Community Spotlight: 12:12 Project - A Society of Instant Film Lovers
Penny Felts is the founding member of the 12:12 Project. A project composed of 12 high-caliber Polaroid artists from around the globe that challenge one another with monthly themes to push the limits of their own photography. Though this project started with 12 women, they have since added 12 men to accompany them with the 12:12 Men’s Project. We asked Penny to give us an introduction to how this project got started, how it evolved, who this year’s members are to give us a glimpse into their Polaroid obsessed world! Penny writes:
The 12:12 Project is about to start its fifth season, and I am just as excited as I was the first moment that I came up with the concept of the group in 2013.
One day, I realized that I was in a rut with my photography, and needed to give it a jump start. While pondering this, I remembered that I used to love entering photographs to a now-defunct magazine called Light Leaks, which was for toy camera users. They had monthly themes that you could submit photos to and the themes always got my creative juices flowing. At the time I had a Holga camera with a Polaroid back, which I used to fit the ‘toy camera’ criteria. I ended up having several photos published in the magazine, and actually won a TLR Holga from a contest they had, which of course I immediately put my Polaroid back onto! It was a great magazine and I hated to see it go. In the end, Light Leaks was the original inspiration to the concept of the 12:12 Project.
The plan was simple: 12 women would each chose a monthly theme in which all group members would shoot their interpretation of, resulting in 144 unique photographs at the end of the year. With this idea the 12:12 Project was born. The first year consisted of all women photographers that I choose from among my online contacts. As a member of several photography websites and groups, I was following many photographers whose work inspired me which enabled me to chose 11 women from all over the globe. Many of these photographers were very well known in the instant photography world, but I also chose a few that were new to photography. There was no real reason for selecting all women, except that maybe I wanted to have a more feminine view of the themes we were to present.
When we embarked on this project I asked each member to really push themselves to come up with themes that would be difficult and creative. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. The images these women came up with were simply magical. Not only did it push each of us out of our comfort zones, but it also gave us all a perfect forum to learn from each other which I believe allowed all of us to become more confident in our photography. Though it is hard to choose, if I had to pick my favorite theme from that first year it would have been the very first one titled Surrealism. The theme was challenging and fun to figure out how to accomplish what I wanted to portray. In addition all the entries for that month’s theme was fantastic.
At the end of our first season of the 12:12 Project we had already accomplished a lot in regards to growing in our own artist visions but we weren’t done just yet. We had the opportunity to have two exhibitions of our work shown that reflected back on that year: One in Berlin, at InstantLand (July 15-Sept 14), and one at a gallery called En Face in Paris (May 17-June 12), which was owned by Raul Diaz (who later became a member of the men's group). The last thing this first season brought us was a 12:12 Project book that was published by Amanda Mason, one of the members of the original group, that showed our results from the previous year. I enjoyed the project so much that I decided to do it again the following year.
In 2015, the second season of the 12:12 Project was beginning and the 12:12 Men’s Project was born. It was just a natural next step. I asked some well known Polaroid giants, including Bastian Kalous, Philippe Bourgion, and Peter McCabe, just to name a few. I also decided to be the 12th member of the first men's group. I thought it would be fun to see if I could think like a man while shooting the men’s chosen themes. It was definitely challenging, not to mention exhausting shooting two themes each month! I thoroughly enjoyed it though and felt that I had some success with many of my male minded photos, but one year was enough for me. When the season ended, we did a bonus theme called ‘Dreams’, which became a well visited, month-long exhibit at Blend Studio, in my town of Nashville Tennessee.
Through the seasons of this project, many people have asked me how I choose members each year. The answer is simple: after each season is over, the current members have the option to continue into the next year which results in a handful of empty slots the preceding year which are often filled with current members’ suggestions. Sometimes I have noticed a Polaroid photographer during the current season that I believe would be a great addition if a spot opens up to.
