MoMA, The Getty, SFMoMA, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. #polaroid #instantphotography #fashionphotography #manray #surrealism #surrealistphotography #1970s

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This is @thomnola taking over @packpeelpour for the week. We're looking at some of the great photographers who have used instant materials to express themselves. Marie Cosindas (1925 – 2017) was working as a textile designer and initially used the camera to make visual notes for upcoming designs. In 1961 she took a workshop with Ansel Adams where he told her, "You're shooting in black and white but you're thinking in color." When Edwin Land asked Adams to recommend someone to test Polaroid's new Polacolor peel-apart film in 1962, Adams immediately thought of Cosindas. During her experiments she "…tried everything: mixing light, temperature control, long exposures, extended development times and filters – and did everything I wasn't supposed to do. The film responded. The results were like no other color I had used." In 1966 she had a solo show of her color work at the Museum of Modern Art, 10 years before Eggleston's seminal exhibit. Her handling of color was painterly and thoughtful; Tom Wolfe compared her to Caravaggio and Gustav Klimt. "The fact that my early photographs did come from a painterly tradition was no accident: I wanted to be a painter." Reluctant to lend her work to galleries because they were one-of-a-kind pieces, her star never rose to the heights of her contemporaries. There is a book of her photographs, published in 1978, "Marie Cosindas: Color Photographs." #instantphotography #polaroid #polaroids #polacolor #impossibleproject #impossibleprojecthq #1960sphotography

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This is @thomnola taking over @packpeelpour for the week. Today we're looking not at one particular photographer but at one particular Polaroid camera – the 20x24 Polaroid and some of the artists who utilized it to create their work. The 20x24 was created in 1976 to showcase the new Polacolor II film, the same materials used for all peel-apart films in 3 1/4 X 4 1/4 to 8x10 format. In 1977 and 1978 five cameras were built and immediately put to work. Basically a 4x5 camera scaled up, the camera provided serious artists with a final 20x24 print in just minutes. Although the cameras weighed 235 lbs. they could be moved out of the studio for location work. There are currently two cameras in operation; one on the east coast and one on the west coast. There is a limited supply of film stock and, once that is used up, this beautiful format will no longer exist. #20x24polaroid #instantphotography #instantcolorfilm #polaroid #imagetransfer #mammothcamera #polacolor #largeformatphotography

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This is @thomnola taking over @packpeelpour this week. Going to jump away from the historical work to feature a contemporary photographer, Kevin Lajoie. I met Kevin through the New Orleans Photo Alliance and got a kick out of his doodle project @thedoodleprojectus where he takes a portrait of someone with his SX-70, pastes it onto sketching paper, and has the subject draw a doodle. An interesting take on collaborative work. The other images are from a series entitled, "Saudade," a Portugese word roughly translating to "the feeling of missingness." As Kevin says, "To hold a Polaroid is to hold a memory, and the fact that it is both the positive and the negative isolates it. It can never be recreated, it only is." Kevin's work can be seen in the show, Alien vs. Predator at The New Orleans Art Center, opening tomorrow night (Saturday, August 12, 6-9pm). #sx70 #neworleans #doodles #saudade #stclaudeartsdistrict #stclaudeartwalk

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This is @thomnola taking over @packpeelpour for the week. Today for inspiration we're looking at William Miller's "Ruined Polaroid" series. Miller, a veteran New York photojournalist, bought a broken SX-70 at a yard sale and tried to make it work as it should. One day he took a look at all of the ruined prints the camera had spit out and realized he was on to something very different from his work as a photojournalist. The images were more akin to abstract painting and he began to pay attention the the way the camera processed the prints so he worked to control that as best he could. He scans the final results and prints them quite large at 30"x36". "Photography is a lot like memory, which is to say it's a very unreliable witness. Not the physical lenses and light of a camera (photography is good at deception) but our relationship to images. I love photography but do not trust it at its word." Miller studied photography at Bard College with Larry Fink and Stephen Shore and received an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. #polaroid #polaroidsx70 #impossibleproject #impossibleproject_hq #svanyc #bardcollege #ruinedpolaroids #instantfilm

