Weeks of research into emulsion lift techniques were finally coming to fruition.
Searching around the house for my old darkroom trays, I found only one, and a tiny one at that. The others must be up in the loft and I wasn’t prepared to go up there. So I dug out some foccacia trays my husband uses for his baking and gave them a quick wash. He’ll never know, will he!?
The first stage is to cut off all the white borders to the polaroid image, thus allowing the separation to happen. So I took my first experimental Impossible project polaroid image of orchids and trimmed it, see here for how I made the image. Laying out 2 trays on the kitchen counters I placed near boiling water into the first one and cold water into the other.
Sliding the trimmed polaroid image into the hot water I saw tiny bubbles appearing underneath the surface of the image. My excitement grew as I waited at least one full minute to see if it was going to work. Starting in one corner of the image I tried peeling the positive from the negative part. The two parts should peel easily, they didn’t, so I plunged the image back into the water for 30 seconds and tried again.
Yes! It was working, I couldn’t believe it. I was removing the white negative part (the back bit) and separating the transparent positive part.
Using a soft brush I cleaned the remaining chemistry on the positive part, gently cleaning it in the hot water.
I had removed the negative part but still had to free the emulsion from the transparent foil. Plunging the image back into the hot water again for 1 or 2 minutes I started teasing the gel emulsion off using a soft brush.
Amazingly the jellyfish-like emulsion was floating around in the water. I transferred it to the clean second tray of water and slipped in a piece of watercolour paper ready to receive the gift of this disembodied image. Gently teasing the limp emulsion with my brush I coaxed it into position. What relief and joy, it really worked!
What an amazing experiment! I can’t wait to try more.
The tools I used were:
1 instant photo
1 or many soft brushes
1 pair of scissors or guillotine
1 carrier surface paper but it could also be wood, plastic, glass…
1 tray filled with hot water
1 tray filled with cold water
Once I had got over my initial nervousness and excitement of just putting the film canister into the Polaroid Sonar SX70 camera, it was down to business. Creative people will tell you (if asked!) that it can take some of us some time to get into the right ‘head space’. So focus, not the camera’s but mine, was needed. Closing the door on the rest of the world (and my husband), gave my creative inner-being the chance to rise to the challenge I had set myself.
My passion is for still lifes and landscape images. For this project I thought that it would be more practical to stick with an indoor still life. I have been eyeing up some glorious white orchids and decided that they would be a great subject matter. Placing them alongside a big window to take advantage of the natural light I set about pushing the ‘sonar focusing’ button halfway down. As I began to press the shutter button, the camera released sound waves to the central part of the scene. The frequencies are beyond our range of hearing and travel at the speed of sound. Pretty advanced for something made in the 1970’s! The split second it takes for the sound to reach the subject and the echo to return is fed into a tiny electronic computer inside the camera. The computer uses this time measurement to calculate the distance between the camera lens and the subject, then signals a motor to turn the lens until the subject is in sharp focus.
Once the subject is in focus I could then press the shutter button fully and Hey Presto! out popped the film positive with a satisfying clunk and whirring sound. Contrary to popular belief and OutKast – Hey Ya! DO NOT SHAKE IT LIKE POLAROID PICTURE! Leave the precious thing alone, face down with something not too heavy on top to stop any extra light getting to it whilst it develops. The equivalent of us laying down in a darkened room springs to mind.
A few images were taken for me to be able to experiment with in the next stage, the Emulsion Lift. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I couldn’t control myself and I had used all 8 frames of my first pack of film. This was mainly due to me thinking there were 10 frames in the pack! Shame. Development take longer than I thought. For the colour film Impossible Project state 6 minutes and for Black and white 1 minute. In my experience the images fully developed at least 3x longer than that. Initially you think that the image isn’t that great, but once patience has been exercised you can see that it looks pretty good!
The next thing I had to do was use all the research I had been gathering and try and make an emulsion lift and create something that I would be proud to add to my online shop.