This is the eighth 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 Matt Chalky Smith . Connect with Matt on Twitter!
Tell us about when instant film came into your life and what inspired to you to keep using it?
I first saw a packfilm camera in the summer of 2006. A very good friend of mine (https://www.flickr.com/photos/caballosblancos/) had bought one after seeing some other mutual friends shooting with one. After my initial confusion of why he had bought something so old, after seeing some of the shots I was immediately hooked and went home and bought one that day. I’m addicted to instant photography as I don’t think I will ever bore of peeling a polaroid apart and seeing a result I had aimed for, or a lucky accident that turned out nicely. It has a feel to it that other forms of photography cannot achieve.
What attracted you to expired film? Have a favorite?
Well polaroid finished making film relatively soon after I started shooting it, so I’ve shot very little fresh film. But I guess I enjoy the whole process of finding it, testing it, and often being very surprised by the results. I’ve had film from the mid 1980s work for me and produce some incredible results. The unpredictability is interesting and of course the way it handles blue and red! Favorites are 108/669 and sepia for pack film, TZ for my SX70, and T55 and T59 for my crown graphic. No surprises there though!
How would you describe your work?
It’s unplanned and relaxed, generally revolving around the beach, surfing and the Cornish coastline. I’ve got a young son so he is starting to feature quite heavily too. It’s more photos of people and things I pass than anything I have envisioned or looked for.
What types of Instant Cameras and film do you use? What is your favorite combination?
I went through a time, as a lot of people do, where my camera collection grew to a ridiculous size, so I sold a lot to reduce it to something small-ish, and I only kept the ones I really use. I have a 195 and converted 110b for packfilm, an SX-70 for integral and my latest camera, a crown graphic for 4x5 and also some packfilm too. I have a polaroid image for spectra film but don’t use it loads.
I mainly use old polaroid packfilm of all varieties, fuji 3000b, and TZ if I ever find it. I’m also now getting into 4x5 and am looking forward to the new55 project progressing to launch. I enjoy the impossible stuff but I’m still getting to grips with it.
What are the main difficulties and hurdles obtaining and using expired film?
There are a few but they are part of the charm I guess. Being in the UK there is far less available on ebay than in the US. It’s getting expensive, I saw 20 shots of 669 sell for £55 last week! And there is always the risk of a pack being dead which can be a very painful discovery when the whole pack produces nothing. It’s getting less and less easy to find, there are only so many packs in corners of people’s homes waiting to be found and sold on ebay. The older the film is, the more it is prone to erratic performance, which can result in more wasted film. However saying all that I’m a self confessed ebay addict and have shot enough of it now to know where to start every time I open a new pack.
Any tips for those interested in experimenting?
Accept you’ll have some disappointments, but also some bits of luck that produce magic. Take your time and enjoy the whole process. Colour pack film can last decades past expiry date, black and white in my experience ages quicker. Integral film doesn’t last as long so be more careful if buying that. Stop shooting when the light gets low. Never point an automatic polaroid camera towards the sun!
Do you have any instant photographers that inspire you? (please provide links).
You only have to look at the recent Roidweek pool on flickr to see some of the amazing and inspiring photographers out there. There are too many to name and you should all go and see for yourself!
Outside of there I am inspired by Ryan Tatar (http://ryantatar.com/), Matt Georges snowboarding polaroid work is epic (http://www.mattgeorges.com/polaroids/669-2/) and Joni Sternbach (http://www.jonisternbach.com/index.html) produces some of the most incredible surfing portraits using tin type, which as she says is almost an early form of polaroid. Also if you like surf photography check out Leroy Grannis and Ron Stoner, not polaroid, but incredible kodachrome images. Go look around polanoid and flickr and if you’re into polaroids, it wont take long to find a photo to inspire you.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions/publications?