The retro style of Polaroid pictures has been making a comeback. One local photographer has displayed his instant images from nearly 40 years of shooting.
Polaroid images with blurry subjects and muted colors hang behind white mattes at the Mathews Opera House. The small tables underneath scattered with vinyl records, unframed Polaroids and a lava lamp make this exhibit feel vintage.
Roger O’Dea is the photographer. His show, Zero Megapixels, is a collection of portrait, still and landscape images from years of shooting at home and around the country.
Chynna Lockett: “When did you first get a camera?”
Roger O’Dea: “It was in the early 70’s, I don’t remember the exact year and I was hooked immediately. And I shoot digital also depending on the subject or the scene but again, my first love is instant photography.”
Chynna Lockett: “What do you think the difference is between Polaroid and digital that really draws you to Polaroid?”
Roger O’Dea: “Me personally, it’s the face that you have one chance. You find the subject, you compose the shot in the camera, you push the button and that’s it. There’s no Photoshop, what you see is what you get. And you can’t reproduce it. The photo that you get out of that camera that you hold in your hand, that is truly one of a kind. That’s the only one of that exact photo there’ll ever be.”
Chynna Lockett: “What’s your style? Like what makes a good moment, good image to you?”
Roger O’Dea: “I like all subjects. For example when you go through the loose Polaroids in the drawers and in the box which I encourage people to do, there will be a man in a business suit standing next to maybe somebody like you mentioned out in front of a tattoo parlor. So I don’t have a theme I don’t really have a particular look that I’m after. Again, it’s just whatever happens to catch me in the moment.”
Chynna Lockett: “So right now we are looking at your gallery exhibit here. Can we start out with these images that you have hanging on the wall? This one really stands out to me. What’s going on in this image?”
Roger O’Dea: “That was at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally a few years ago. That’s Sonny Barger, the founder of the Hell’s Angels. Interesting story, I was walking by their storefront and one of the club members sitting out on a stool in front of the place grabbed my arm as I was walking by. And I had a Polaroid camera around my neck and he goes ‘Hey my grandma had one of those.’ I took his picture and then of course he asked if I’d come in and take his girlfriend’s picture and then the other guy wanted a picture. I shot like 3 rolls of film in there and he says ‘Hey, you want to meet Sonny Barger?’ What am I going to say, no?”
Chynna Lockett: “And what about this one? There’s this woman holding up the Beetles album in a record store and she almost looks like Audrey Hepburn. She’s got this hat on that’s kind of vintage. Can you explain that?”
Roger O’Dea: “That is my friend Crystal. I actually asked her if she would come with me to the record store because I wanted to take some pictures. And she wore that outfit without any prompting from me and as you can see, it’s perfect. That picture could have been taken in 1968 or in 2008 or in 2015. That’s what I love about that picture.”
Chynna Lockett: “When was it taken?”
Roger O’Dea: “I would say 5 or 6 years ago probably. I don’t remember exactly.”
Chynna Lockett: “What’s this over here? There’s got to be like a couple hundred people in this image. What are they doing?”
Roger O’Dea: “I think that was Rock n’ Roll show down in 1978 if I remember. Just a crowd shot. This is what I think people, I hope they will find, Kind of fun about some of these old Polaroids, is the way people are dressed. I mean look at the jeans and the guys with no shirt and the cutoff jeans and the women in the tube tops and the halter tops. It’s just fun. You know, again, just kind of old time.”
Chynna Lockett: “Is there anything that you wanted to add that we might not have covered?”
Roger O’Dea: “I just might mention even if you can’t find an old Polaroid camera that works, get one of those little instant Fugi cameras or whatever and a pack of film and put in there just so you can feel what it’s like. They’re fun. Again when you go to a party or an event or whatever, you take the picture. You don’t have to look at it on the little screen on the camera or wait till you get home to put into you r computer. In just a few seconds, you’ve got the picture right there, to keep, to give out, whatever. (It’s an) easy way for people just to have fun with it.”
Chynna Lockett: “Thank you so much for doing the interview toady.”
Roger O’Dea: “Well thank you very much, it’s been fun.”
Zero Megapixels is scheduled to be displayed at the Mathews Opera House through March 31st.