Aspen and Old Cabin - Polaroid image transfer

Fri - August 3, 2001

Travels in Tuscany by Edwardo Aites



Aphrodite - Polaroid image transfer

My most recent series of Polaroid image transfers is based on travels in Tuscany in Italy and Provence in France last year.


Aphrodite

This image is a multiple exposure in the camera of a wonderful sculpture of Aphrodite and the poetry of Hesiod, a very early Greek writer whose most famous work was the Theogony. The sense of translucency in the overlap of images was especially intriguing to me, and the image lift off conveys a sense of antiquity.

Manarola - Polaroid image transfer

Manarola

Manarola is on the Italian west coast on the Ligurian Sea. It is a very small village, set against very steep cliffs which climb up from the water. It is full of twisting passageways and narrow corridors which only the villagers really know. I photographed this iron gate rusted from the salty air on one of my walks there.

Siena Dome - Polaroid image transfer

Siena Dome

This transfer was from a photograph taken standing on the high city wall of the medieval town of Siena in Italy, about 50 miles south of Florence. The cathedral dome stands above the lush fields and orchards of the Tuscan countryside which begin very close to the city's edge.

Tuscan Dusk - Polaroid image transfer

Tuscan Dusk

This image is also from Siena in Tuscany. The subtle and complex light of early evening makes the surrounding hills and meadows glow. The villas and orchards lend almost a hypnotic rhythm to the space. I would encourage every photographer to consider getting out into the Italian countryside if you are able to travel to Europe.

I have been making Polaroid image transfers for about five years. During that time I have explored many different techniques and made a lot of mistakes, some of which I actually learned from! Strangely, making mistakes and having images turn out quite differently than what you had envisioned is a fair part of the attraction of transfers. Some suggestions based on my experience follow.

Very high contrast images are especially difficult to transfer with high rates of success. The dark shadows and high density blacks are more likely to lift off and be lost during the transfer. Try to keep your image dynamics toward high-key or "flat" lighting by either shooting in diffused light (which we have in abundance through most of the year here in cloudy Seattle where I live) or by persistent use of fill flash in sunny scenes with deep shadows.

I use Fuji Velvia shot at 40 ASA/ISO for most of my work. Its extreme resolution and sharpness along with luscious color saturation help to compensate for the loss of precision and saturation that the image transfer process involves. I often shoot with a slight warming filter and then make further color compensations during the transfer exposure.

When I began doing image transfers I used the Vivitar slide printer unit which is widely available. These days I use a 4x5 Polaroid holder (until I can acquire the 8x10 format) and use an enlarger to transfer the image. The enlarger gives me much more control over the process, but it does require a darkroom.

I have been using the gelatin soak method for some time now, as I find it enhances the sensitivity of the image and the color saturation. This method, described by Polaroid in their Image Transfer procedure notes, involves using standard Knox gelatin packages in warm water. I also use a warming tray. The heat helps to keep the dyes mobile and to facilitate the transfer of the gelatin matrix. This is probably also the reason that presoaking the paper in a gelatin solution helps so much--it is compatible with the chemical environment for the dyes. I also now do almost all of my separations in a tray of warm water because it helps to lessen emulsion lift-off.

One last note - I have also done experimentation with a variety of Japanese "rice" papers and these can create a different and exciting look for the image. Look for papers which have a fairly smooth surface and which are strong enough to hold up to being wet without falling apart. The Japanese Kitakata paper is excellent. Use a mister or spray bottle rather than a tray to moisten these kinds of paper, and do not use a gelatin soaking. Good luck, and have fun!….

all images © Edwardo Aites, Seattle, Washington
Image Transfers - Tuscany, Venice, and England

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