Polaroids + impossible places

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I’ve had a chance to scan some of my Impossible Project pictures – a little bit wonkily and imperfect, which I think I like better than having them as they are in real life.

The above image is Peyto Lake, just off the Icefields Parkway in Alberta. It is in real life light-leaky and streaked. I have a more true-to-colour version but why not this reality rather than the smoother one?

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The Athabasca glacier, and the sun dominating everything, washing away all the blues and whites. I’ve been thinking of how my conception of my time in Banff – now at an end – will be held together by these photographs. By the work that I did while there – though most of that was early drafting of the third ms, and so will be erased in necessary corrections and deletions. All I’ll have is my limited perception, filtered through digital pixels and the hard, blocky, colourwarped images on Polaroid.

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(Bow River, frozen one morning near the Hot Springs marsh)

Of course, I’m lucky enough to have experienced Banff with others, so we can meet up and compare memories. Still, that’s bittersweet, isn’t it. We say we put things behind us. The past is in our blind spot, though it is all we have time to consider.

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(the Arthur Wheeler hut, image melted on the hut’s woodstove)

We can alter, we generally do alter what happened. A consolidated emotion comes to dominate what was a series of ups and downs – ambiguity is more frightening when it curls off the past like a mist. We want the solid, and not to have that – takes a certain bravery.

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Here are the woods on the way to my studio, though they were never that colour, never sliced with a thin white line (which is a digital glitch, not present in the physical photo). The woods were never like this, and they are like this, purples and light on snow, with animals in the treetops, with nothing captured here.

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(fireplace in the Wheeler hut where the other image was burned. A book, an empty or full cup of something)

Whatever I’ll remember, or whatever others will share – in a few weeks, in a few years when we meet again – there are these spaces. The Banff Centre’s official slogan is ‘inspiring creativity’, but for me I think it’s ‘leaving room’. I could get waffly here – oh, go on then. Think of the different sorts of room I could mean. Space – being a void, a scary thing. Room to think. Room as containment. Ambiguous room with no clear measure. Imperfect, capable of warp and glitch. And I am glad of it.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Polaroids + impossible places

  1. “ambiguity is more frightening when it curls off the past like a mist” I’ve said it before, Helen…but, I love your words…inspiring, challenging, elegant…..wonderful.

  2. The Polaroids make it seem as though experience is … fading away … or perhaps, difficult to grasp and shifting before our eyes. Edges curling and images spontaneously combusting.
    I love each one for the story it tells. Fantastic writing, too, Helen!

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