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Oren Grad
22-Dec-2015, 16:09
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. A celebrated photography pioneer — and a fixture in Cambridge for decades — Elsa Dorfman is taking her last shots.

Dorfman is retiring after more than 30 years in a business that has changed dramatically during that time. She says it’s time for her to reflect and organize.

“I’m a terrible curator, not everything is signed or dated. My records are terrible, so there’s plenty that I can do,” the 78-year-old said of her decision to stop taking 20-inch by 24-inch portraits with her hulking, now-out-of-production Polaroid camera. “It’s just too much for me to do this anymore.”...

https://artery.wbur.org/2015/12/22/cambridge-photographer-elsa-dorfman-retiring

For those who don't know about Elsa Dorfman, her website has plenty of samples of her work, stories about her studio sessions, and other writings:

http://www.elsadorfman.com/

Will Whitaker
22-Dec-2015, 18:50
Thanks, Oren, for posting this.

Randy Moe
22-Dec-2015, 20:29
"How I Work, What I Charge" a quote from Elsa's website.

I never heard of her till just now, sounds wonderful!

:)

It also strikes me, I told my daughter to have her teenage boys bring some hats or odd shirts for our Friday Polaroid shoot, one day before I read Elsa'a story.

Daughter said she is better off not telling them that...

Doug Howk
23-Dec-2015, 03:33
Are the Wisner 20X24 cameras still working? I was tempted when he had his clearance sale several years ago.

EdSawyer
23-Dec-2015, 08:00
Are all these 20x24 polaroid camera going off old-stock materials (film/reagent/etc)? or is someone making new materials for these?

StoneNYC
23-Dec-2015, 12:22
There's a pod machine that still makes new chemicals (that's how impossible is doing their pods off the same machine I believe, or is that new55 using that machine? Possibly both? But yes, all the 20x24 stuff is made in pods that are still made by a single machine until it gives out...

Not sure about the paper.

As for Elsa, there's a big debate at some point because I believe she sort of took the camera and never gave it back, or something like that, you'll have to research but it's an interesting tale, I guess it's too much trouble to repossess it from her, wonder what will happen now that she's retiring, will the studio finally get it back?

Unless that whole ordeal has already been settled?

I'm sure Tracy or someone knows.

Randy Moe
23-Dec-2015, 12:57
Machines don't give out. Any useful machine is repairable for centuries or longer.

People get tired and slow down.

I really like Elsa's 'Portraits are Performance Art'. Every time we use a LF camera the performance is a huge part of the Art.

That's also my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

Tracy Storer
23-Dec-2015, 13:03
Elsa legitimately leased the camera for many years, no issues there, it was somebody else who basically stole one, but that is a story for another time.
There is a pod machine that 20x24 Holdings shares with New55, and another pod machine that Impossible has in the Netherlands.
The 20x24 material we are using is from the 2000s, but with new pods, and tweaking the reagent recipe as needed.


There's a pod machine that still makes new chemicals (that's how impossible is doing their pods off the same machine I believe, or is that new55 using that machine? Possibly both? But yes, all the 20x24 stuff is made in pods that are still made by a single machine until it gives out...

Not sure about the paper.

As for Elsa, there's a big debate at some point because I believe she sort of took the camera and never gave it back, or something like that, you'll have to research but it's an interesting tale, I guess it's too much trouble to repossess it from her, wonder what will happen now that she's retiring, will the studio finally get it back?

Unless that whole ordeal has already been settled?

I'm sure Tracy or someone knows.

StoneNYC
23-Dec-2015, 14:08
Elsa legitimately leased the camera for many years, no issues there, it was somebody else who basically stole one, but that is a story for another time.
There is a pod machine that 20x24 Holdings shares with New55, and another pod machine that Impossible has in the Netherlands.
The 20x24 material we are using is from the 2000s, but with new pods, and tweaking the reagent recipe as needed.

Thanks for clearing that up Tracy! Good to know there's actually more than one pod machine.

EdSawyer
23-Dec-2015, 15:10
It does sound like the materials are finite though, and already starting to degrade/color shift. Will be a shame when those are finally gone. Hopefully this camera/studio/materials are still available for use by someone in Boston even after Dorfman retires.

Jim Galli
23-Dec-2015, 15:23
Enjoyed reading many of her pages today. Thanks Oren. Time moves on.

Oren Grad
23-Dec-2015, 15:59
Time moves on.

Yeah... < sigh >

I love the stories, and the way she can take such a Very Serious Camera and be so informal and even flat-out goofy with it.

Mark Sawyer
6-Jan-2016, 12:10
In yesterday's New York Times, an article on Ms. Dorfman's career and retirement...

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/06/arts/design/with-film-supply-dwindling-a-photographer-known-for-huge-portraits-stares-at-retirement.html?_r=0

john borrelli
6-Jan-2016, 16:28
At the risk of submitting an arcane question, does anyone know if the 20X24 camera Elsa used was built by Ron Wisner or Polaroid? I know Wisner built a few 20X24 inch cameras and was involved in building the polaroid backs for these cameras. It is just that in my little Facebook circle, people are talking about Elsa and so I was wondering if anyone knew for sure. Thanks for any info.

