By Raymundo Muñoz
There’s nothing “instant” about instant film.
In a surprising and grating whir, your shot is spat out at you, ready and willing to be overexposed. So, you stash it away like it’s something illegal, like it’s something you’re not supposed to have, like it’s something you don’t want to share.
And you let it stew/develop (heart pounding), hoping it comes out okay. Then the big reveal … all manner of things can go wrong: crummy exposure, dots from bird shit-like chemical artifacts on the roller, drips and branches from incomplete chemical reactions, or just plain poor framing. Sure, using a new/refurbished camera can fix some of these issues, but there’s something exhilarating about the unknown that makes the process all the better — no, all the more gratifying.
Love Gallery recently offered up their homage to instant photography (coinciding with the Month of Photography) with “Instant Gratification,” an open-call, open-themed group show. Culling all manner of subject matter — nudes, portraits, animals, landscapes, objects, etc. — and all manner of skill level, the exhibition was fun, fascinating, and daring — not unlike the process itself.
Some people clearly know what they’re doing and do it well. Take the exquisite multi-layered images of Brandon Johanns, often filling hard silhouettes with soft textures (flowers, clouds, stained glass windows). Or the haunting and atmospheric monochromatic works of Jennifer Summer Rose, presented in an elegant way with circular gold borders. The object-oriented works of Nicole Cole sit with you in a different way, enigmatic in their treatment and use of symbols.
Others fall in the novice range, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s a charm and realness to these that imbues them with a warmth reminiscent of that felt viewing old family photos (see: Anthony Garcia). That honey tint and glowing light, all nicely framed in a flimsy plastic border. (As much as you can fake this look on Instagram with its many filters — and this is an important note to make — it will never compare to the look, feel, and smell of an actual instaphoto.)
Most pieces are straight shots; others challenge the format presentation. Take April Frankenstein’s cut-up and reassembled instant photo collages, toying with time and identity in a sharp way. Or Myah and Scott Bailey’s eleventh-hour submissions consisting of instaphotos of old photos that didn’t develop properly due to long-expired film, but subsequently were saved via comical and crude inscriptions. Stuff like this made the show fun and loose, more associated with the campy side of cult obsessions, as opposed to the snobby.
Displayed en masse, the elegant design of the format (there are different sizes and colors, but basically all the same) becomes apparent, partly thanks to the clean vertical hanging that flows like the digital display of a graphic equalizer with the sweet spots at mid-range. Though window appeal is somewhat lacking (there are no giant show stealers), the mass of small pieces has the cumulative and equalizing power of inviting a more balanced and intimate viewing. Altogether, very gratifying. “Instant Gratification” is on display at Love Gallery through April 4. Photos are from March 3 opening reception. For more information and to purchase works, visit www.lovegallerydenver.com.