Preserving the Polaroid: An Interview With Scott Hammond

by Ian MacKenzie Jan 9, 2007

I recently came across an excellent photography website called “The Lovely Road.

The portoflio features an array of polaroid photographs, minimalistic and provocatively complex at the same time, providing a window on America’s backroads. Intrigued, I spoke with the photographer Scott Hammond about his unique style and motivation for capturing these moments in time.

BNT: What kind of camera do you use for your shots?

Scott Hammond: I shoot with an Instant Polaroid Sun 660. It has a simple Auto Focus feature that I enjoy.

What do you like about the camera and its effect on your photos?

Well, I like that the images aren’t perfect. They’re very grainy, and the colors are overly saturated. That makes the photo seem more real to me. Although you can very easily manipulate it, I think there is a common assumption that when you see a Polaroid, it is what it is.

The polaroid print is singular. It’s its own print and negative. There’s only one. It’s like a small artifact of a time and place that you can take with you. It fits perfectly in your backpocket. I collect polaroids just like one would baseball cards. I have shoe boxes full of them. Plus it just seems that Polaroids and my subject matter go hand and hand.

What do you aim to shoot in your photos, whether it’s a person, place, or thing?

I approach shooting something in a very clinical way. I guess my intention is to photograph a subject as it is, really how everyone sees it.

But also in a way where I’m not being judgmental. I don’t really want to convey that I think something is beautiful or disgusting, but to just show the subject as it stands there. I let the viewer decide what they think aboutmy subject matter. The only thing I do is say I think that this moment or place is worth preserving. I lot of times I don’t know why either.

If you look at a lot of my images together, you’ll see that a majority of them are shot exactly the same way; head on and in the middle. It’s just my method of collecting. Not one subject matter is more important than the other. It’s the entire collection that matters and makes a statement.

Name a few of your favourite photographers and why?

Of course every documentary photographer has to say Walker Evans. A collection of his work, “Simple Secrets” was my very first photo book that I bought. I don’t know how many times I’ve flipped through that. It’s amazing how effortlessly he makes photography seem. i think that’s why a lot of mainstream people don’t understand the beauty of his work.

I also really admire Stephen Shore, Dorethea Lange, Jeff Brouws, and William Eggleston. All photograph very similar things, maybe even the same exact things. But each have a very distinct style.

Shore’s “American Surfaces” has been with me on several road trips across the country.

Why do you like taking pictures?

Photography is very therapudic to me. I like the serenity of driving aimlessly until I happen upon this amazingly banal nothing that feels like if I don’t take a photograph of it the second that I see it, it will blow away in the wind and there will never be a record of it ever existing.

I guess there’s also a sense of urgency in that respect too. I have to make these photographs, because if I don’t, I can’t be sure someone else will.

I also have a compulsion to collect. I’ve always been that way. Ever since I was little, I collected comic books, toys, brochures, placemats, postcards. Especially postcards. I like the ones where it’s just a photo of a motel or a stretch of highway. I think my photos are highly influenced by postcards.

For more of Scott’s photography, check out his website “The Lovely Road.

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