Mark Sawyer
7-Jan-2016, 12:11
I believe the original 20x24 Polaroid cameras were made in-house by Polaroid. However, according to Tracy Storer at:

http://www.mammothcamera.com/thecamera.html

"From 2001 - 2006 or so Wisner Mfg. offered for sale a Polaroid back and processor for use with their 20x24 field camera. 20x24 Holdings uses one of these systems for testing film in their Lab today.

In late 2008, Mammoth Camera Company received a commission to build an all-new "all-in-one" 20x24 camera for Polaroid film, completed in May 2009.

Summer 2015, Mammoth Camera completed a new cameras for 20x24 Holdings, and is nearing completion of another new camera to launch "20x24 Europe"."

Perhaps Tracy will chime in with more information...

Tracy Storer
7-Jan-2016, 13:38
The camera Elsa has used for years is one of the originals built by Polaroid.



I believe the original 20x24 Polaroid cameras were made in-house by Polaroid. However, according to Tracy Storer at:

http://www.mammothcamera.com/thecamera.html

"From 2001 - 2006 or so Wisner Mfg. offered for sale a Polaroid back and processor for use with their 20x24 field camera. 20x24 Holdings uses one of these systems for testing film in their Lab today.

In late 2008, Mammoth Camera Company received a commission to build an all-new "all-in-one" 20x24 camera for Polaroid film, completed in May 2009.

Summer 2015, Mammoth Camera completed a new cameras for 20x24 Holdings, and is nearing completion of another new camera to launch "20x24 Europe"."

Perhaps Tracy will chime in with more information...

john borrelli
7-Jan-2016, 14:42
Thank you Mark and Tracy

Oren Grad
24-Aug-2017, 10:31
Another article:

http://harvardmagazine.com/2017/09/elsa-dorfmans-portrait-photography

jnanian
24-Aug-2017, 10:53
The camera Elsa has used for years is one of the originals built by Polaroid.


hi tracy

there were 5 of them, right ?
my old teacher ( seigfried h ) used to borrow one from time to time,
and used to joke that he was going to have one of the kids in
our class drive the van in NM so he could concentrate on making
the photographs.
i think he said there was one in nyc, one at the smfa, elsa had one
there was one in SF and one in tokyo ... he had been using the smfa camera for
a for a series done in caves with flashlights ..
i could be completely wrong about how many cameras and where they were ..

Tracy Storer
24-Aug-2017, 12:08
I don't think the camera ever went to NM to work with Siegfried, almost certainly not in a cave. I am pretty sure he did work with the camera in studio at SMFA(School of the Museum of Fine Arts) in Boston.
I bumped into one of Siegfrieds former students in Rochester in July.
Anybody ever in touch with Weston G. his former TA?

Lots of movement on the original 5 cameras over the years.
There was one in Tokyo between '83 and '86, which was the camera Elsa ended up having in her studio later.
There was a camera in Germany that later went to Prague.
There was one at SMFA later MassArt.
The NYC studio obviously.
One camera was given to Dr Land, which saw very little use.
The camera I brought to San Francisco in '97 was a reworked prototype that predated the "official" 5.

chuck461
3-Sep-2017, 05:52
New to Netflix this month:
"The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography". A documentary by Errol Morris.
I haven't watched yet, so I can't comment.

chuck461
5-Sep-2017, 13:11
This has disappeared from Netflix. Hopefully, it will return soon. If someone notices, please post.

nbagno
5-Sep-2017, 19:05
This has disappeared from Netflix. Hopefully, it will return soon. If someone notices, please post.

It did.. I just watched it two days ago


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

jnanian
5-Sep-2017, 19:11
I don't think the camera ever went to NM to work with Siegfried, almost certainly not in a cave. I am pretty sure he did work with the camera in studio at SMFA(School of the Museum of Fine Arts) in Boston.
I bumped into one of Siegfrieds former students in Rochester in July.
Anybody ever in touch with Weston G. his former TA?

Lots of movement on the original 5 cameras over the years.
There was one in Tokyo between '83 and '86, which was the camera Elsa ended up having in her studio later.
There was a camera in Germany that later went to Prague.
There was one at SMFA later MassArt.
The NYC studio obviously.
One camera was given to Dr Land, which saw very little use.
The camera I brought to San Francisco in '97 was a reworked prototype that predated the "official" 5.

thanks for the info ( and history :) ) tracy !
i haven't seen much of seigfried's TAs except for chris d'
after i was there there was andrew K, and but during my time with him i think rodney p was a TA
now that i think of it, there might have been someone else too clean cut+tall short dark hair
but that would have been in the early/mid 80s. it might have been weston i wish i could remember his name !
if it was him, i haven't seen him since then < yikes ! >
back in the day i remember seigfried's flashlight series was on the wall of gallery 7 ( i think that was the name ) and they were monstrous
polaroids ... he suggested they were "the big ones" and done in some cave in santa fe, but he might have been pulling our legs
back then 8x10 was pretty big too, so my ignorance is probably getting the best of me. :)
john