At the beginning of our fourth season last year, we started monthly contests that would allow us to include more instant photography artists who were interested in themed photography. This contest allowed me to see some people whose work I had never seen which gave me a bigger view of all of the amazing instant photographers out there. Two great examples of this were: Sofie Bucci, who did this wonderfully creative image for our ‘Symbiosis’ theme which exposed me to her wonderful work. And Randy Jennings, whose work I was already familiar with but became more invested with after he consistently turned in stellar images for every single theme through our fourth season. The image to the left is Jennings’ winning image for the theme ‘Cinematic’. We are pleased to say that he is one of our new members for the 12:12 Men’s project for our fifth season this year and we can’t wait to see what he and the rest of the men come up with this year, I am excited to see their results from their themes and contests!
At the end of our last season in 2018 we are proud to say we have continued to share the work of our groups’ members with the world. In June of that year we were featured in the Polaroid Festival at Galerie Espace Beaurepaire, in Paris. We are also pleased to say that our newest 12:12 Project book was recently published by Les Petites Editions, owned by our good friend and fellow Polaroid photographer Clément Grosjean. You can pick up a copy by clicking here!
Through the years this project has evolved and we are happy to share that this season we have invited eight incredible guest photographers to each shoot three themes and participate in the group for one quarter of the year. In the first quarter we will see Nikita Gross and Matt Smith, the second will bring Diane Peterson and Axakadam, the third: Jennifer Rumbach and Claudio Gomboli, and the fourth quarter will be Lili Cranberry and Like your Footprint. I’m sure that many of you already know most of these photographers, but I will be sharing more about them on our 12:12 Project pages as the year progresses.
In the long term, I hope to continue to grow the project by including as many instant photography lovers in the coming years as possible. I will keep the 12:12 Project going as long as there is interest, and I am able. In addition to showing our groups’ work via exhibitions throughout the year I still have a goal of creating a traveling exhibition of the member’s work from the proceeding season that would go on tour from Europe to the US each year. I also hope to continue the tradition of publishing a book each year to immortalize the work these great photographers are doing. Most recently, our group was contacted by Stefanie Schneider, who asked us to join her in her Instant Dreams documentary which we are excited to participate in! Lastly, we are open to any exhibit opportunities and would, of course, welcome any sponsors.
The above words are my thoughts and insights into our great community here at the 12:12 Project, but this article would’t be complete without gaining some insight into how our project has benefited the other members of our group. When I recently asked some members how the 12:12 Project has benefited them, this is what they had to say:
Lisa Toboz: “Last year I had quite a few publications reach out to submit. I feel as if the challenge of creating artworks beyond photographs really strengthened my work. I also published my first zine, and that evolved from some of the body of work I created through this project.”
Anne Silver: “I think it helped me to meet people, giving my work more exposure in general, and then become invited to participate in exhibitions. A couple of articles that were published about me probably came about because people learned of my participation in the project.”
Roo Storey: “It helped build my confidence just by being asked to be part of the group! I too printed my first ‘zine and don’t think I’d have been confident enough without being in this group.”
As for me, I feel that I have become more thoughtful with my images. I constantly try new techniques, that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I have learned so much from other members who have shared so graciously. But mostly, I have found new and wonderful friends.
I have loved this project since its inception. I am addicted to the thrill of capturing the themes. I am always fascinated to see the different interpretations that the other photographers come up with. I get an adrenaline rush as the season gears up. I love a challenge, and I thrive on deadlines! Micheal Behlen asked me if I could give a good example of how two photographers come up with two widely different interpretations of the same theme. I have no good answer for this other than no two minds are the same. We all look at a scene or a painting, or a statue, or anything, and we see different things. It’s what makes this group work so well. To see examples of this you simply need to follow us.
This years 12:12 Project and 12:12 Men’s Project photographers are listed below. Please take the time to check each of their websites to see more of their work! Follow our journey through 2019 on Facebook for the 12.12 Project and 12:12 Men’s Project and make sure to connect with each group on Instagram:12.12 Project and 12:12 Men’s Project!
