A Polaroid is a moment captured in an instant but held onto a lifetime.
Welcome back to this weeks Artist Spotlight. If you are a new reader of the blog, this is our weekly feature where we showcase an artist that has a clear or unique voice with instant photography. This week we bring you Susan Yee from California. With each Artist Spotlight, we ask for a profile picture. With Susan we got two. The first by her parents and the recent by Michael Smith. I love that she still has the baby picture. After all the years, it hasn’t been lost in a sea of files on a computer. She owns it, she can feel it, it’s tangible, it’s a Polaroid and it’s why we love Instant Photography! You can find more of Susans work at the following links.
• A little about yourself. Where you are from and what you do.
*waves* Hello all! My name’s Susan, and I am a full-time photographer living in a little beach town near San Diego. Photography is definitely one of my greatest passions, with dance coming in a close second. I love expressing myself through visual mediums, and I’m grateful for being able to do what I love!
How did you get into instant photography?
Instant photography has always been a part of my life! The first photo ever taken of me is on a polaroid. 🙂 Many of my photos growing up were also on polaroids. I personally didn’t get into polaroids for myself until I was in college, studying graphic design at the time (which changed to photography in the end). I very much remember that day I picked it up too. I was feeling extremely emotional, and I needed an outlet for it, so I somehow decided to use my family’s One Button (which took sx-70 film), and shot some moody photos (one of which is included here — the sky & powerlines). I remember feeling immensely satisfied emotionally after shooting those images, and from then on, I was hooked.
What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?
I love my SX-70 to death. I also have a 420 for packfilm that I enjoy using too.
What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?
I would really love to shoot with the 195, I can imagine how amazing it would be to have manual control over the settings!
What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?
I actually really love shooting with Fuji 3000B. I also enjoy shooting with 100C, so I enjoy all pack film, pretty much. 🙂 With Impossible film, the only type that I’ve shot with and really liked is the 680 color protect, which can still be hit or miss with me. I’d like to try PX70 color protect at some point though.
How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?
When I’m shooting all or mostly film on a shoot, I LOVE adding in instant images, because I feel like it really sets the tone for the shoot, for both me and the model/subject. It will usually just get me way more excited about the images that we are creating because it gives a tangible result immediately. Sometimes I’ll also shoot some instant film when I’m shooting all digital as well. It’s really fun to bring out the camera at a wedding or something — people always think it’s so cool.
How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)
I’ve found that I’ve been playing with harsher light on packfilm — more than I would with film or digital. Been loving shooting indoors with packfilm, love using window light. When I used to shoot with real polaroid film & my sx-70, my subject of choice was still life. I don’t know if I could describe my voice with instant film, but maybe there is more pausing involved with shooting instant film for me, so there is more of a sense of stillness, perhaps. Whereas my regular work incorporates much more movement.
Any personal projects we should know about?
In the past I’ve done some instant film only projects, like in 2009, I shot a polaroid everyday. I also love shooting instant film while I travel and putting it into a journal while I travel & write my experiences. It’s not a “project” so to speak, but just something I really enjoy doing, and it’s a great keepsake for me later.
I do have some personal projects that are dance related. I don’t shoot exclusively on instant film with those, but sometimes I will bring it along. One is called “Movement from Within,” and focuses on the emotive, raw side of a dancer, as well as their personal journey. The other is called “Beauty of a Dancer” which is a bit more about the spirit and beauty that comes out in a dancer. Most of the latter project is focused on ballerinas or contemporary dancers, whereas the former is more open ended.
What other photographers do you look up too?
I really look up to anyone who has a really strong vision and voice, and stays true to that when they are creating. Rodney Smith is huge influence of mine. I also love Ernst Haas’ work as well. Especially his ballet work. They transport me to another time. I also have some friends who are amazing photographers and I definitely look up to them and their work, like Brett Carlson, James Moes, Samm Blake, Michael Ash Smith and Jasmine Fitzwilliam.
What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?
Grab a camera, a pack of film, and have fun! The best way to learn with this stuff is to shoot, experiment, play, and see the results you get!
Where does your inspiration come from? Do you seek it out or wait till it finds you?
I guess I can be considered a combination of both — I do believe that inspiration comes when you are constantly working (shooting). That’s not to mean that you should just shoot willy nilly, but that you should always be striving for a goal while you shoot. And it’s during that process that something will inspire you/capture you, and you follow that inspiration. In other words, follow your muse. And the way to find the muse is to actively look for it.