Sunday, May 17, 2009

Caring For and Displaying Your Polaroids - Part One - Caring For and Storing Your Polaroids Including What NOT To Do...


As a photographer who spends the majority of my time shooting with or reworking images with Polaroid film, I am often asked about the best ways to care for and display Polaroid based images. The questions come from both other artists and photographers, as well as people who purchase my work or the work of others. In this three part series I will present how to care for and store your Polaroids, including what NOT to do; 10 ways to decoratively display Polaroids including at least one how-to craft; and give you some additional good ideas on that make use of Polaroids. We will start with caring for and storing your Polaroids and what NOT to do...


To determine the best way to handle your Polaroids, you need to think about how long you might really want to keep an original image. You should consider whether you want to put these babies away in an effort to better preserve them or whether you would like to display them so you can view and enjoy them.


Polaroids are not archival. This means they will not last forever. Polaroid images were designed for instant gratification, to record a moment in a moment but not necessarily for that moment to live on in a museum. Some Polaroids yellow, fade, or become brittle, but these films have been around long enough for us to know that not all images do this. There are some images that you may want to handle with surgical gloves and others that you carelessly throw into a pile. Read on for my tips on dealing with either scenario.


SO YOU WANNA KEEP IT FOREVER...
Well, forever is a long time. And depending on what you read, this is both impossible and possible. Let's say FOREVER is your lifetime. According to Polaroid.com, the American National Standards Institute says that Polaroid films do not fade any faster than any other photographic medium, as long as they are properly stored. They say it takes more than 100 years for them to fade if stored in an archival quality album. Dark storage is recommended by Polaroid to prevent fading, and they claim their color dyes are very stable under these conditions. They do admit that yellowing can occur in white and light areas of a print, when stored in the dark. Flat storage is the best method, as prints on their side can yellow more than those that are flat. Let an images dry for several weeks before storing them, then put them in a box that provides circulation, like a paper storage box. If your prints do yellow, you can set them in daylight or under fluorescent light for a few hours to a few days to correct the problem. The protective polyester outer layer of a Polaroid can be cleaned (for more on cleaning you can read this article from Polaroidmanipulation.com).


BUT I WANT TO LOOK AT THESE IMAGES EVERYDAY AND HAVE THEM LAST FOREVER...
If you want to display your Polaroids AND have them last FOREVER, you are frankly, out of luck. No photograph that is out in the elements of air, light, moisture, etc, will last forever without fading, discoloring, or changing in some way. The good news is that there are ways to minimize the impact of the elements by taking special care. When framing an image that you want to view for a long time, use metal frames with archival mats. Wood frames are acidic and will eventually damage the contents of the frame. An archival mat will protect you work from sticking to the glass of a frame. You need to select either a UV glass or Plexiglas to protect the image in the frame. We will get into matting and framing in more detail in the "Ten Ways to Display Your Polaroids" post.


I WANT TO SEE MY IMAGES, I DON'T CARE IF THEY LAST FOREVER...
This attitude may be the best one to have when it comes to enjoying your Polaroids. Obviously you will probably still want to handle your Polaroids by touching the white borders rather than the surface, keep your images out of the sun or strong direct light, and display them in ways that don't damage the surface like say a push pin might. However, if you are willing to use common sense while allowing your images see the light of day, you will have many more options to chose from when reading the "Ten Ways to Display Your Polaroids" post.


So there is care and storage of Polaroids in a nutshell. On a personal note, I don't handle my originals with gloves. I like the quirky aspects of Polaroid that can't be controlled. Staining, fading, yellowing, scratching, blooming, missing corners... they are all beautiful to me. Much like the mystery that is present when making a Polaroid, that feeling of not knowing what the final image will look like, I enjoy the mystery of not knowing how my images might change over time. Nothing lasts forever, and I embrace that.


OH, ONE LAST, VERY IMPORTANT NOTE ON WHO OWNS THE IMAGE...
Some of you may have noticed that I forgot to mention that you can archive you Polaroids digitally. Yes, of course you can, IF YOU SHOT THE IMAGES. In this case, you own the copyright and can do whatever you want. Making digital copies of your originals via scanner is a great idea. If the original is ever lost, destroyed, or sold, you will still have the image. And scanning your originals will allow you to use them in other ways, such as by making limited edition prints to sell, or altering the images in mixed media work. HOWEVER, if you have purchased your Polaroid from the photographer, and you did not make the image, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO MAKE DIGITAL COPIES OF IT. This is copyright infringement and the laws vary according to location. Whether you buy and original or a print you are buying THAT original or print, not the rights to reproduce it. Artists and photographers charge usage fees for the right to use and reproduce their work, and these fees usually come with contracts that state how the image can be used. I had someone ask me if they could ask the photographer for permission to scan the images, for their own personal use, meaning they would make one print for themselves if the original was damaged. Sure, ask away, but even if you don't want to sell the images, most photographers would be leary to give you permission to scan their work and reproduce it. It is a slippery slope. Scanning and printing the images that belong to someone else without their permission or without paying fees is stealing. You can try to get away with it, but it is dishonest, and it cheats artists, most of whom honestly don't make a lot of money from what they do.



Lecture over. Please return in a few days for Part Two...

All images by Tiffany Teske

1 comment:

Isabellmiao said...

thanks for sharing this information! i've just bought myself a polaroid cam and coming across this is perfect! :)