Thursday, June 17, 2010

Painting Time: Tarkovsky's Polaroids

No matter what images Tarkovsky captured or how he captured them, everything in front of his lens was instantly transformed into something uniquely his. The best showcase for this instant transformation is probably the series of Polaroids he took between 1979 and 1984. Combined with the specific motifs -- trees, dogs, glass bottles, enveloping mist, solitary figures -- it is the quality of the light that marks these as Tarkovsky's. Greens and blues, or yellowish browns, wash over everything. And like the stark sepia sequences that exist apart from the color in (most of) his films, the brownish-yellow tones in his photos rarely mingle with the blues and greens, and when they do, they usually make their way in via objects: plants, flowers, fruit, a rooftop. His love of nature also comes through in the photos, as does his ability to show what is beautiful in the seemingly mundane. All of this gives the pictures a timeless, painterly quality. (It's easy to be reminded of Monet's blurry hay bales, or even Vermeer's domestic scenes.) Outside of their stand-alone beauty, what's most amazing to me is that Tarkovsky was able to imbue the pictures with his own stamp as an artist to such a large extent that just a single glance gives anyone familiar with his films the impression that no one but Tarkovsky could have taken them.

Previously only a dozen or so of the Polaroids existed online but earlier this month a Russian website uploaded many more. Please enjoy this selection.

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3 comments:

Hectocotylus said...

"In 1977, on my wedding ceremony in Moscow Tarkovsky appeared with a Polaroid camera. He had just shortly discovered this instrument and used it with great pleasure among us. He and Antonioni were my wedding witnesses. According to the custom of the period they had to choose the music played during the signing of the wedding documents. They chose the "Blue Danube".

At that time Antonioni also often used a Polaroid camera. I remember that in the course of a field survey in Usbekistan where we wanted to shoot a film – but finally did not do it – he gave to three elderly Muslims the pictures he had taken of them. The eldest one as soon as he took a glance at the photos, immediately returned them with these words: "What is it good for, to stop the time?" This unusual refusal was so unexpected that it took us by surprise and we could not reply anything.

Tarkovsky thought a lot about the "flight" of time and wanted to do only one thing: to stop it – even if only for a moment, on the pictures of the Polaroid camera."

--Tonino Guerra

Anonymous said...

Could you please link to the Russian website you mention in this post, and to any other sources of more Tarkovsky polaroids? Thanks.

Hectocotylus said...

Sure. HERE is the archive on the Russian website. I haven't seen any polaroids that aren't featured in that collection; as far as I know they haven't been made public.

There is also a book called Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids, but I think it features the same 60 photos that are found on the website. "Newly available in paperback, this beautifully produced album is composed of sixty polaroid photographs drawn from a pool of about 200 taken by the great Russian film director in Russia and Italy between 1979 and 1984. The selection was made by Tarkovskys son and the renowned Italian photographer Giovanni Chiaramonte."