12:12 Women’s Project Members
I grew up with a Navy dad, and a stay at home mom. Instead of jewelry, my dad always bought my mom a new camera at every port. There are suitcases full of life moments, bad or good, exciting or mundane, its all there. The best part about this story is that I got many of her hand me down cameras. I took photography classes starting in middle school. I love film. I love the smell of fixer. I mostly love the instant gratification of instant film. I commandeered moms first Polaroid camera when I was 15.
I realized that instant film was my true medium much later in life. Right before Polaroid decided to stop making it, in fact. I had been experimenting with lifts, transfers, and manipulations, and felt I had finally found the way to get what I saw in my mind, onto film. I am truly grateful for The Impossible Project who allowed me to continue along my path. Today, every photo I shoot is like a page in my diary. There are little stories of my life that I add into each one. I think of it all as an ode to my mother.
Some of my photos have been published in print magazines, including Light Leaks, JPG Magazine, Nashville Arts, Latent Image, and some online Magazines, including Pryme, JaamZin Creative, books include, Raw Beauties, 12:12 Project 1&2. Exhibitions, Modern East, Nashville, Polaroid: easy art,Italy, Instant 085,Italy, 12:12 exhibit in Berlin, Paris and Nashville. Solo shows at Blend and Corvidae Collective in Nashville.
Carmen De Vos
Flying Freelance Portrayer. Purveyor of Exquisite Photographic Peculiarities. Fabriqueur of Foxy Femmes. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the late TicKL-Magazine. Author of THE EYES OF THE FOX, her beautiful, voluptuous photo book published by [ander]-zijds presenting a decade of curiously frivolous Polaroids.
Almost without exception she uses old Polaroid camera’s, long time expired film and self-made filters. Her tools and methods - such as film bleaching and deliberate film obstruction - are not precise and are not even geared towards a perfect representation. They often yield results - such as colorisation, deformation, unsharpness - which she could never have predicted on forehand with any certainty, because their flaws do not allow for calculation. She’s not in control. She fights the material. She plans, stages and directs but the decayed chemistry and off-focus lenses add their magic. All by themselves. Which merrily surprises her. Or ruins her image. This battle attracts her as much as it frustrates her. She loves to create within these limitations, to try to produce the best possible image within the narrow circumstances given. Luckily, she’s a sucker for imperfections. Carmen is frequently published in Belgian magazines and newspapers and in several international magazines.
“I try to create quiet zones for the viewer with my Polaroids.“ Every exploration of nature fascinates Ina Echternach anew. She lets herself be guided by nature, sees that something special in seemingly commonplace things, feels the magic of places and tries to capture these moments of timelessness. Instant film is the perfect medium for her approach. The Polaroid wrests a picture away from that one moment and she takes us with her on a journey into mystical landscapes.
Ina Echternach, born in 1970, lives and works in the nature park Siebengebirge, located in the heart of Europe. Her work has been exhibited in the USA, Germany, England, and France.
Dreamlike landscapes and surreal atmospheres are the visual language of Julia Beyer from Germany that she expresses mainly on instant film. In 2014, she began to delve into this photographic art form and since then expands her portfolio continuously. Her work is featured in the Photodarium (formerly Poladarium) calendar 2016 - 2019 and various international online and offline magazines (e.g. Blur Magazine, Analog Mag, Monochrome Mag). Since 2017, she is a member of the renowned "12:12 Project".
Her work is currently showcased by Stefanie Schneider's online "Instant Dreams" Gallery on Artsy.net and 1stdibs.com. Besides singing in the Dreampop band Chandeen, Julia works fulltime in the media industry.
Lisa Toboz is a self-taught photographer from Pittsburgh, USA. Her work explores self-portraiture and the forgotten landscapes in and around the rust-belt region, but her most recent project, “Dwell,” navigates the territory of chronic illness and healing. She has exhibited internationally, and her first zine, “The Long Way Home,” was most recently published by Static Age UK. This is her second year with the 12.12 Project.
Leanne Surfleet is a fine art photographer based in the UK. The majority of her work focuses on self-portraiture and experimenting with film and instant cameras. Her work is deeply personal and explores themes such as nostalgia, anxiety, loneliness, and light.
Working primarily in instant film self-portraiture, artist Rachael Yates explores an emotional cadence using the lens as a tool for self-examination and critique. Often deconstructing and pushing every aspect of the frame and medium, Yates relies on the ephemeral and unpredictable nature of instant film to employ a cathartic approach to photography. She has been featured by the Impossible Project, Square Magazine, Analog Forever, Photodarium calendars and numerous print and online publications and is a member of the 12.12 Project. She lives and works in Houston, Texas as a marketing director and uses her camera as a means of blissful creative escape.
Since 2015 Ruth Storey has been shooting and experimenting with instant film. For Ruth, this is the one medium that allows her to express herself creatively, and she is always looking to push herself through new creative processes and challenges. Ruth's work has been featured in a number of print magazines as well as in various online publications. Ruth lives in Sheffield in the UK with her husband and two children.
Connect with Ruth Storey on Instagram!
Clare Marie Bailey
Clare Marie Bailey is a Welsh photographer and was born and grew up on the Island of Anglesey in Wales. Spending hours with her grandmother who was Italian, Clare became interested in world cinema and was impressed by the rituals and theatre of the Catholic church which she attended as a child- both would later influence her photographic work.
Her passion for Polaroid and instant film photography began when she became mesmerized and fell deeply in love with its dynamic and at times mercurial and almost random character; its ability to give an almost perfect imperfection.
Clare’s work, centered on self-portraits, is heavily influenced by the Cinema, magical iconography, dreams, the counterculture of the 1960s and B-Movies. Clare uses film to work towards creating an alternative and parallel world where she can co-exist with the ‘real’ world and is fascinated with the idea of ‘doubles’ and ‘doppelgangers’ and the concept of reinvention. Clare believes all art is a form of magic and using memory, emotion, and imagination to manipulate materials and create imagery is a form of alchemy.
Her work has been exhibited in many group shows and most recently was exhibited as part of Image Nations ‘Instant Art Paris’ the International Polaroid Exhibition in Galerie Joseph Turenne, Paris.
Currently working on a new body of work, Clare has also been creating film shorts to accompany her still work. Clare is a group member of the 12:12 project for 2019 that brings together international Polaroid Artists who shoot a different theme for each month throughout the year.
Kirsten Thys van den Audenaerde
Kirsten Thys van den Audenaerde discovered instant photography by accident in 2016, after purchasing The Impossible Project’s I-1 Instant Camera. Meant to be a gadget, her photography work had been exclusively digital up to then, the I-1 became an instant obsession. Hook, line and sinker, she fell for the authenticity that instant film brought back to her work, realizing this was what she had been looking for for a long time. The I-1 was quickly left aside in favor of the original old Polaroid cameras and she was captivated by the perfect imperfections of expired film.
At around the same time, she traveled to the US to visit family in Utah, deciding to take only her polaroid cameras to document her road trip. The combination of instant film and road tripping turned out to be a game changer. In 2017 and 2018, she road tripped 4 more times in the US, shooting old neon signs, deserts and canyons and combining the awe-inspiring landscapes with the beauty of the female nude form, which had always been at the center of her work.
Creating polaroid art helps Kirsten make sense of the outside world, a world she can relate to less and less. It keeps her sane, gives purpose to life, creates order where chaos reigns.
Kirsten has had exhibitions in Brussels, Barcelona, Ogden (USA), Bombay Beach (USA), Arles and Paris. Her work is sold through Stefanie Schneider’s online ‘Instantdreams’ gallery. She is starting an artist residency in California at the end of January 2019, spending 3 months creating new work and doing more traveling.
Kat Dalton is a photographer in Ithaca, NY, who started out in film photography and never left it. She mainly uses medium format cameras but recently picked up a Polaroid SX-70 again, after having had one when they were still being made. One of her ongoing SX-70 projects is “Water Blessings” which she started this past summer when she couldn’t face scanning her medium format photos of her mother and three cats who had recently died in quick succession.
Connect with Kat Dalton on Flickr!
Anne Silver is an analog and Polaroid photographer who is passionate about creating photos with a timeless mood. She explores juxtaposing themes such as hope and grief, loss and rebirth, vulnerability and strength. Before dedicating herself to her photography full-time, Anne worked for many years as a psychotherapist specializing in helping others heal from trauma. Anne is an American who lives in Paris, France with her husband and her cat.
12:12 Men’s Project Members
Call me polaroider. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no pixel in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on CCD o CMOS sensors, I thought I would dedicate myself to the integral films and see the instantaneous part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to photograph as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish, Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly start to shoot instant photos.
There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the photography with me.
I was 15/16 years old when my passion for photography started, mainly black and white that I developed and printed in my darkroom. Then the discovery and fascination for body expression brought me to work as a professional dancer and then choreographer for the last 20 years, with another passion: Yoga.
My photographic world has been sleeping for a long period and only recently has returned powerfully in my life when by chance I found an SX70 at a vintage market. Since then it's been like a wave that washed over me. I started to experiment with all possible Polaroid cameras, films, techniques as if I had to make up for lost time without polaroids. Poetic, erotic, ironic, surreal maybe, conceptual sometimes... I like to tell stories through my polaroids, probably fed by my work in dance and theatre where I grew up as artist, but my photographic world has also something different, a specific form of beauty I'm looking for, a research that is still going on and that I hope will never end.
Connect with Stefano Questorio on Instagram!
Noah Zyla started with photography in 2014 at a time when he craved something creative to improve his work/life balance. He quickly became enthralled by the technical side of instant photography. The ability to experiment provided him with the freedom to create and photograph his own installations. Recently he has turned to portraiture which had always been the genre of most interest to him. After shooting a number of random portraits, he decided to move forward creatively to combine a more conceptual, artistic approach with the technical aspects of instant photography.
More than focusing on creatives techniques with a photographic print which can be manipulated in many ways or use it in a mixed media artwork, he is most interested in the technical capabilities of the Polaroid camera and instant photography.
Andrés Aguilar Caro
Andrés Aguilar Caro begins his career in photography at the same time he begins to study journalism. Disillusioned with XXI Century journalism, he starts to focus on documentary photography, and, specializing in photojournalism, he starts working as a freelance photographer and editor for international media. In 2010 he gets his hands on the first instant format camera and starts working with it parallel to his digital equipment, recording some of his more intimate works in this new format. In 2013 he leaves aside his career as a freelancer to create his personal project: Polaroid of the day, until today. POTD is a platform for cultural and artistic support for amateur and professional photographers of the instant format, and in which everything is about art, capturing it in very personal images and where photography is the goal of the whole project.
Connect with Andrés Aguilar Caro on his Website and Facebook!
Born 1976 in Frankfurt/Germany he tries to create atmospheres with his photos,
sometimes exotic and fantasy-like, sometimes familiar scenes of everyday life. He
captures and evokes emotions, telling little stories with each click of the shutter. There is a mood of intimacy in his photos, where the nudity of the models is natural, and is
secondary, really, to the rest of the story being told by the photos. Herr Merzi postulates that when the models he photographs are nude, their true selves emerge. There is no clothing, no costume, no artifice to hide behind. The look in their eyes is genuine, their expressions a bit stronger, and this authenticity is one of the things that compels him to shoot fine art nudes. Since 2018 Herr Merzi works also as Organizer and Curator of the INSTANT ART Exhibition series in Arles and Paris.
