Polaroid Emulsion Lifts

By Magdalena Montanaro

I have been taking a darkroom photography class this fall semester at the University of the Arts. In the second to last class EVERYTHING WAS GOING WRONG. The developer was not working (so Giselle’s - my friend in the picture above - and my negatives came out completely blank), the water stopped running, the power went out, and the elevators stopped. Being on the 15th floor, it was rough for us.

The next class, having no negatives to work with, the teacher decided to assign a separate project. She gave Giselle and me a Colorpack Swinger Polaroid camera and told us to go out and shoot 3 pictures each. When we got back, our teacher had a skillet filled with boiling water prepared and told us to drop our polaroids in it. So we did. About a minute later, we pulled them out and placed them into cool water. The pictures slipped right off of the back paper (this is called an emulsion), and we put the homemade emulsions on some paper. At first doubting that this project would end up well, it ended up as some really cool stuff.

If you’re wondering what the heck this picture is: it’s two pigeons picking on food by a trash bin in an alleyway. Why is it so blurry? A car was driving straight at me way too fast for an alleyway and Giselle was screaming at me to get out of the street and I was screaming back that I need this picture. The car wasn’t slowing down even though I was waving my arms and just as the car was death-length away I took the picture and jumped out of the way. Was it worth it? I dunno- you tell me.