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Polaroid Transfers

Polaroid Transfers are a group of experimental processes that were done with the now long-discontinued "Peel-Apart" Polaroid films.

Prior to the introduction of the SX-70 system in the early 1970s, all Polaroid instant filmswere of the peel-apart type. These films came out of the camera as two sheets of paper stuck together by a layer of chemicals between them. After pulling the film from the camera, you waited a specified developing time (90 seconds with most of the films) before manually peeling the two pieces of paper apart. One was the finished photograph; the other, which was still covered in chemicals, was discarded.

Although superseded by the 'all in one' SX-70 process for the amatuer snapshooter, the peel-apart films continued to be manufactured and marketed to professional photographers into the early 2000s. Commercial photographers used them in special Polaroid film holders made for popular studio cameras to do test shots to check lighting and expsosure before doing the final images on regular film. Fine art photographers discovered that these films could be manipulated for creative purposes via two diferent "Polaroid Transfer" processes:

Emulsion Transfers were made using the finished Polaroid color print after it had fully dried. The print was placed in a tray of very hot, almost boiling, water for a couple of minutes, then transferred to a tray of very cold water. This caused the thin layer of gelatin that holds the image to separate from the plastic 'paper' base. The image would float in the water like a blanket, from which it could be picked up by sliding a piece of thick drawing paper under it. The image could be wrinkled, stretched, or torn after being lifted out of the water on the paper.

Image Transfers were made by peeling the two parts of the film apart as soon as they were pulled from the camera, instead of letting the image fully develop. The part that normally became the finsihed print was discarded, and the chemical-covered paper would be placed face down on a sheet of damp drawig paper, then rolled with a small roller to make sure it was completely flat against the paper. It would be left there for a couple minutes before peeling the film off the paper. The image would be transferred onto the drawing paper! These images had a muted color rendering and a soft painterly look without the fine detail resolution that the Polaroid peel-apart films normally gave.