By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
THE BIG PICTURE: L.A. Exposed
OVER THE PAST TWO WEEKS, THE Polaroid 20 x 24 camera, a sort of Alice in Wonderland version of your childhood Land camera, was in residence at Pix, a camera store in what could be called Pho-Ho, the photo district just south of Hollywood.
"You're gonna trip out, Babe," Alejandro Saavedra told his fiancée, Mezhjan Hussainy, as they posed for the mammoth cam in a stark backroom at Pix. The portrait session was a surprise that the modelesque Saavedra popped on his statuesque betrothed. "He told me to get dressed for a premiere," Hussainy said. She wore flowy black slacks and a lilac halter that matched her eye shadow.
The 20 x 24 camera -- an experimental prototype built in 1976 to demonstrate a new film stock -- is indeed "event" photography. It stands 5 feet high and weighs 235 pounds. Red-vinyl bellows heave out from a Victorian-looking brass-and-wood apparatus, and the photos it produces -- glossy, rich-looking prints measuring about one and a half times the size of this paper's center spread -- command their own star presence. No wonder it became popular among art photographers, including William Wegman and Chuck Close.
For this shoot, Tracy Storer, the 38-year-old owner of the camera (normally kept in San Francisco), was the director as well as the technician. He looked at the couple's image, which appeared upside down on the back of the camera. He circled the camera, pushing levers and tweaking the lens to adjust the focus and exposure.
"How's my collar?" Saavedra asked. "Does it look tight? I always sweat in suits."
"Nah, you can't see it," assured Storer.
Pix didn't exactly have folks waiting in line to use the camera, but one artist came in and did 10 prints of people's mouths as they were laughing; another shot floral still lifes. Storer's own portraits of Pix employees and customers will remain on display there until December.
"You really have to love it -- or yourself -- to appreciate their brutal close-ups," one photographer said.
Standing on the left side of the camera, Storer clicked the cable release and then began the exciting, nerve-racking 70-second process familiar to anyone with a Big Swinger. He guided the print out of the camera and set his Timex Ironman watch. He wiped off excess developer goop from the sides of the poster-size print, then cut the whole thing from the roll of photographic paper with a box cutter, and held it up, waiting for the beeps from his watch. At the electronically appointed time, he peeled the print from the negative and presented it to the couple.
"Look at the detail, Baby," Saavedra beamed.
"I have a zit," she moaned.
Saavedra shook his head and looked at the photographer. "Dude, I'm stoked."
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