Evocative and the antithesis of Instagram...the work of Adam Harriden

Evocative and the antithesis of Instagram...the work of Adam Harriden

Photographer Adam Harriden eschews both the latest in high-tech cameras and the immediacy of Instagram in favour of the Polaroid camera.

By Abby Trow
Two Lovers

Australian photographer Adam Harridan loves working with Polaroid because of its capacity to capture feeling and memory in a way the razor sharp digital photography we see around us everyday can't. Pictured above: evoking distant memories of carefree holidays and youth, perhaps, tinged with a sadness that what's gone won't come again..Two Lovers

Polaroid cameras were the height of cool in the '70s and '80s, and memory of someone saying 'smile' and a picture of the occasion being passed round a few minutes later makes you wonder they haven't been updated, given that for all the photos we have on our phones, hardly any of them ever get printed..

For photographer Adam Harriden, Polaroid is an artform and he uses Polaroid film because it creates a particular look and atmosphere - much as Kodachrome film had its particular intensity of colour. 'For me we live in era were technology makes everything so easy,' he says. 'Polaroid for me offers the opposite - a challenge to create something with faults, cracks, blurs, a chance to get it wrong and yet create something so unique and beautiful. And what's so wrong with something being difficult? Polaroid is difficult at every stage and to me that's art.' 

Ghost Point Surfers
Pass. Harridan loves Polaroid because of its grainy beauty
Two Palms
Harriden's images are about people, youth, the sea, summer, the sun and they have that dreamy, hazy quality that transports you back to a moment in time; a day at the beach when you were a child, an afternoon swimming when you felt liberated and happy. And yet those sort of memories bring a pleasant sadness because it's a time passed, a point in life that's gone and won't come again.
But Harriden, who's returned to Australia after a decade working in New York,  says he doesn't start with mood, but with the content of each image. 'Each image itself is so hard to frame there's often a real luck involved. But what I'm really trying to achieve is a shot that places you in the moment, you feel as though you're there with me.
'I do think my pictures capture a timelessness that you won't get tired of and there's a softness to them. Also, I think the more your look, the more you see and feel.'
Iceberg Spirit Pool. www.gonetosea.org
Harriden is now back in Australia after some years working in the US
The Bridge - Harriden worked in advertising in New York for 10 years
The Boat House

Polaroid pictures did fade over time, given the chemicals that processed the image before your eyes kept on working. Harriden's pictures will not fade away, and obviously he's developed his own techniques using the medium of Polaroid. 'It is a very technical process and it has its limitations: you can't shoot into light, you can't shoot in the dark, you can't be to far away or to close, each shot needs to be transferred in the dark so I've had to make my own portable dark room that I set up on the beach or wherever I am.

'The film - which isn't on sale to the public any more - is very expensive, and there's a real craft and skill to get it right - in the beginning I was working through trial and error and it still means a lot to me when I get it right and achieve a great shot.'

The charm of Polaroid film lies in its imperfections, says Harriden, who thinks advanced digital cameras have been detrimental to photography as an artform: 'How do photographers today differentiate themselves when all you need is a good camera, the right location, and your done?  Everyone's doing the same thing these days and perfection gets very boring fast.

'So to me, the more cracks, blurs, and pixellations the better.'

Harriden, who uses a 1968 103 Polaroid LAND camera, can print his images in any size up to 1m square and he thinks his images look best when in large format. 'The bigger I print the work the more amazing it looks because the little imperfections and individual traits all come out, so to speak.'  

As to how eco his work is, he thinks he's doing ok. 'I try to use recycled paper for my prints and eco friendly inks. And our frames are all sustainable Tasmanian oak.'

You can order images online and Harriden ships worldwide.

To see him at work, see this video https://vimeo.com/148161980