An Instax Project And A Framing Challenge – by Aukje

Two years ago I changed jobs to be able to work closer to home, allowing me to bike to work, and combine commuting with photography. Or at least it gave me more flexibility, with two cameras in a handlebar bag for easy accessibility: a digital M and an instax camera. Part of my commute is a rather picturesque road along a canal lined with trees. I chose this road for a year-long project in 2017, where I made a photo every workday-morning from the same spot with my instax camera.

Overview of all the photos I made during this 2017 project

To be able to align each photo I looked for some landmarks in the picture. I stood on a small footpath, which helped me to keep a constant distance from the photo. I looked for the angle of the small streams in the meadow in the background to help me align transversely. And the circle in the viewfinder of the camera helped keeping the pitch of the camera constant. It is not a perfect method, but putting a pole in the ground to put my camera on was not an option.

I was surprised by all the colours the instax can pick-up. Specifically in the early morning when the sun is not so bright. After a while I started using the ‘dark’ option of the camera to bring out the colours in the sky even more. I think the most difficult time for the instax camera was summer, when the sun was in my view on a clear day. That’s the difficulty with choosing a spot in the winter, it is not that obvious to predict where the sun will be during summer time.
Although not perfectly aligned, I still like the result when you see all the instax photos together, with the changing seasons and changing light. Above you can see the overview of all photos, there are not as much as you would expect as 2017 wasn’t my best year health wise. And, although I never missed a day for a project like this with the digital camera, I skipped a few very dull days for this project. Somehow the cost of the film got into my head making me more critical about it. I am not sure that was the right choice, as you can’t always predict whether a photo will be worth while. 

At the end of the year I encountered the challenge of how to create something of all the instax photos. I have a similar project with a digital camera where I make a movie of (a selection of) the photos, but that didn’t work with instax. I didn’t want to align instax scans and crop the result to make everything match. So I decided that I wanted to put a selection in a frame that I could put up on the wall. My man is an enthusiast wood-worker, and he was kind enough to made a beautiful frame out of zebrawood. After that it was up to me to fill it. The frame has a backboard with white coating on the front. At first I tried to tape the instax to this backboard with double-sided tape. But the tape didn’t stick. And it was quite difficult to keep a constant spacing between the photos. I started talking to a colleague and fellow-photographer about my issue with putting the instax in the frame, both with positioning and with fixing. He mentioned a company called Laserbeest who can make accurate cuts with a laser in different materials. After thinking about how to take this on, my man came with the final idea. We ordered a sheet of carton with cuts the size of instax photos to function as a mould. On top of that comes a thicker type of carton with smaller cuts to function as a passe-partout for every photo. With the backboard behind the mould the instax photos would be sandwiched between the back and the passe-partout, and the mould would keep the instax in place. In theory this would work without any glue. However to be safe the passe-partout was created from a carton with glue on the back to fixate the instax.

Below you see the mould with the instax photos neatly spaced.

Laser-cut mould

The passe-partout is mounted on top of the mould. With the glue on the backside on of the passe-partout, both the mould and the instax are fixated.

Mould with instax covered with the laser-cut passe-partout

The nature of the laser cutting is burning through the paper, leaving a trail of soot on the inner edges. I decided that it would be ok, basically creating an extra dark line around each photo. You can see the soot in the close-up below, the effect is quite subtle.

Close-up of the passe-partout with dark/burnt inner edges

The mounting turned out quite challenging still, the instax started attaching to the glue on the back of the passe-partout before it was properly aligned, so I had to take them all off and re-attach again from the back. Because of the glue it was difficult to get a precise alignment, so there is a small tilt of the passe-partout with respect to the mould. However, I am glad that I finished the project. When I had trouble seeing the solution immediately it became unclear if I was able to finish it at all. And probably a second time I would change a few things making it more perfect. I am also no sure about the wooden frame, I might change it later as it is slightly overpowering the photos. But for now I am happy because a job done is better than a perfect one.

The finished product

For those who are interested, the digital commute project I did the same year, but further up the canal, is on my website: whataukjesees. You can also find more of my photos there, both digital and film. I also post film photos regularly on instagram.

Thanks for reading and Hamish, thanks for having me!

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39 thoughts on “An Instax Project And A Framing Challenge – by Aukje”

  1. What a lovely story, Aukje.

    The April 8th shot is interesting as the lead in from the bottom left adds depth to this image and which none of the others attain. Looks like gremlins got to work on the July 4th image, or was it the UFO, but the result is very attractive and the resultant change in the foliage leads to an interesting image in its own right.

    And top marks to your man, what a fantastic frame.

    1. Thanks Terry!

      It wasn’t gremlins I have to say. The sun always causes a black spot in Instax mini, but it does seem to eat it’s way into the trees 😉 .

