The Night Before Her Birthday
She posed on a stone wall by the water at dusk, clutching a bouquet of balloons, braving the breeze and freezing cold in a sleeveless pink dress. Her mother was frantically capturing the pre-birthday moment with a mobile phone as the light faded, while her younger sister stood smiling, hands deep in her pockets for warmth.
Walking by with an old Polaroid camera under my coat to keep the film warm, I approached, said hello and asked about the occasion — she would turn sixteen tomorrow! I showed them the camera, asked if they would like some instant photos of the moment, and gave them my photo-business card so they could contact me afterward. The mother and “birthday girl” both said yes, smiling, though I’m pretty sure the girl was shivering in that dress!
Turns out I forgot to turn on the flash for the first shot, flipped the switch, took two more with flash, then slipped all three photos inside my coat along with others from my walk, to keep them warm as they finished developing. Showed my mobile number to the mother and sister, urging them to contact me for scans of the instant photos. They smiled and said thank you so much…
Back at home a half hour later, looking at all my instant photos from the evening walk, I was amused to find that the “birthday girl without flash” ended up being my favorite! Once again, the flaws and fumbles only possible with instant/film photography produced an unexpected result, which was superior and/or preferable to shooting the “right” way… And just in case you’re interested, here are the two Polaroids of “birthday girl” using flash:
Camera: Polaroid SLR 680SE (vintage)
Film: Polaroid 600 Color instant film (new)
Photographer: Russ Murray (vintage)
Subject: a girl who would turn 16 the next day…
Location: Cove Island Park, Stamford, Connecticut
See you tomorrow!