Today we are bringing Martin Holland into the spotlight. Martin has been a supporter of the blog for a while and has a Flickr stream flooded with instant film. Born in England, but living currently in Ústí nad Labem, a city north of the Czech Republic, Martin has many hobbies. When I’m not taking photos or taking forever to finish writing books, I teach English to Czech people and drink and smoke too much. Not simultaneously, I hasten to add.- Martin
You can find more of Martin’s work at the following links.
How did you get into instant photography?
Well… my first ‘real’ girlfriend gave me one of those clunky silver plastic Polaroid OneStep Expresses for my fifteenth birthday, and the first girl I ever loved had her entire door (and most of one wall) of her bedroom covered in Polaroid photos. So I suppose you could say that love got me into instant photography. If you’re as soppily nostalgic and romantic as I am, that is.
Realistically, I never really used my OneStep for anything other than the occasional holiday until my second year studying photography at the University of Derby. This was 2007, and at the time there was a huge debate raging between both lecturers and students over analogue versus digital photography. All I knew was that I wasn’t finding photography as fun as I once had, so I decided to find a way of focusing on the aspect of photography that I had always been most interested in: composition.
I started a project (almost wholly inspired by the American photographer Jeff Gros, who published one Polaroid photo a week on his website for one year) called ‘Day By Day,’ in which I would take one Polaroid a day and publish it, regardless of the outcome. One of the most important things about instant photography – for me – is that you can’t edit your photo after you’ve taken it. You have to either get it right or live with your mistake forever.
When I got to my first tutorial for the project, the wonderful (and somewhat legendary) John Blakemore took one disapproving glance at my OneStep Express and remarked: “THAT’s a camera?” A few days after, I was at his house drinking tea (not sure why, as – regardless of my heritage – I’m not very fond of the stuff) and buying his spare Polaroid SX-70 from him. And the rest is history. Kind of.
What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?
My personal favorite would be the particular SX-70 I just mentioned. I have lots of great memories attached to that particular camera, but unfortunately I dropped it in Prague a few years ago which cracked its front corner, completely buggered up the mirror, and caused me to scream a profanity at a very high pitch in the middle of a crowded international airport. It now serves as an expensive bookend. I replaced it with an SX-70 Alpha 1, back when they didn’t cost an arm and a leg on eBay. Though I rarely use its tripod mount, the strap has been a godsend.
Which instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?
Just to buck the trend a little in this series of yours, I have to say: I’ve experimented with large format in the past, and it’s not for me. All the more 8×10 film for you aficionados. I’m quite interested in seeing what the Impossible Project come up with in the future for their integral films, though I think they’re hard-pressed to make any improvement on the classic SX-70. Also, the beautiful Todd Forsgren introduced me to a really nice Fuji (I think) instant camera which I would love to try out more thoroughly should I ever have a little more disposable income.
What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?
I’m a big fan of the PX 680 line of films, which I use with a neutral density filter. I seem to get better results that way than when using PX 70. I particularly liked Impossible’s ‘V4B’ and ‘V4C’ test films, which were the Impossible Pioneer precursors to the late-2012 Color Protection films. That said; I’m not sure whether or not I only liked them so much because they were so cheap in comparison to Impossible’s full-priced films, which gave me a chance to experiment.
How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?
My regular workflow – if you can call it regular, or a workflow – consists only of instant film. I can’t remember the last time I took a photo using any other medium. (This doesn’t mean I’m rich, please don’t mug me in the street; I’m just not nearly as prolific as I used to be.) Instant photography reinvigorated my interest in photography in general, at the cost of my interest in making any other type of photograph. That said, the anticipation of waiting for an instant photo to develop is the closest I come nowadays to how I used to feel when waiting for a roll of film to be sent back from the developer’s. And for that I am thankful.
How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)
‘Unflattering’ is how some other people have described it, though I’m not sure that’s how I’d describe it myself. I can only assume I got my love of old hand-painted signage and dilapidated buildings from Walker Evans and William Christenberry, both of whose photography I was a big fan of throughout college and university. I take photos of things and people and places and moments which interest me. I’m pretty sure that everybody else does the same.
Any personal projects we should know about?
I have a four-year backlog of photos and notebooks full of ramblings that I really need to edit down into a coherent collection for my second book. When that’s done, I’ll be starting a crowdfunding campaign to get it printed. I’d like to say July or August as an estimate, but my timekeeping skills are pretty much on par with Guns N’ Roses and VALVe, so… we’ll see.
I’m also in the early stages of writing a comic book epic in a similar vein to Transmetropolitan, Preacher or Y: The Last Man, which will almost certainly have some kind of instant photography tangent. Though who knows when that’ll see the light of day. Anybody know any good comic artists?
Which other photographers do you look up to?
Far too many to mention, but I’ll name a couple. Jed Hoyland, John Blakemore, Colin Wilson and John Kinsey are four people without whom I wouldn’t have had the slightest interest in photography. Fantastic artists, teachers and human beings, all four of them. A Czech photographer I became mildly obsessed with a few years ago is the late Miroslav Tichý. I feel I’m already babbling on far too much, but I strongly recommend you go and check out the story of his life, his modified cameras and his pictures. Controversial to some; but very, very interesting.
If we’re specifically talking about contemporary instant photographers, I really like Andrew Millar’s work with Impossible film. His style is completely different to mine, but his stuff is absolutely spellbinding. Toby Hancock’s instant work is also spectacular.
What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?
JUST getting into instant photography? Hm. Be prepared to be very frustrated and waste massive amounts of money, I suppose. I know that doesn’t sound particularly encouraging, but it is genuine advice. Oh, and: shield your photos. Regardless of what Impossible say about their new generation of Color Protection films, you’re still much better off shielding your images for at least half a minute after your camera spits ’em out. I only say this as a bitter old man who remembers the absolute simplicity of Polaroid 600 film, so you may want to just ignore me and experiment for yourself.
Where does your inspiration come from? Do you seek it out or wait till it finds you?
One of my favorite quotes on this very subject comes from the late, great Charles Bukowski:
“Somebody at one of these places asked me: ‘What do you do? How do you write, create?’ You don’t, I told them. You ‘don’t try’. That’s very important: not to try. Either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it.”
Regardless, I think it’s important to bring inspiration from all aspects of your life to your craft. I get most of my inspiration – or at least that feeling of urgency to create – from mediums other than photography: music, literature, friendships, comedians, comic books, films. Sorry: movies. No, hold on. I’m not sorry.
My first (and thus far only) book – ‘I Should (But I Don’t Think I Will) Change the World’ – was unashamedly titled after a line from a song by the incredible-yet-sadly-defunct English ska-punk band Lightyear. A few weeks after it was released, I admitted to Lightyear’s former singer and lyricist Chas Palmer-Williams that I’d stolen his words to make myself look clever and sent him a copy. I wrote something on one of the pages thanking him for all the good times and good tunes, and got a message back on Facebook a week or so later thanking me for the surreal experience of having somebody else title a book after something you wrote. I guess the point I’m verbosely trying to get across is: wear your influences on your sleeve, something lovely might come of it.
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