Andrey Tarkovsky : Polaroids

Low light trickling through the skeletal remains of trees, final leaves yet to scatter.

Shadows. Reaching, stretching, distorting. Resultants of long golden beams, late afternoon sunsets.

Thick fog. Transient mists.

Blankets of grey.

Preparation for walking on the Heath which was to involve that sandwich coincided with my discovery of Andrey Tarkovsky’s polaroids. Considered by many to be Russia’s greatest film-maker, Tarkovsky carried a Polaroid camera with him wherever he went. And the images here are a glimpse of the result, taken from ‘Instant Light‘ – a compilation of 60 of his polaroids made between 1979 and 1984, in Russia and Italy.

The atmospheric resonance of these photographs – ranging from rural Russia and family portraits through to Italian urban living and still lifes – struck a chord with the romantic images that I’d had in mind of a lazy Sunday afternoon spent rambling through autumnal landscapes on the Heath.

A strong emotive coherence permeates Tarkovsky’s polaroids, which appears to go deeper than aesthetics. Tonino Guerra also alludes to this in the Introduction to Instant Light:

Tarkovsky often reflected on the way that time flies and this is precisely what he wanted: to stop it, even with these quick Polaroid shots … These images leave us with a mysterious and poetic sensation, the melancholy of seeing things for the last time.

The muted, tonal quality of the pictures adds further to their poignancy, their subject matter appearing ethereal; as though ghosts of precious moments passed are offering the viewer one last chance to reminisce.

And as the images move from rural to urban they in no way lose their atmospheric ambiance. An intensity remains, with the impression that the images are stolen moments captured from the towns’ inhabitants.

Tarkovsky’s images make reverie inescapable, encouraging the viewer to lose themselves in the romanticism of not only the world presented before them, but of their own treasured memories. Perfect for reflection upon during a time when cold dark nights loom ahead.

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