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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!