Thursday, July 8, 2010

Polaroid goop!

Most of my blog posts here are about digital photography, and for good reason, digital photography is the here and now. Today I want to talk about something different, GOOP.

Now you're probably wondering, what the heck is "goop"? Well, that's a fair question. And here is the short answer. Goop is the leftover part of a Polaroid print. That doesn't really tell you much now does it? Well, let's start at the beginning.

When most people think about Polaroids, the first thing that pops into mind is the SX-70 type of film. You know what I'm talking about, the square film with the white borders that pops out of the front of the camera. This is commonly known as "integral film" because everything that's needed to develop the print is integrated into the film itself (including a battery!)

Well, that's not the type of film you use for this. For this we use "peel-apart" pack film. As you might guess you peel this  type of film apart. After you expose the image, you pull the film out of the camera through a set of rollers that breaks a pod and spreads the developing chemicals evenly over the image. After you wait the allotted time the film is peeled apart and you have two sides. The positive (the picture) and the negative (the goop). The "goop" refers to the slimy part which is the leftover part of the picture. Most people throw this part away, but some weirdos, like me, actually give away the print part and keep the trash.

The cool thing about the goop side is that it's basically unpredictable. Usually it's negative, sometimes it's positive, sometimes it has negative and positive parts all on one, and sometimes it solarizes. It's weird stuff. Another thing that I've notice about the goop side is that it usually retains more fine detail than the actual print!

Now, back to the film. In the past there were many different types of films that you can use. Not so much anymore. For the interest of simplicity there's basically only a few films that are commercially available to use and they're all made by Fuji. Fuji FP-100C (color / ISO 100), Fuji FP-100B (B&W / ISO 100), and Fuji FP-3000B (B&W / ISO 3000). Personally, I prefer the FP-3000B and have gotten the best results from it.

As far as cameras go I use two very different cameras, a Polaroid 250 which dates from 67-69 and a Bronica SQ-A with a Polaroid back. If you're looking for a camera almost any Polaroid 100 series packfilm camera will do. See here for a good list: The Land List -- Packfilm Cameras

Alright, so what do we do with the goop side once we have developed the print? Well, the first thing is to let it dry. Depending on the environment goop can dry quickly or slowly. It relatively humid areas it generally takes a few hours. In a dry environment like the desert it might only take 15 minutes. You want to be sure the goop is dry before you try to do anything with it. The goops are pretty fragile when when wet. Below is a goop that I stuck in my bag while it was still wet. I still think it's cool though, so do whatever works for you.
After your goop is dry it needs to be scanned. So in a sense we are now leaving the analog set and entering into the digital realm! Some people like to remove all of the extraneous paper from the goop side and just scan the image so it looks like the photo above. Personally, I like to keep all of extraneous stuff. I don't know why. I just like the way it looks.

This is what your scanned image of the goop is going to look like:

Open up the scanned goop negative in Photoshop and invert it (cmd+i). You will get a positive that looks like this:
Usually these come out looking a little flat with little contrast. What I generally do is select the image area and do a contrast adjustment. Auto-contrast works OK, but I like to do a Curves adjustment myself. Levels also works quite well. Just drag the white point and black point sliders until the histogram looks even.

This is my own personal tweak. After the image area contrast is done I invert the selection and then I invert the image again. This leaves the image area positive and inverts the paper area which actually turns it back to positive, so now the whole image is a positive which looks like this:

When scanning these goops I generally scan them as a greyscale image to avoid any weird color shifts. Sometimes I will convert them to RGB and throw a bit of a tone on them, sepia is good or sometimes a cyanotype tone works well.

Here's an example of a solarized goop:

The inversion came out very neat, almost ethereal:

Another thing, the goop is a negative so anything with words will read backwards. Most of the time I flip my images, but if there aren't any words a lot of times I'll leave the image as is. Below is a goop that was shot on my Bronica. Notice that the image area only comprises the same amount of area that would be on a 6X6 negative.

The Polaroids from my Bronica usually get cropped and flipped like this:

So yeah, that's fun with goop.

No comments: