I first saw a Polaroid camera in the summer of 1983, when my father’s friend, who had emigrated to Austria in the late 1970s, returned to visit my parents in Czechoslovakia. He had with him a Polaroid camera, and he used it to snap a photograph of my mother. That very iconic square photograph appeared from the front of the camera and developed immediately in our hands. Years later, in 2014, I found that very same photograph of my mother. She was wearing a miniskirt and she was stepping elegantly from a car. After so many years, I still remembered that astounding feeling of holding a fast-developing photographic print in my hand.
I had found that photograph at a time when I craved something creative to improve my work/life balance. A few days later, I bought my first Polaroid camera, I had an SX-70 of my own. I quickly became obsessed with the technical sides of instant photography and captivated with being able to easily create a photographic print. I also almost immediately began to collect vintage Polaroid cameras.
Eventually I decided to abandon my more technical approach to photography, during which I had created and photographed my own installations, and I turned instead to portraiture, which had always been the genre of most interest to me. After shooting a number of random portraits, I decided that I wanted to move forward creatively, and that I wanted to combine a more conceptual, artistic approach with the technical capabilities of the Polaroid camera and instant photography.
This series is the first result of that work. I named the series Duality as it applies to both concept and to the photography itself.
We all feel the need to find balance between the two opposing sides of ourselves, as spiritual beings and as physical bodies. This is our dualistic nature. We cannot have a deeper understanding of who we are without being aware that not having an opposing counterpart has no value to us.
The wuss and tiger are one and the same. The mind is open and can then be narrow in a second. We can be infinitely kind to those that are beloved to us, but also unbelievably cruel to those who threaten us. Sadness goes hand in hand with happiness. Masculinity can be defined only when compared to femininity. The list goes on. Understanding this duality is simply important, because it allows us to see from different viewpoints.
My intention with this series is to show these dualities through the body of the model, by positioning the model «against each other», and with an ambivalent facial expression, to make viewers concentrate primarily on the dialog created between the bodies of the model.
I was lucky enough that I found a perfect model to work with very quickly. Jan was one of my very first followers when I opened my Instagram account in 2015. A few months ago I wrote to him to ask if he would be interested in taking part in my project. I explained that I am not a professional photographer, and that to shoot Polaroids can be a long and demanding process, even if you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. This young vegan man, Jan, brought a bunch of bananas to the studio and his patience and good spirit not only impressed me but also helped a great deal with the work. Later on I learned that he works for an alternative modeling agency, New Aliens, which gives job opportunities to “non-models.”
A magic of the unexpected (we say this in Czech when something happens unexpectedly but it fits perfectly with the situation, as if it had been carefully planned from the beginning) - a non-photographer shooting his first portraiture project with a non-model.
Written by: Noah Zyla
Photographs by: Noah Zyla
Photographed with Polaroid Image Spectra 1200 on Polaroid Originals Spectra film
More work by Noah Zyla can be found at: https://www.instagram.com/noahandhisshadow/