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Thirty years ago Bernard Rosa discovered a glitch in Polaroid SX70 film stock that completely revolutionised the way he approached his photography. An error in Polaroid’s manufacturing process meant it was possible to manually spread, crack and contort the chemical dyes in the film before they set. Other artists like Andy Warhol and Lucas Samaras had experimented with the technique, but to different effects.
View video on the artist here
With no guides or teachers, Bernard crafted his own style while experimenting on the fly.
A gifted eye and an innate talent for composing iconic scenes, Bernard would take a Polaroid using the folding SX-70 Type camera and then hand manipulate the dye of the print’s chemical emulsion. The result was a body of post-modern photographic works that echo the painterly styles of impressionism and the dream-like states of surrealism.
Bernard’s work soon came to Polaroid Australia’s attention. Impressed, they sponsored him to conduct workshops on SX¬70 manipulation at trade shows and exhibitions across the USA.
Today, in the age of digital techniques, Bernard’s Polaroid SX¬70 works are fresh, totally analogue and unique. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Bernard’s work is that the SX-70 film with the malleable dye glitch is no longer available.
When Polaroid announced the end of instant film in 2005, The Impossible Project stepped in to buy the last remaining factory, days before it closed down. The machines had been dismantled, there were no formulas to follow and the supply chain was disrupted. To keep instant photography alive, they had to reinvent instant film from scratch.
Today, The Impossible Project makes instant film for the old SX-70 Type camera but Bernard assures “the new recipe is different. It’s light sensitive and can’t be manipulated in the same way as the original SX-70 stock. That moment in time has gone forever.”
With a comprehensive body of work in his Polaroid collection, the art world is beginning to acknowledge his achievements as an unrepeatable chapter in photographic history.
Born in Canberra, Australia in 1961, Bernard’s artistic flair came from his mother, a hand colourist for Paramount Pictures, and his father’s love of photography. The combination set the stage for his unique photographic talent as he explored the process of manipulating the SX-70 prints.
Renewed interest in analogue techniques and innovations in scanning technologies has enabled Bernard to reproduce his original Polaroid sized images as a series of impressive 140 x 120cm prints. As a result, the images from the late eighties and nineties are transformed into glorious artworks that can grace the walls of any contemporary art gallery.
This collection has not been seen by the public for 25 years.