This past June, the Impossible Project announced the “biggest analog photo swap in history.” Titled Project 8, it coincided with the release of the company's first Polaroid-esque instant camera, the I-1. The shooters, including Jack White, fashion designer Anthony Vaccarello, Sigur Rós, and anyone else with an I-1, chose one of eight themes, then submitted them to Impossible's Berlin headquarters.
The selected submissions—a total of 120 photos—are now part of an exhibition at The Impossible Project Lab in Berlin, alongside works by the original commissioned makers. After the show closes each participant will give away a photo and get one from someone else in return. Today, Impossible shares some of the Project 8 photos.
"Having worked on the camera for two years, it was amazing to see it being used as a tool for creativity around the world with Project 8,” Impossible Project CEO Oskar Smolokowski tells The Creators Project. “The thing that stood out to me were peoples' stories, and how honest everyone was in the few sentences that they had space for. At the end of the day a camera is only a tool, and its people and those people's stories that make it worthwhile."
Alison Mosshart (The Kills, The Dead Weather), for instance, selected the theme “This No Longer Exists.” She says she relates to the idea as a performer doing a job that could be compared to a “traveling circus.” “We roll into town; we set up our lights, amps, and our stage. The people arrive, the show happens,” she tells The Creators Project. “A few hours later, us and everything we built is broken down, packed away, and gone. We happen and then we disappear. It's one of the most romantic and beautiful parts of live performance, the ‘here and now, and only now’ aspect. If you miss it, you missed it. If you were there, you played a part in it. In the end your memory is the only artifact. But, even memory itself is forever in flux.”
Mosshart says that artist Mike Kelly, who did the record sleeve for Sonic Youth's album Dirty, turned her on to stuffed animals. He pointed out that they could be “signifiers of time, happiness, failure, neglect, and trash—the inevitable end of naivety.” They could be reminders that nothing is forever, and that humans can easily attach magical thinking to inanimate objects, which reality tests over and over again. For some of her Project 8 photos, Mosshart photographed a stuffed bear.
“The man who gave me that bear eventually disappeared, then so did the bear’s ‘personality,'” says Mosshart. “What it meant then is not what it means now. The mind is our lens through which we see and conceive, and we are always changing our minds.”
Mosshart's other photographs are varied. She took photographs of hair in front of a subject's face and police helicopters that drain taxpayer money; a car crash; a double exposure of a skull over her brother's face; and a hotel bed as a symbol of the musician's life inside a traveling circus.
Photographer Piotr Zbierski's photographs, titled "Push the Sky Away," (from the prompt "That thing that keeps you awake"), explore something quite a bit more abstract—at least conceptually. He is after non-linear time: how mental and actual time overlap.
“It is obvious that micro-movements of individuals praying or reaching transcendent elation have been guided by completely different meanings of time,” Zbierski says. “I want to talk about the common origins, which lie in nature and its powers and observation.”
In his series of photographs, there is a big focus on nature's creations. He wanted to explore how people first observed then personified these formations, which religions adapted for their own purposes. “I see the origins in the observation and gradual personification of nature and their forces,” says Zbierski. “This tradition stems from the initial observation of nature: their seasonal transience and rebirth with the advent of spring. I chose places important for previous civilizations, or creations that were built without human being intervention by natural forces only. I photographed rituals characteristic of many cultures and faiths. I ran away from mystical terms, searching in between.”
“In most of these works I use techniques of instant pictures, where the temperature, temporary conditions of the nature causes distortions on image,” he adds. “Nature co-creates the aesthetics of picture. The road back to primeval village, as muddy as postmodern democracy that has failed. Neo-primordial.”
For Zbierski, and many of the other makers and contributors to Project 8, instant photography is a way of getting away from the “virtuality” of modern digital culture. A tool through which the atmosphere of a place still impacts the images, instead of 1s and 0s creating a virtual replica of place and time.
Click here to see a gallery of Project 8 images.