One-On-One with Barbara Astman


Artist and University Professor Barbara Astman began her career entirely using instant film! She chats with us about her love for instant photography and shares with us some upcoming works – check it out after the jump!

Untitled (Visual Narrative Series 2 of 2), via Barbara Astman

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am a senior artist who is actively engaged with the art community through exhibitions and teaching. I am a Professor at OCAD U and have been teaching experimental based courses that deal with materiality and instinct and intuition. I exhibit at the Corkin Gallery and national and international museums. You can see what I am doing by going to my own website which features my public art or the Corkin Gallery website for a general overview.

You started off your photography career almost entirely using instant film. Why did you choose this medium to work with?

Instant gratification! After studying design and silversmithing which are very slow and labor intensive, the immediacy of the Polaroid camera and film was very appealing. I had certain ideas that I wanted to explore visually dealing with performative based work and the Polaroid along with the self timer felt like a good fit. I needed to see what I was doing as I was doing it and correct what needed to be corrected on the spot. I was also attracted to the saturation of the color in the SX-70, with no apparent grain. I quickly learned that I could use a 4 × 5 camera (pre- digital days) to re-photograph the instant image which allowed me to blow my work up to life size images.

What is your weapon of choice and why?

I own a variety of Polaroid cameras, in fact you might say I hoard them! I use whichever one works and am partial to the SX-70 film but will shoot on the Spectra film too. The SX-70 has a finer grain and greater color saturation, so I just find it more appealing. Once I run out of film, I will have to try out the new instant cameras on the market.

What kind of projects have you done when it comes to instant photography?

Pretty well all of my art from the early 1970’s up to the right 2002 originated as a Polaroid Instant Image, which was then either re-photographed or scanned to create a larger digital version that was shown. You can see a historical overview at and keep in mind that most of this began as an instant image.

For some of the bodies of work, the instant image was peeled apart, manipulated and layered back up on top of one another. I liked that it had the ability to become translucent or transparent depending upon how much you manipulated the peeled image.

Dancing with Che, via the Corkin Gallery

You’ve taught a course in the Ontario College of Art & Design on “experimental processes.” Do you have any tips for our community on shooting with instant film and getting the most out of it?

While always keeping health and safety in mind, you should feel free to try what ever it is that you want out of the medium which would usually be in response to a concept you are exploring.

Do you still use instant film in your works today?

Yes, I sometimes still pull out a camera and shoot with Polaroid film. I have a slow moving collage series that incorporates instant images. I tend to have the idea first then decide what medium or materials are necessary to create the idea. If the idea needs to be done with Polaroid film, then I will use it.

And lastly, any upcoming projects we should look out for from you?

Yes, I am in an exhibition at the AGO, Light My Fire: Some Propositions about Portraits and Photography, Part I: until October 20 2013, curated by Sophie Hackett, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON opening in early May and during that same time period, I am in a group show at the McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton. called, Flowers and Photography

In June, my installation dancing with che: enter through the gift shop opens at MOCCA, Toronto. The opening is June 21. On June 19 I have a show opening at Corkin Gallery, Toronto, in conjunction with the MOCCA show along with a “artist in dialogue” event on the Saturday June 22 at the Corkin Gallery. The Corkin show will include the original Polaroids form the dancing with che series.

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For more information on Barbara, check out her website

written by ashleyaang on 2013-05-02 #lifestyle

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