I got a Polaroid Spectra 2 camera for cheap off of Kijiji seven or eight years ago. I loved that thing, but finding film for it was difficult. They weren’t making it anymore, and they hadn’t made it for a long time. At first I was able to track down expired packs of film through marketplace sellers on Amazon. Then even the expired stuff grew scarce.
A little while back I found out about The Impossible Project. They make and sell new film for every Polaroid camera you can think of. It’s expensive beyond all reason — when you factor in shipping charges, the shrinking scrotum of the Canadian dollar, and the sad truth that you’re only getting eight exposures in a package, it’s enough to make you cry — but I thought it would be worth it just to be able to shoot with that camera again. I ordered some black and white film with a black border, because I liked the way it looked.
Ended up wasting half a pack before I figured out my Spectra 2 was dead. Bought a different Spectra 2 for cheap, again through Kijiji. The guy who sold it said it belonged to his mother. She sold used cars and took a Polaroid of every customer after making a sale. Sometimes in the space of a few seconds you hear a small story that has so many larger stories tucked inside of it you know you’ll never get to hear. This was one of those times. Can you imagine the photo album that woman had, and all the memories it held?
I wasted another few pictures in the process of discovering Impossible film is aptly named. It’s very sensitive to light. If you don’t cover up a picture in the first few seconds after it leaves the Polaroid womb and then keep it covered for at least a good ten minutes before peaking at it, it’s not going to turn out at all. All you’ll get is a milky haze, maybe with the ghost of what you saw through the viewfinder lens hidden in it, maybe not.
After all of that was sussed out, I started taking some pictures that were more than haze. I think it was Steven who first came up with the idea of taking a picture to represent each proper song (not counting the “afterthoughts” that act as segues, siblings, and rhythm-breakers) on the O-L West album, with an aim toward making a collage out of them. I wasn’t expecting the temperamental black and white Polaroid film to become a part of this, but there’s something there — a quality to the image when everything lines up right with a well-enough-composed shot that develops the way it’s supposed to. You get something that looks like a picture taken a very long time ago and forgotten for decades.
It’s been an interesting challenge trying to come up with images that play off of the songs. You don’t want to hit it too hard on the nose, but some things are just too good to pass up. I wanted to take a picture of the abandoned Walker Power Building, because it was the inspiration for a lot of the imagery in the first verse of a song called “Trespassing”.
I shot it from a bit of a distance. The picture didn’t turn out. Then I got closer and saw a No Trespassing sign, framed by vines. Maybe a little obvious, but it made for a good picture.
With other songs it’s been a little more difficult. What kind of picture do you take to represent a song that’s a pitch-black story of two brothers murdering their abusive father and hitchhiking out of town? I came up with an image I liked that commented on the theme without getting too obvious, but it took some time to get there.
Of the twelve songs that need pictures, there are only two stragglers left. One of those is easy. I already know what the picture’s going to be. I just need to take it. The other one’s been a bit of a pain in the ass.
Some of these pictures are more striking than others. A few didn’t turn out as well as I hoped and only really work in the context of the collage because they’re small enough not to call too much attention to themselves. But there are a few I’m really happy with as standalone images. That’s one of them up there.