All of these photos were done with a specific camera and film combination. Why is that?
The camera that I used for these shots is an old Polaroid 195 Land camera. It was made sorta in the ’70s, and the quality of the lenses is just amazing. It’s my favorite camera, and I’ve constantly gone back to it as a format that I work with on a regular basis. The 665 Polaroid film, they don’t make it anymore. They discontinued it, so now anybody who has this type of Polaroid, it’s like having little slices of gold, because what used to be a pack for 15 or 20 bucks in the store, people can get a hundred dollars for it. It’s that precious right now, and no one can find it. People who had the foresight to buy boxes and boxes are winning. I still have a handful, but I only pull it out now on special occasions, because it is so difficult to come by.
Why do you like the camera so much?
The quality of that lens is it’s sharp, but it still has this—dare I say “creamy” in a sentence—it’s sort of like a milky quality to it, but it’s still tack-sharp. A lot of the album covers I’ve done over the years have been done with this camera, like DMX’s Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood; DJ Quik’s Under tha Influence; a lot of the Jay-Z Reasonable Doubt images on the inside of the packaging.
What’s so special about the film?
It’s sort of like what digital cameras are now: that I know I have the shot, because I can see it in the camera. If we were whipping through it, we could see and hold the shot, and I could say, “Look, I can print this negative.” One of the bonuses of the 665 Polaroid is that it comes with the negative, and the negative is what prints with the rough border all around the edges. I focus on people’s foundations, and oftentimes it’s been Brooklyn to the streets of Kingston to Compton, and that grittier quality of the border with the elegance of that lens is a huge complement to my aesthetic and the nature of what I’m shooting. I think a lot of people, once they saw it, have followed suit over the years, but it’s just something that I instantly took on and wanted to be kind of a signature look.
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