About

This website is a collection of photographs by Toronto-based photographer Don Rooke. He uses Polaroid 665 positive-negative medium format film and a Polaroid 180 camera. The film went out of production in about 2006.

Rooke also plays music with The Henrys.

Here are the accompanying notes for an exhibit on September 24, 2017 in Toronto.

The Last Box of 665

The black and white photographs in this collection were taken using a 1960s Polaroid Land Camera 180, one of the few Polaroid models that offered a bellows system and fine control over aperture and exposure. It has a 114mm Tominon lens, Zeiss viewfinder, and aperture options from f4.5 down to a near-pinhole f90. (A couple of images in the show were taken with an actual pinhole camera – basically a cardboard box – which has no controls, no shutter, no lens.)

I started looking for a 180 before the internet made such tasks easy. My sister helped, but it took us a few years (you could probably buy one tonight on ebay) before she spotted one at Stan C. Reade Photo in London, Ontario, in its original attaché case with all the accessories. My first shot with it, included here, was of my young daughter.

I use a Polaroid film called 665, which was discontinued about 10 years ago. Remarkably, if for the last decade you kept a bunch in the fridge (and in your friend Sandy’s fridge), the film is still good. 665 is slow (~ 50 ASA), and produces an instant 3 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ positive, and a same size negative. The negative is the thing: it’s much higher resolution than the positive and can be washed right away and hung to dry on makeshift clotheslines in, eg., a hotel room shower stall, the back seat or trunk of a car, or anything else that works, to the bemusement of fellow travelers.

I used to print from the negatives in a darkroom, but now scan them at high resolution and print from digital files, which is welcome progress because negatives that are hung to dry on a road trip attract dust and need a lot of caretaking.

All the images in this show were printed on 100% cotton rag, acid free, 17mil Hot Press Natural paper and framed in Toronto by The Gilder, who custom-makes his frames. For this collection he used maple, treated with a blackwash stain finish; UV90 (UV filtered, non-reflective) glass, 8-ply natural white top mat, 4-ply natural white backing. The prints are signed and dated, visible in a cutting window on the back.

I haven’t yet got down to my last box of 665, but one day I will, and will pause over the slow process as it ends.