  2. What a great way presenting the images ! I’m sure your idea has commercial potential – perhaps a series of options with a smaller matrix, say 6×6 images or 4×3 – whatever. Your method is SO much better than the generally available systems for presenting numbers of Instax mini images.

    As an aside, I’ve found the Instax mini images are great for creating stereo pairs…

    1. Thanks John!
      I must say I also like the Leica Sofort presenter with black paper framing. But their method wasn’t suitable for positioning the images close to each other.
      I’m not sure what you mean with stereo pairs, but it sounds complex and intriguing…

      1. …ah, if you haven’t come across stereo photography take a look at:
        Lots of info., plus a couple of stereo viewers for sale – one of them is very cheap ;0)
        You’ll find many more references to the topic online but this one struck me as being particularly interesting.

        1. Don’t tempt me… 🙂 I have seen stereo photography being mentioned, but I never investigated it. And what I do know about it has been stored in a compartment in my brain sufficiently separated from instax that I couldn’t connect the two. Thanks for enlightening me!

  3. Aukje, I’m sure John will reply.

    Stereo photography was quite popular from around the latter part of the 19th century, but for most it would have been a viewer experience. Plate cameras, then roll film and 35mm cameras followed. The cameras were equipped with two taking lenses separated by roughly our average ocular distance, and the two images captured could be viewed side by side and in the L+R position in which they were shot, in a hand viewer with two eyepieces with a central baffle positioned between them at the lens end to prevent “crossover”. The result, with the right subject matter, could be a fairly realistic 3D image.

    The process was called “stereo” whereas today we call it 3D.

      1. Following on from Terry’s comment (thanks Terry for a very succinct description of technique). I’d be happy to send you,via your website, a description of using an ordinary camera (e.g. the Instax mini) to make a stereo pair. As Terry says, subject matter plays an important part in getting a pleasing stereo effect.

          1. Hi Aukje, I’ve subscribed to your blog and so you’ll have access to my email address. When you have time, send me your PM address and I’ll send over the info as promised.

            Best wishes,
            John F.

        1. Aukje, John.

          What I forgot to mention was stereo/3D made it into the domestic digital era, it just didn’t stop at 35mm stereo cameras. Compact 3D cameras, as they are now called, were released by Fuji and Panasonic a few years ago. This is somewhat remiss of me as I did buy the second, and last version of the Fuji, the W3, when it was being remaindered at half price.

          In a way it is a fascinating camera, as 3D stills and video can be viewed on its quite high res screen without any viewing aids whatsoever, rather like viewing slides on a hand-held battery powered viewer but with real depth to an image, unlike Hollywood’s version of having things jump out at you from the screen. Ultimately, though, it was a dead end, and passed into oblivion along with 3D television which was the only credible way to view on a big screen in 3D. Fuji did market an 8″/20cm LCD monitor but this was low res – 800×600 – and cost as much as an entry level domestic 3D TV. Fuji also had a print service, but these were expensive.

          Sadly, I lost all my 3D images when I backed them up to a propriety HDD backup system. This worked fine for all my other images, but what I didn’t know was it didn’t recognise the .mpo file which contains all the stereo data, and only backed up the 2D image by default. Ah, well, we live and learn.

  4. Splendid project & hope you’re pleased with the result – just need some conservation glass to ward off any fading!

  5. Wow, that’s a very nice project. Good job on sticking with it and overcoming the hurdles. I hope you continue to complete more such projects.

  6. Des McSweeney

    Hi Aukje. I have enjoyed all your contributions over the years because you bring a freshness of approach all the time. I applaud your artistic vision in this project and your incredible patience. I envy the former and just don’t have the latter! Very best wishes. Des

  7. I follow a lot of Film photography blogs and I can honestly say this is is one of the most purely effective and enjoyable photo projects I’ve seen in a long time – great work !

  8. Peter Boorman

    So many photo’ projects are ‘interesting’ rather than beautiful: this is definitely both. I love it.
    I keep meanimg to do a weekly project on my favourite tree. Your beautiful daily project is giving me a prod to get on wirh ir…

  9. Besides photography, I too love woodworking. He made you a beautiful frame. Maybe a darker ebony stain, closer to black would be in order. Wouldn’t want to completely occlude that lovely zebra wood grain tho. Thanks for sharing your lovely project!

  10. Kyle McMurphy

    Amazing project! Incredible that you can take a photo from the same spot and over the course of a year get many different beautiful results.

  11. Matthew Dodwell

    I think this is just a wonderful idea and perfectly executed with a fantastic final result. I have never really been interested in the Instax or other instant film format, but this post has really inspired me to do something with instant, I will have to pay more attention to it now. Thank you so much for sharing.

  12. Superb project, beautiful and meditative. Definitely one of those which makes me go “Ah, wish I’d thought of that!” But you executed it much better than I ever could 🙂

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