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Mark Tamer gets his photographic mojo back while making incredible instant film images

Updated: Jun 20, 2018

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. - Willie Wonka


"The last year of Mark's practice has been one of intense photographic experimentation with the Polaroid medium, of finding a workable balance between chance and control, and of end results that sit somewhere between careful construction and careless destruction. It has been a process of discovery, of finding some of the magic that has always been a part of analogue photography.


Working mostly without a camera, the work rejects the window-onto-the-world illusion of photography and instead, presents a new world of chemical reactions, of photographic surfaces that are subverted, interrupted or broken."

See more of Mark's work on instagram at @unreelcity













1. These images are incredible! What is your process?

Thank you! I have been fortunate enough to have had a six month residency at The Muse Gallery in Portobello, London. Previously I had always worked from home but this gave me a dedicated space to make lots of mess and experiment. So I've had various bits of photographic film and paper soaking in chemicals for a few months whilst I tried different approaches in an attempt to get interesting looking results. It was very much a case of "I wonder what would happen if I did this?" In one instance I stood my hot cup of tea onto a newly developing Polaroid and the heat reacted with the chemicals to give a lovely effect. Other experiments involved injecting different chemicals both into the Polaroid chemical pods and also straight into the image area. Every process was unpredictable and so it was lovely experience of photographic magic when it came out well. Someone recently described my work as a cross between Man Ray and Willie Wonka which I really liked - some photographic seriousness garnished with some silliness.


2. You have been exhibiting your work. Congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about the shows you've been in and what the experience has been like?

The Muse Gallery have put on two shows for myself and two other residents. One at the beginning and one at the end of the residency where we got to show much of the work we'd created in that time. We use quite different mediums but there is a connecting thread in our themes and approaches. It's quite a large space to fill and it was tempting to throw everything at the walls but I think we did a good job of curating ourselves and letting the show work as a whole.

I've also enjoyed working closely with other artists. It can be quite solitary at times but being in a shared creative environment can be really stimulating. I also have to credit the Muse Gallery for giving us not only their support but also the independence to do exactly what we want.


3. What got you started with instant film?

A couple of years ago I got to the point where I was questioning what I was doing photographically. I was working 99% of the time with digital and I felt that cameras and their corresponding algorithms had got to a point where most images looked great - perfectly exposed, in focus etc, but they had also taken some of the romance out of the medium. I missed the unpredictability and I missed all the interesting mistakes. So as a reaction to this I started working with analogue film and in particular Polaroid. I went back to the beginning of photography working with, and against, the chemicals and the chemical process that create a light-sensitive surface. Essentially, I got my photography mojo back and now I'm loving what I'm doing.


4. What projects are you looking forward to working on next?

I have just begun a portrait project using Polaroid where I interrupt the process to produce an image that is as much about its process as it is about the subject. I love having the image as an object - a thing that can be passed around and examined and if I take someone's portrait I generally get into a conversation about their memories of Polaroid. It is of course, also instant, so we can watch their image magically appear as we chat.


I will also continue perfecting various techniques and processes and aim for a more focused body of work. My ultimate goal would be to sell the work in order to be able to continue doing what I love