Emma Case is a wedding photographer based in Birmingham, England. On New Year’s Eve — whilst travelling in New Zealand — she read an article on our previous blog about a 365 project, exploring how Jolanda Boekhout had taken a photo using Impossible film every day for a year. Looking through the gallery and reading Jolanda’s story, Emma felt inspired to start her very own 365 project, documenting the remainder of her round-the-world trip.
“Along with my husband Pete, I’ve been shooting weddings for the last 6 years. Our work puts a strong emphasis on nostalgia, the importance of family and home; making the polaroid-format a natural fit for giving newlyweds a unique, tangible keepsake from their special day. Since as long as I can remember I would flick through my mum’s huge box of family photos and pick out all the Polaroids, admiring the tones, the light, and just how magical they were to be able to tell such a big story in such a small white frame. It really did feel like that moment was frozen in time. There’s something about the photo instantly appearing, physically, and just after the captured moment. I love the way the white frame gave the moment more attention, how there were no negatives that you could get reprinted. They are a one off, a precious snapshot of my family history and I cherish my collection to this day.
In October last year we went on a 5 month trip around the world, spending 3 months in New Zealand and then heading onto Australia, Thailand, Tokyo and America. It was a once in a lifetime trip and although we wanted to document our travels, we didn’t want it to get in the way of us experiencing it to the absolute fullest. There weren’t any strict rules for the 365 project. I wanted it to be enjoyable, and although I tried my hardest to take one photo daily and correctly expose it, if I missed a day or had to retake one that was okay too. I looked at the project as a visual diary but also a sort of course – a way to improve on my techniques with Impossible film, and a way to learn from my mistakes. The more I had my Polaroid camera in my hand, the more I got to know it. For me it was like a courtship of sorts. We had to get to know each other, learn about each other’s likes and dislikes.
At first I had to really take my time, looking at light, composition – and start to think like my camera. I would carry it in my bag at all times, squeal and ask Pete to turn around in the car and drive back if I’d seen a moment I just HAD to photograph.
I even ran back three blocks to take the photo of a guy holding a “Hi. I’m Denzel Washington” sign at the side of the road. It made me more courageous and creatively active, and my photographs got better and better with time.
That’s the thing with shooting instant film. It’s all about investment. The effort you put in will reflect in the rewards you get out. Shooting with a Polaroid camera takes time, but that’s the best thing about it – the results that much sweeter, that much more deserved.
At first I had to really take my time, looking at light, composition – and start to think like my camera
What I love most about shooting with Impossible film is the process. For me the it’s not just about framing the shot and exposing correctly, it’s also about the developing process too. In other words, what happens after you’ve taken the shot. Most of my photographs tend to be sent straight to the ‘developing lab’ (down my top) where I’ll let them develop for about 30 minutes. This is because I’ve found that the majority of climates I’m in, my body heat helps to develop the image. What you do straight after the image is taken can play a huge part in the final result. I’m constantly assessing the temperature and adjusting things accordingly. In Thailand for instance, it was so warm that I would take a photo, shield it from the sun immediately and then run back to our hotel room and let it develop, face down in the cooler room. This control from start to finish, each part of the process having to be thought through and adjusted, it makes you really slow down and concentrate – and when you’ve nurtured something with so much care and attention, when you get to turn it over and see the results, there is simply no better feeling when it works. It’s pure magic.
If you’re reading this and thinking about starting your own project I’d say most importantly be prepared – I always have a bag or a pocket ready so that when I take a photo I can hide it instantly. When you’re getting to know your camera stick with one type of film for consistency so you can get used to how the camera works. Make notes about what works and what doesn’t in terms of light and your exposure dial and most importantly download the Impossible App: whilst travelling I was able to scan all my photos on to my phone and email them to myself!
We came back from travelling in mid-April and seeing all my photographs together, it actually makes me pretty emotional. Each one tells such a huge story on it’s own, but when you put them all together, in their own quirky way, with their captivating tones and wonderfully perfect flaws, they really do remind us of what an enormously epic trip we were fortunate to experience. Now we’re back home the project is obviously still going but I feel that I now have such a different relationship with my camera. We trust each other and know each other pretty well and now, wherever I go, my camera goes too.”