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This is @thomnola doing my final takeover post for @packpeelpour. I want to thank the great minds behind @packpeelpour Seth and Nicole for creating a space that everyone interested in instant photography can share their ideas and work. I've attempted this week to showcase work from a few of the Masters of early instant photography (Evans, Bourdin, Cosindas, 20x24 Polaroids) and touch on a couple of contemporary photographers who utilize instant film in their work (Lajoie, Miller). For my last post I would like to show an example of how I was influenced by another photographer's work. I was assigned to photograph the musician Jonathan Freilich and, being familiar with his complex, layered music, I tried to think of a way to get that across visually and thought of David Hockney's portraits using hundreds of Polaroids of a scene and combining them in such a way as to show multiple viewpoints within one constructed image. I found an interesting setting and worked with Jonathan to create enough images to be able to put together the final piece back at the studio. Looking back at the history of photography as well as our contemporaries for inspiration can lead to unexpected adventures.

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Ashley Gates Interview

Ashley Gates is a photographer working primarily in the instant medium. Using the search terms “refrigerator” and “Polaroid” on eBay in search of refrigerated film, she discovered a slew of old Polaroids of people in their kitchens standing by their refrigerator. The resulting book of vintage, found portraits is We Didn’t See Each Other After That.

From We Didn’t See Each Other After That, vintage Polaroid

I always find some great comfort in looking at old photographs, even if they’re of people that I don’t know. What is that quality for you?

On a purely existential level it’s fascinating to look at a found photograph and realize that I will never know any of the facts about it: the Who, What, Where, When. Sometimes you can learn the When if there’s a date written on the back, or the Where if there’s an obvious landmark. But of course it’s the Who that intrigues me the most. I love that there’s this galaxy of information floating around somewhere that I’ll never have access to; there’s something final and outer-space-like about that. Naturally we try to fill in the blanks and project our own narratives onto the picture. And regardless of whether I know the person in the photo or not, it can be an emotionally overwhelming experience for me – almost embarrassingly so.

Originally, the “refrigerator” images were intended to be instant and probably also ephemeral. Why are they still around, and why do we still care?

When I look at an old photo that has been discarded, or one that’s for sale at a flea market or online, my very first thought is, “How did it end up here?” It’s strange to know you’re seeing something in its afterlife. So, why are they still around? I don’t know. And I think we care precisely because of those unanswerable questions. We also care because we are holding evidence of a person’s life. And they are a frightening and beautiful illumination of the fact that so many people will never know who we are – while we’re alive, and especially after we’re gone.

From We Didn’t See Each Other After That, vintage Polaroid

From We Didn’t See Each Other After That, vintage Polaroid

You mention the “ordinary” in your book intro. What makes the ordinary so compelling sometimes but not others?

I think most of the ordinary snapshots we find at flea markets or elsewhere are compelling because time itself has made them extraordinary. If I take a snapshot today of my current bedroom and look at the photo tomorrow, it’s unlikely I will be moved in any meaningful way. But if I look at the photo in twenty years, who knows? Maybe I’d be moved to tears.

Both We Didn’t See Each Other After That and your new book Not Bad are collections based on images but also based on the words we use to describe those images. Can you talk about that?

Both collections were sourced using specific search terms online. The idea for first book was a complete accident and happened only because I had been searching eBay for refrigerated Polaroid film that had never been opened. Whenever I searched “polaroid” + “refrigerator” on eBay, I would often come across actual Polaroid photographs of people standing in their kitchens. So I bought several of them and arranged my favorites in a book.

The second book is more light-hearted and is technically a collection of screenshots, whereas the first book is a collection of physical photographs I purchased from eBay sellers and then scanned myself.

How did your new book come about?

I had been noticing for a while that “Not bad” was a popular caption on sunset photos that were posted across social media. I was amused by this caption because it’s one of detachment, of playing it cool. It’s almost a collective refusal to admit that something is beautiful. Or maybe it’s just a sly acknowledgement that sunset photos are ubiquitous and unoriginal. (I take them all the time, and I say take them all you want.) But once I started seeing this caption over and over again, I began searching for “sunset” + “not bad” and taking screenshots. I ultimately only used Twitter screenshots because they were the easiest to search for. It’s more difficult to find images on Instagram because their search tool doesn’t allow for multiple hashtags.

