Because of its size, the 20×24 Polaroid camera tends to do mostly studio work. There are exceptions—Jennifer Trausch has taken it out in the field now and then, as have others—but those shoots are comparatively rare.
And then there’s the work of Joachim Knill, a Swiss-born photographer who built his own field camera to shoot Polaroid’s 20-inch-wide spools of film. It looks like an absolute contraption, with a lumpy bellows and spidery legs, and its frame is a little taller than those of the Polaroid-built models—his pictures are 20 by 30 inches. But never mind what it looks like: It’s the photos this camera makes that will stop you in your tracks.
Knill eschews the fairly cool aesthetic that is in vogue now in favor of an over-the-top maximalism. His frames are crammed with stuff, with color, with light. He favors translucent stuff that (I’m guessing) he lights with colored gels, producing results that look like dioramas produced on another planet. The aesthetic that leaps to mind is that of Terry Gilliam, but even that doesn’t quite get you there. He’s marching to no drummer except the one in his head.
He operates mostly away from the New York gallery system, judging by his Web schedule, which lists mostly art shows and fairs in places like Oklahoma City and Tampa. Someone: Sign this man up and give him a big show!
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