Article submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by Maree Hamilton. Photos shot by Daniel Dorsa.
Pawesome portraits, sound-triggered selfies and a race against the self timer: we wanted to see what three New York City-based artists could do with the creative modes on the OneStep+ camera. The results, we’re happy to report, are wild. So we sat down with each of them to talk inspiration, the meaning of art in the modern world and their respective connections to Polaroid film. Now, meet Gus, Grace and David for yourself.
Independent musician Gus Dapperton categorizes his own creativity, in a particular, as emotional release. “I don’t get writers block because I would never force myself to write,” he tells us. “The music I hear in my head is built by everyone I love, everyone I pass on the street. I’m only here to translate it sonically.”
We had to wonder then, what, if any, inspiration New York contributes to that process for him. “Inspiration finds me daily through love and hate. I am inspired by words, phrases, pain, pleasure and changes in my environment,” he explains. “I make art in order to live and New York City reminds me to live fast. The pain is bearable here and it’s nice to be surrounded by like-minded people with great work ethics.” To that end, he creates dreamy, retro sounds that feel both universally nostalgic and personally poignant.
“Exploring new and innovative ways to create means a lot to me. I would never try to create something that has already been produced. I strive to say things that have never been said and make sounds that have never been heard.” It’s this philosophy, perhaps, that informs his spontaneous self-portraits created with the OneStep+, in which he lets his voice and music trigger the shutter. It takes the resulting image beyond direct artistic control.
“I think using the Noise Trigger gives a deeper meaning to the photo, if you think about that exact sound [that] triggered [it]. I think if I went back and looked at those photos their, coinciding sounds would play in my head and provoke emotions in me I had initially used to create the sounds.”
On the other hand is photographic artist David Brandon Geeting, who cites a more lighthearted approach to his work. “Playfulness is maybe the most important aspect of my creative process,” he says, citing it as one of many reasons he was curious to experiment with the OneStep+. “As an artist, I like to keep all possibilities open, so to be able to use a film camera and see instant test results is amazing.”
It’s not Geeting’s first analog instant rodeo either. His parents had a Polaroid camera when he was a kid: “I couldn’t believe a camera could provide instant results, it seemed too good to be true,” he reflects. “In an age where everything seems to be created digitally, film photography is having a real renaissance in an attempt to reconnect with tangibility. The new OneStep+ camera seems like a perfect marriage of the two — controlled digitally but printed physically. I think it really speaks to creatives’ needs right now.”
His choice to create surreal still-lives, racing against the Self Timer mode countdown for a chaotic but dynamic project, goes hand-in-hand with his feelings on how his photograph work expands and changes over time. “My creative process is constantly shifting and adapting to my environment,” he says. “I’m not so much interested in photography’s ability to capture reality, but rather how it transforms and abstracts it’s subject matter. I am using the world around me to make fantasy photographs.”
Interestingly, when he talks about the aspects of life that inspire him, he echoes certain sentiments expressed by Dapperton — especially when it comes to New York City. “Most of my inspiration comes from taking walks, paying attention, and taking cues from the universe,” he says. “What you see on the street in New York City is often stranger than what your mind dreams up.” To wit, he has an upcoming book called Neighborhood Stroll which chronicles his walks around his home neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, over the course of three years.
And the other New York creatives whose work he loves? “Zhongjia Sun — a queer, female, person of color, currently living in New York City as an immigrant from China. She makes enigmatic digital photographs that are straight from her wild imagination and seem unfiltered by anyone’s expectations of her.”
Grace Miceli, also a visual artist, works in illustration but is also a painter and animator. Her drawings, she says, aim to “explore vulnerabilities and everyday anxieties through the lens of cute imagery and humor.” Sounds like she and the OneStep+ are meant to be, doesn’t it? She agrees. “I think playfulness is an important way for me to activate my mind,” she says. “Having a light-hearted approach when I create helps guide me towards my most meaningful ideas, because it creates a comfortable environment for me to access my inner world.”
Similar to Geeting, it’s not the first step in her journey with Polaroid film and cameras. Hers actually began when she was a teenager. “When I first started to identify as an artist I was always taking Polaroid photos of my friends and drawing on them,” she remembers. “The accessibility and ease of use of the camera makes it exciting for anyone new looking to explore the possibilities of photography. Currently I’m really interested in the role that nostalgia plays in my work, so it has been fun to incorporate Polaroid [photographs] into that journey.”
She was particularly drawn to the possibilities of Portrait Mode, and using it on unexpected (but no less worthwhile) subjects. It’s helped her rediscover the medium she first felt connected with as an artist. She hopes to continue beyond this specific project, and expand the possibilities of the role instant photography can play for her, by “taking more portraits of my dog and of my friends and then maybe eventually turning those into paintings or illustrating around the frames.”
And what does one artist who started early have to say to anyone else starting down their own creative path, right now? “Reach out and connect with your peers! So much growth and learning comes from collaboration.” We couldn’t agree more.