Connect with Herr Merzi on Instagram!
Hi, my Name is Lukas Brinkmann I´m from Salzburg, Austria. I started to shoot polaroids in 2011 and got addicted “instantly”. I love the format the “built in” frame and I`m just fascinated of the results these chemicals can create…unpredictable at times…
Connect with Lukas Brinkman on his Website!
Randy Jennings began his career as a live music photographer, a venture that made a name for him and created an impressive, much-publicized portfolio. His photographs have appeared in various publications such as Rolling Stone, American Photographer, and Guitar Legends and have been used in association with VH-1, Fender Guitars and numerous music anthologies. His classic images are much sought after today. Departing from this vast experience in traditional photography, he has rekindled his passion for the “instant peel apart” film photography using several Polaroid Big Shots in his collection.
Crom Schubarth grew up in an instant film household. His dad was a photo engineer at Polaroid for more than 20 years at the height of its popularity. Crom loves expired Polaroid film and will shoot it as long as it lasts. But he also has an insatiable curiosity about new cameras and efforts to create new instant films. He can frequently be found at the San Francisco Instant Photo Walks that start at Glass Key Photo in SF on the last Sunday each month.
Connect with Crom Schubarth on his Website and Instagram!
My name is Josey S. Cary. Born and raised in the remote town of Machias, Maine. I’ve been shooting Polaroids for about ten years now, mostly using the Spectra format. Lately I’ve been using digital enhancement to bring movement/life to my portfolio. I like to think of them as “pocket films”.
Connect with Josey Cary on Instagram!
Having rekindled his love for Polaroid in 2012, Ray Liu's body of Polaroid work has been varied, from travel, symmetry, to shooting fashion portraits but his real love is seeing light and seeing double; his continual interpretation on those themes. He loves creating imaginative composites using a combination of in-camera technique and a determination to try things and not being afraid of failure.
Connect with Ray Liu on his Website and Instagram!
I’m self-taught photographer from Forssa, Finland. I have published my photographs always under a pseudonym. That's the way I am mystical, like a superhero or a graffiti artist, which I am, too. I have two sons and an awesome life partner with which is wonderful to live. When I am in civil I work as an art teacher. So in practice my life is full of art, or at least it now looks like it when I look at it. I took my first steps to instant photography mid 90’s. It has become a very close way of expressing myself. My photos often be seen nature, some kind of dreamy, magical touch, or at least I try to get them in my pictures. It's great to be involved in 12:12 men I get new challenges to my photography work.
Thomas Zamolo's artistic practice engages the cross-pollination of knowledge from his long-term experience in photography, dance and lighting design.
His interest in instant photography stems, in part, from a fascination with the romantic, eerie and painterly qualities possible with the techniques of such chemical processes and analogue technologies.As a photographer, Thomas is perhaps best known for his work with mosaic. In his images he explores a wide range of topics from surreal landscape to psychosocial staged scenes.He was born in France and now lives and works in Sweden.
When another member can not participate Jennifer Stalvey will come to the rescue! She will fill in for both the 12:12 Project and 12:12 Men’s Project as needed.
Jennifer is an eclectic fine art and commercial photographer working in Nashville, Tennessee, and beyond. In her fine art projects, Jennifer is interested in identity, meaning and purpose. Her projects are as wide-ranging as her interests, each one inspired by themes of resilience, transformation, and the pleasure and healing of simple beauty. Her favorite photographs are made with medium format film and instant films. Jennifer also spends quite a bit of time in her studio practicing the art of gum bichromate printing, which she will use for her next solo project, Archetypes Revisited.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Penny Felts is a photographer specializing in instant film based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her work has been published in a wide range of publications including Light Leaks, JPG Magazine, PRYME Magazine, and Raw Beauties. She is the founder of The 12:12 Project. Connect with Penny Felts on her Website and on Instagram!