When I decided to arrange the screenshots in a book, I only searched dates ranging from November 9 to January 20 – the day Trump was elected and the Inauguration – because it’s a reminder that the sun will probably still come up tomorrow, even if on some days it may not feel like it.

Ashley Gates, Bon Ton Cafe

Tech specs: For your own instant work, what camera/film do you prefer to shoot.

I have a variety of instant film cameras, including the SX-70, Spectra, and a Fuji Instax, but by far my favorite instant camera to use is a Polaroid Land Camera. I have the 250 and 230 models. I prefer Land Cameras because using the peel-apart pack film (vs. the popular “shake it” polaroids we all love) feels even more like magic to me. My absolute favorite film to use with the Land Camera is the black and white Fuji FP-3000B, which is now discontinued. The level of detail it can pick up is astonishing.

With Polaroid becoming scarcer and scarcer, what are you transitioning to? 

I still have a lot of discontinued instant film stored in my fridge, and I’ve been trying to save it for more coherent projects or special trips. I recently shot a few packs of the Fuji pack film in Paris, and I love some of the images.

I haven’t developed a strong connection to the new Impossible Project instant film yet. I’ve had mixed results, but I’m going to keep trying. I’m perpetually thankful that they are dedicated to preserving the medium.

Ashley Gates, Brooklyn Bridge

Why instant photography?

Each photo is irreplaceable and one-of-a-kind, and I love the finality of that. It forces me to slow down. It is also a physical object, a kind of talisman. I love shooting other kinds of film, and I also enjoy shooting digitally and with my phone, but instant photography is a unique experience. There is no saturating or leveling or adjusting or filtering at all– there’s just a singular, tangible artifact.

What’s your next project?

I’d like to make a book of my own instant photographs at some point, but I’m in no rush to do it. That could happen next year, or in twenty years.

Ashley Gates

Time Capsule

Image via j on Flickr

I found this little gem, a blogpost from 2009 written by Seth that serves as a nice time capsule and also maybe the original seed of PPP. This is from 9 years ago and there’s still Polaroid film available. I believe this is pre-Impossible Project. So maybe there’s hope for the peel-apart fans now that Fuji has discontinued both the BW and Color FP films. If the history below is any lesson, then at least those films should still be circulating around for quite a while.

I’ve removed most of the links because they just didn’t work anymore and/or they crashed my browser. But if you want, here’s the original post.

As photogs and artists continue to “mourn” the loss of polaroid film, I thought I’d share some places that are keeping the faith. First, there is A user generated site based in Europe that posts all kinds of polaroid albums and goodies. There are projects and open galleries to participate in; lots of fun. They also used to sell film, but that is now being handled by POLAPREMIUM.

Polapremium is a polaroid “affiliate.” They scour the globe for all types of polaroid film and cameras. Each item is for sale (with no substantial markup) and there is a countdown of availability.

Save Polaroid is an online petition, tin cup soapbox site that has the latest and greatest news/rumors about the fate of polaroid film and patents. Go, sign up and maybe someone will pick up where polaroid left off.

Like Fujifilm, who is releasing the INSTAX system here in the USA finally. Buy ’em at ebay, lomo, or soon at B&H photo.

Last, but not least, POLAROID and their Zink licensed POGO camera. A digital instant printer that has wireless capabilities and will print a 2″ x 3″ image from computers, cell phones and digital cameras. No transfers or manipulations, but it beats the preview on the back of a digital camera anyway.

Instant Cameras


Here is my current instant camera collection clockwise from top left:

Polaroid SX-70  It’s hard to believe these are so expensive now.

Polaroid Impulse  That yellow version at the link is awesome.

Polaroid Big Shot  The Big Shot was a rescue of sorts. The shutter didn’t work and the only way I could find to get to it was removing the large plastic flash diffuser that sits in front. Of course, it broke. And I’m fresh out of flash cubes anyway, but I found that the Fuji BW 3000 film works fine without it in daylight.

Lomo’Instant  This is my go-to lately since it shoots the highly accessible Fuji Instax Mini.