Ferns Polaroid Type 55 positive negative film. Polaroid is quite a remarkable photographic medium. Quite apart from the instantaneous imaging it could provide, the prints themselves are quite unique in their characteristics. Polaroid introduced the Type 55 P/N film back in 1961. It produces both a positive print as well as a black and white negative which could be enlarged.
This image was made in my parents’ home garden one summer. I had just purchased a Polaroid 545 film back for my wooden field camera and I was eager to try out some 4×5 Polaroid film. My only previous experience of 4×5 sheet Polaroid was as a student at Curtin University in the 80s doing a photography unit elective as part of my science degree. Watching 4×5 polaroid develop in just a few seconds was magical stuff, was also expensive and was why the tutor used it sparingly.
Alas, Polaroid Type 55 positive negative film is no longer made. It was rated around 50 ISO on the box which, in my eagerness, is what I exposed the image above at. Great for a well exposed print, big mistake for a negative if you want to print from it. In Ansel Adam’s Polaroid Land Photography, 1978, it states that there is more than one stop difference between the effective negative and positive print speeds. Their tests gave an effective print speed of 64 ISO and a negative speed of 20 ISO (page 288). This speed difference would in some way explain my difficulty in matching the polaroid print (in this instance) with an enlargement on fibre based from the polaroid negative. Indeed the polaroid negative is visually thin and would indicate underexposure.
Today I was printing from the Polaroid negative for the first time, using the Polaroid print as a reference. Try as I may, I could not achieve the same degree of tonal separation between the fern edges and the dark shadows. Yet the Polaroid print itself captures it beautifully. I have not given up though, I might have another try in the darkroom after a bit of thinking about it.
The Impossible Project (https://www.the-impossible-project.com/) are still manufacturing instant films in some formats.