Technique: Polaroid Image Transfer

During my time at Stanford, in the summer of 1994, I spent time in the San Francisco Art Scene where I was introduced to photographic techniques such as the Polaroid Image Transfer and Ansel Adams’ The Zone System. Till today I find that inspirational. I thought I could research Image Transfers and share this today with you.

What I discovered was that, as an art form one could use a slide film and project it onto a surface such as paper, glass, cloth or wood. Using an enlarger – printer, even the most simple photographs can be replicated in their own artistic ways.

Methods of Image Transfers

  1. Polaroid Image Transfer: Using a camera, enlarger, slide printer or Day Lab, expose colour Polaroid film. You need pull-apart type film, such as Polaroid 669 (now discontinued), 669, 59, 559, and 809, or Fujifilm FP-100C. Develop by pulling the film from the holder. Wait about 10-15 seconds and quickly pull the film apart, not letting the two sides (the picture and the negative) touch. Put the pulled apart negative face down on paper (or other material). Place pressure over negative and let sit for about 20 minutes. Then pour hot water over each side of the negative/paper sandwich. Gently peel the negative from the paper. Allow transfer to dry, face up. Slide printers allow you to make Polaroid transfers from previously-taken slides or negatives. [Ref 1]

In a nutshell, the process involves copying the film or slide onto a Polaroid, followed by aborting the developing process of the Polaroid and transferring the still developing image onto a medium of your choice. Typically, 30 seconds after the Polaroid is created it is peeled apart and hot pressed onto a medium where the full development time of 90 seconds is achieved. Thereby you transfer the image onto cloth, paper, glass or wood.

2. Emulsion Lift: An emulsion lift is basically just cutting open the Polaroid and submerging it in water to remove the emulsion from the plastic backing. Then you take that emulsion and transfer it to whatever you want, in this case water-colour paper.

Here’s a great video that illustrates the process and the web page lists the materials required and the method involved. [Ref 2] Some of the equipment used: