The power of the Polaroid (and photos in general)

The Power of the Polaroid (and photos in general)

By Steve Huff

I have been home for 3-4 days and am STILL going through my e-mails so sorry if you wrote and did not get a reply just yet. One of the emails included a link to a story with some pretty powerful images. All shot with a Polaroid…

I remember seeing this story a while ago and I may have even posted a link to a story about it but once I started digging into the images I realized this should have it’s own post.

This story is about a man named Jamie Livingston who for 18 years, took a Polaroid photograph every day. From 1979 to 1997 he documented his life up until it’s short end at 41 years old when he died of Cancer. It is a tragic story and being a sensitive guy, one that brought a tear to my eye as I browsed through all of his images. You can see  them all HERE, and believe me, I sat here for hours looking at all of them. I am still jet lagged so my sleep schedule is all over the place right now 🙂

From 1995, Jamie even shot a few intimate moments at times..

Two weeks before his death he married his girlfriend, who can be seen in many of the previous shots he took

The last Polaroid. We do not know who shot it but it shows him just before his death in 1997. Age 41. My age. 

Again, you can see the whole collection HERE and it is worth taking a look at when you have some time. As I browsed through them I was reminded of the power of photography. The power of life, love, friends and family. Those we spend time with while on this rather short journey we all have on this planet. There have been a couple of events in my life that made me take a step back and realize I have to live life like every day is the last, because ANY day could be my last.

Photography, wether shooting stills or video/film is the one medium that will record our lives for our kids and their kids to see. Magic. Sometimes the stories will be happy, sometimes they will be sad. There will be challenges and there will be triumphs. But to remember all of these times we should all be snapping away every day! If you are reading this I KNOW you have the gear to do so!

I just created a folder on my desktop called “daily” and while I may not take a shot every single day, I am going to try and snap a shot of what is going on in my life at least every other day. I will use my Iphone and Hipstamatic and hopefully I will live at least another 20 years so I can look back at my life with a smile, some tears and even some laughter.

This story also was relevant to me because just recently I toured the Leica Shop in Vienna and was amazed to see the Polaroid Impossible exhibit. Getting to see Ansel Adams ORIGINAL Polaroid of his self cool is that? When I was there with Seal he picked up a couple of really cool SX-70 cameras. I am kicking myself for not buying one myself but I may buy one online here really soon. The new films are pretty special but my fave is the black frame B&W.

You just gotta love Polaroids. My 1st camera was a Polaroid back when I was a kid and I LOVED that camera but the damn film was so expensive it was a rare treat when I was able to get a new pack of the magical instantly developing goodness. I used to burn through that film like mad, irritating everyone in my path. I think I have some of those Polaroids somewhere and will dig them up one day but in all reality, most of the photography in my youth was shot with a cheap 110 film camera 🙂

It’s funny, I always disliked when photos were shot of me so I would do silly things when my Mother or Father would snap one of me..

I have a bunch of photos from my teen years in boxes. Maybe one day I will scan a few and share them with you…some funny stuff. That is another magical part of photography. SHARING. We all love to shoot and share which is what really makes this hobby special. Facebook, Flickr, forums…these days PHOTOS ARE EVERYWHERE. I love it.

In Moscow with the backing band – shot by Holly Palmer on her Ipad with SHAKE IT!

So the moral of the story? Memories are priceless…shoot whenever you can. Shoot life. Shoot love. Shoot YOU. Until next time…

My only two looks. Mean or Goofy 🙂

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  1. a very cool guy, whos documenting everything with his leica, is Severin Koller, from Vienna. dont go on his blog if your computer old, though, its just screwing everything up…

    im trying to do the same thing, my friends, in the beginning haters if its about getting photographed, now getting used to, that im carrying my M6 everywhere and shooting everything. I Like it. Wonder how i see my life in a few years.


  2. Thanks for the story Steve.

    No matter how long one lives – life here is very, very short.


    ps. Nothing has ever compared to showing people a print you just took Except giving one to them.

    Back of the camera LCD preview – not even close.

  3. Great article Steve… I had read about Jamie Livingston and have had the site bookmarked for a while now. I also have a little love-affair with polaroids; got a few of them (both pack film and 600-style). Maybe I’ll throw one in my suitcase… LOL!


  4. Great post once again, Steve, thanks!

    Funny, that you mentioned this: ‘I will use my Iphone and Hipstamatic and hopefully I will live at least another 20 years so I can look back at my life with a smile, some tears and even some laughter.’
    Because two weeks ago I started my 365 project! 🙂
    And to make it easy (or difficult) I decided to use only iPhone 4 + Hipstamatic and then only in black & white. Only occasionally I’m allowed to use color. 😉

    If anyone’s interested:




    And hey! It’s called ‘No Art !?’ so easy on me! 🙂


  5. Great post Steve, your right everyone should try to document their lives in one way or another, memories are so important. Looking forward to my holidays soon and I will be pulling into Vienna to see the exhibition as well, my wife got me the book already……….

  6. I’ve come across the website before and sat for hours going through the pictures. I did wonder why he stopped shooting but for some reason I never got to the last picture. I remember thinking “Shame that he stopped doing it… Oh well, all good things come to an end”. And indeed it had, just not in the way I had imagined.

    Amazing story indeed, thanks for bringing it to light. Chris

    PS: I like the goofy Steve much better.

  7. Wonderful post, Steve, showing how photography can be so meaningful a reflection of life.

    Thanks for the great share, and cool headphones that you had on as a kid.

  8. Absolutely an amazing story. This is one of those who makes you smile, cry, think, feel, in one word, makes us feel “alive”.
    Thanks Steve!!!

  9. I had the same reaction when encountered the story in pictures of Jamie Livingston, pretty powerful thing! And yes, I shoot life everyday, my life, my family life, and life around us! Thanks Steve for sharing your part!

  10. I try to instill in my two younger nephews whom i supply cameras :p “document your life as much as possible from the simplest to complicated chores of their daily lives”, because as i was growing up even though there was a Voitlander sitting there, i had no money for film or processing it so my dad and mom got me a Polaroid Land camera (when i was 11) which i still have and even though Polaroids were still too expensive for me, i saved up for every packet and took periods of my life as i was growing up. This is going to be my legacy to share with my kids.

  11. I’ve had this as a Bookmark and mentioned it on my blog quite some time ago. I also love this. Last week I was looking at possibly getting an SX70 on Ebay and using the new Impossible project film. I also read about issues with the new film being ejected from these cameras. Apparently the fix is to keep the roller super clean or only two shots come out of the pack, and the rest get stuck. I had two of these cameras. one was given to me by my nephew, (didn’t work), the other one was an old family camera, and I used the SX70 film with stylus to get some cool effects.I’m happy that there is still an interest in these cameras. Also, Chase Jarvis has been using these cameras, and other old ones lately. I think he has a video on his blog about it.

  12. Great post Steve, it really makes we want to go back to shooting more every day kinda photos and share them with my friends. On the one hand there’s my street photography, which I love to do and look at, browse through, etc. On the other there’s the personal moments with friends. Though they might not be as good technically, their value to me is all the greater. They bring back memories, make me smile. Allow me to remember people I’ve lost touch with. The littlest moments in life become your dearest images. Enough reasons to shoot lots of them, I think.

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