A GOLDEN AGE, THE GOLDEN AGE , MY GOLDEN AGE
The term ‘ A Golden Age ‘ comes from Greek mythology, and is part of the description of temporal decline of the state of peoples through five Ages. Gold being the first and the one during which the golden years of humanity lived. After the end of the first age was the Silver. Then Bronze, after this the Heroic age, with the fifth and current age being Iron. By extension “Golden Age” denotes a period of primordial peace, harmony, stability, and prosperity.
This collection of SX-70 polaroids, presents snap shots or vignettes into the period of my life that I consider ‘ my golden age ‘. I was in my 20’ and 30’s. Footloose and fancy free. Full of ambition! Falling in love. Immersed in a grand adventure. Traveling extensively. I had achieved my goal of turning a photography passion into a full time career. I was living my dream. I was a busy photographer. Commissions and assignments were plentiful.
Life was analogue good. Looking back on these images and the memories they evoke, life seemed better! Life was better. We lived in rosier, more organic analogue times. We wrote letters. We read magazines. We shot film and instant Polaroids to give to friends or pin on our walls. Photography was something you had to learn. Not just how to compose an image, but how to expose one correctly too. That to my mind gave photography a nobleness that got trashed soon as the smart phone came along! Sod these days!
These polaroids taken between 1990–2000 were shot in ‘ a golden age ‘ of photography. Whether we might call it ‘ the golden age ‘ is debatable, but certainly these years, when the analogue process included new cutting edge silver halide films like Fuji Velvia, which competed with classics like Kodachrome 64 & 200, we were spoiled for choice. Then we chose a film for it’s look. Personality. Character. We had to learn each film’s idiosyncrasies through trial and error. That process to my mind, was why photography was given such high regard. Like learning a musical instrument, one had to have patience and a deep sense of conviction to master it. It’s allure came from it’s mysteries. Unseen images until processed. The wait. To see the results. Polaroid was instant gratification. Yet still had lots of analogue soul.
SX-70 was a joyfully flawed medium with it’s own wonderful characteristic. Flawed in that we never really knew how each image would emerge from the camera. For many of us, SX-70 represented the ultimate clunky analogue experience, and we all found tremendous joy watching the latent image slowly develop and appear before our eyes. We liked it’s painterly quality. We could squish the soft gelatin around and create abstract effects. One could purposely under or over expose the Polaroid to saturate the colours, or bleach them out. Some of the greatest contemporary artists of our times, including Andy Warhol and David Hockney adopted SX-70 as a medium for great expression!
es this was all before the predictability of the digital camera age. Hence I call it ‘ a golden age.’
We might agree there have been many golden ages of photography. In the mid-1820s, Nicéphore Niépce managed to fix an image captured with a camera after an 8 hour exposure. Results were crude, but sensational. Niépce’s associate Louis Daguerre went on to develop the daguerreotype process, the first commercially viable photographic process. Subsequently new materials further reduced the required camera exposure time from minutes to seconds, and eventually to a small fraction of a second.
Onwards to roll films and Polaroids. Another golden age. Everyone could now take photos. Or at least try. There was still an element of unpredictability. Often frustrating. But totally fun when one got it right!
Finally to the commercial introduction of computer-based electronic digital cameras. A photographic revolution! A golden age?? It certainly brought about the demise of traditional film-based photochemical methods and SX-70 Polaroid. Some of us might ask, “what’s golden about that”???
Certainly many will say that the advent of the smartphone camera, the ubiquitous everyday practice of taking pictures and instantly publishing them online is another golden age of photography. I might agree. Certainly today, everyone now can be a photographer.
However for the sake of this collection, and in many ways, my reasons for presenting it here, these analogue snaps, poorly scanned on a cheap flat-bed scanner, and blemished with dust and scratches, invoke golden glowing memories of former golden glowing times. That’s all I wanted to say! 🙂
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