Polaroid SF is a photo-a-day Polaroid camera and instant film celebration that has delighted blog viewers since September, 2011. The brain-child of San Francisco-dwellers Bruce Scott and William Westley, Polaroid SF displays the love they share for The Golden Gate City. As they put it, addressing their fans, "We’re inspired by your friends and neighbors, your favorite streets, and the irrepressible spirit of this city." In 2015 Polaroid SF teamed up with "Hearts in SF," the public arts project started by the SF General Hospital Foundation, winning a commission to create a "Polaroid Heart." Bruce and Billy invited the SF community to collaborate by sending instant photos for possible inclusion. In the end over 1,000 images were fixed to the 400-pound heart, treated against the weather, and mounted in downtown Union Square, SF, at Post and Stockton. The Polaroid Heart will be on view until October 23, 2015.
How and when did you become involved with the 2015 Heart project with SF General Hospital foundation? Was there a selection process for your specific project?
Living in San Francisco you can’t miss these hearts. They’re everywhere. However, it wasn’t until we came across a Call for Artists for the 2015 Hearts in SF that we actually learned they’re part of public art project started by the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation in 2004. Each year the foundation commissions new hearts that are auctioned off, and then some are displayed throughout the city. There had never been a photography-based heart before and our idea was met with trepidation, so we really didn’t think our proposal had much of a chance. But thankfully they were willing to take a risk on us.
The purpose of the hearts project is to raise money for the General. Was your heart auctioned off for donation money to the foundation? What can you share with us about this process?
Each year’s crop of new hearts is unveiled and auctioned off at the SFGHF’s annual gala “Hearts After Dark.” It all takes place on the field of AT&T Park where the SF Giants play. We made the Polaroid Heart in our garage, so to see it in this setting was a bit surreal!
Was there specific philanthropist that "claimed" your piece?
The Polaroid Heart was purchased by United Health Group, and then donated back to the foundation. We’re hopeful this means the heart has many more lives left in it and that the foundation can get lots of mileage out of it.
When and how did you conceive the idea of the Polaroid Heart? How did you decide on a location for it? Was it pre-decided?
When we were designing the Polaroid Heart, we really wanted to make it a community project, and not just a collection of our photos. The hundreds of pictures of San Francisco we’ve accumulated over the years may have been the initial source of inspiration, but making something collaborative was just as important. All along we hoped the Polaroid Heart would find its way to Union Square. It is the most prominent place the hearts get displayed, but not all of them end up there. We wanted everyone who contributed Polaroids to be able to pay the heart a visit and see how their memories became part of something larger. We’re happy to say that the heart is now on the corner of Post & Stockton in Union Square and will be there through October 23rd.
How many pictures were submitted? How many were selected for the Heart ? What was the selection process?
We put out a call for others to send their Polaroids for inclusion and the response was overwhelming. In the end over 1000 Polaroids ended up making it onto the heart, all of them taken in San Francisco by people who love this city and wanted to share that. The heart is so big that nearly all the pictures we received made it onto the heart.
How did you group the pictures for the Heart? Are there separate, coherent portions of the Heart... or is it a giant random pastiche?
There are several layers of Polaroids on the heart. For the first layer, we arranged the photos into a grid that covered the entire surface. With the subsequent layers, we broke that grid apart and made things a little less regular. What photos we chose was a very intuitive process. There’s definitely some intentional interplay going on, but some of the best areas are accidental.
How did you design the Heart sub-structure? Who manufactured it? How did you mount the pictures and protect them from the weather?
The heart arrived to us pre-built, sanded, and primed, and weighing in at 400lbs. It was up to us to cover it with Polaroids and to figure out how to protect the surface. We researched everything from garage floor coating to boat sealant, but in the end went with a combination of epoxy and polyurethane recommended to us by an arts and special effects company here in San Francisco.
What have been some of the stand-out reactions to the Heart? What are viewers saying about the Heart?
Seeing how much love everyone has for the heart has been incredible. There are already hundreds of photos on Instagram taken in front of the heart. We’ve only got a couple of clear shots of it ourselves because of the crowd constantly gathered around it. Two weeks after the heart was installed it was vandalized by an unscrupulous tagger. Within a day we had a team assembled and the graffiti was cleaned off. We were so happy to see that others cared about the heart just as much as we did.
Lastly, how did you two work together to accomplish this feat? Any stories from the beginning to the end of the project that you would like to share?
Lots of planning, ventilation, late nights, and beer!