People have been spending their time during the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways. Catching up on reading, watching streaming services, learning a new skill online, or just trying to cope are just some of the methods folks have be using. Filmmaker,writer and Comedian KL Martin decided back in March to employ his love of Polaroid cameras for a project documenting life in Highlands and its surrounding areas during this unprecedented time.
There is beauty in everyday life and this project certainly exemplifies it. Many things that are taken for granted are actually life moments that should be examined and celebrated. Martin perfectly coins this as capturing “accidental cool things.” That is what makes Martin’s project so interesting.
In just over 3 months Martin produced over 100 images which convey a sense of time and place while stirring up emotions. A yacht moored and abandoned on the shore. An old, copper-colored Volkswagen Bus. A desolate main street in the late afternoon sun. Trying to give your hair a trim at home. A Black Lives Matter protest with impressive younger folks providing hope for the future.
Martin used many of his favorite Polaroid cameras: the 600 OneStep, OneStep 2, Pronto OneStep and a recently acquired SX-70. The allure of these cameras cannot be denied. They definitely look cool and are quite fun to work with. Add a touch of nostalgia and clearly you have a winning combination.
These pictures should not just be quickly scanned. Take a moment with each and, much like waiting for a Polaroid print, allow your own story to materialize.
What first drew you to Polaroid cameras?
My mother honestly. When I was young there were two things my mom had that I thought were the coolest things in the world. A Volkswagen bright orange rabbit and a 600 OneStep Polaroid camera. Between that and disposables there probably are literally thousands of pictures taken of me in my family. There’s always been at least one Polaroid camera in the house. As much as I liked it then I had no clue that my love with the cameras would grow into what it is now.
How does the immediacy of a Polaroid print affect how you approach the photography?
It’s literally the “in the moment” camera.
Don’t get me wrong you can definitely pose and set up a whole shoot but at the same time, since no two Polaroid’s are alike, the elements that make that moment unique, permanent to that picture, and trying to duplicate that is near impossible which is why Polaroids, at least to me, are amazing.
So from an approach standpoint there’s a lot more artistic moments in the uniqueness of that. It’s sort of forces your brain to really invest in what you’re taking a picture of because you’re probably not going to get as good a picture or maybe the picture you take Is it as good as the one you have it. I’m not sure that makes sense but I think that’s the best way to explain it. lol
In the age of digital cameras and phones what still makes film special?
There’s only one. The only copy of that picture. I scanned a lot of them but the original is the original. If I decided to not scan any of those pictures, which there are hundreds of I have yet to scan if I ever do, the pictures become personal and there’s clearly a lot of love in each one.
Plus it’s pretty obvious that Polaroid film is still important to people considering you really only have to look to Instagram, Snapchat and the thousands upon thousands of apps that give you digital filters to imitate what a Polaroid or analog photography use in terms of uniqueness and overall coolness to a photo. Everything old is new now.
What is your main takeaway from this project?
Honestly I really wanted to sort of capture the stillness of the town and the area around it when the world suddenly stopped. It grew from that.
Everyday it looked like the same thing plus or minus some weather. Honestly there was a lot of beauty to it.
What would be your dream photography assignment?
I was working on it before the pandemic but it will happen next year. I’ll be running around New York Fashion Week with ALL my cameras for several modeling agencies. It’s gonna be amazing.
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