This is the tenth edition of our Q&A blog series titled "The Expired Eight". Our aim is to highlight instant film photographers using expired film in a variety of formats. Today's Q&A is with Alan Pelz-Sharpe. Alan's series of images are from a broader project he undertook walking around an urban reservoir in North London, England. He took meditative walks searching for things of interest to take back to his makeshift studio. The term for such found objects comes from the french "object trouve". [Wiki: "Art created from undisguised, but often modified, objects or products that are not normally considered art, often because they already have a non-art function..."] Connect with Alan on his website!
Tell us about when instant film came into your life and what inspired to you to keep using it:
Many years ago I worked as part of a team documenting the London Borough of Harringay. I was lucky enough to spend time with a great photographer who experimented with different formats, films and processes. The very first time I pealed apart an exposed Polaroid print I was hooked. The process of warming the film, timing the development, the smell of the chemicals and the physical beauty of the deep gelatinous print surface was incredible even maybe alchemical.
How would you describe your work?
All my work is related to psychogeography or at least the concept that places have a spirit. Be that a hotel room or the wandering back streets of London, just like individual people there is a history and reality of a presence. Connecting in some way with that presence or spirit is what I try to do and to convey that feeling in someway through my photographs.
When did photographing found objects become a project? Was it a gradual process?
I walk a lot and always have and I seldom ever come back from a walk without something in my pocket that I have collected. Be it a stone, a badge/button or a stick. It seemed logical to photograph some of these found objects and completely abstract them from their found environment.
What types of Instant Cameras do you own? Which One is your favorite and why?
The only instant cameras I have owned have been Polaroid backs for 5x4 field cameras. I would love to own a 10x8 and create Polaroid pictures but the cost is prohibitive. A pack of 10 sheets can come in around $200!
What attracted you to Expired Film?
I was originally taught Zone System photography, and very high-end chemical black and white printing. As formal as you can get really, so every thing was about mastering the science of the camera, negative and print. Expired instant film is the antithesis of the total control I had learned, so initially it was completely out of my comfort zone. But I found that when you exposed the first picture and looked at the results the rest of the batch was probably going to react in much the same way in terms of variances away from a pristine and well-stored Polaroid. So I was able to get out of my comfort zone but also feed to an acceptable level my control freaky nature!
What are the main difficulties and hurdles obtaining and using expired film?
The main difficulty is the cost – eBay is a good source, but even with expired film you want to be sure that it has been stored properly. If not a batch can be pretty much useless.
Any tips for those interested in experimenting?
If you want to look cool remember to hold developing prints between your arm and body to warm it. Not sure it really makes a whole lot of difference but makes you look professional ;-)
Do you have any instant photographers that inspire you? (Please include link)
The man I worked with and who introduced me to all kinds of formats is Eric Judlin who teaches Photography in Glasgow, Scotland.I also really like the self portraits from Alyson Belcher a California based artist.