Take your best shot. Then move on.
Back on a Sunday morning—probably late 90s, early 2000s—Joe and I were having coffee in my living room in Hollywood, FL. As always, I had a bouquet of gladiolas in a vase. This bunch was a little unusual, having one orange stalk among the white blooms.
Of course, it caught Joe's photographer eye and he wanted to take a photo, but the room was too dark. He glanced out the window. The sun shone brightly in the Florida sky. So we went outside and he instructed me to hold the flowers high so he could get a background of just sky—nothing from my yard.
He took several shots, as he always did. As frequently happened (something I learned being with him so much), one was a stand-out. He called it "Shelley's Flowers." The the others were called by the same name, but #2, #3, and so on.
We tried to recreate the look several times with other bouquets, and although many were pretty, none ever matched the appeal of #1. Over the years, this image has been licensed for wall art, greeting cards, coasters, and kitchen towels.
A very similar situation occurred with the Beach Umbrellas image from last week's post. That photo was one of those classic "being in the right place at the right time" images. We were at Hollywood Beach, lying on our blanket, when Joe sat up and saw the umbrella grouping right next to us.
Although he took photos from several different angles, this was the "one." In addition to being a commercial favorite, it earned several awards, including Best in Show at the Fort Lauderdale's Heart Expo.
Joe went as far as purchasing the same umbrellas in an attempt to recreate the power of the shot, but like Shelley's Flowers, none ever matched No. 1.
At this point, I should tell you what you're looking at—both for your elucidation and to tie this in with the title of the post.
Both these images (and others like these with square formats you may have seen in previous posts) are referred to as "manipulated Polaroids" and were created with a Polaroid SX-70 camera and Time Zero film. When the film dropped out from the camera, the emulsion was still soft and the image took several moments to "appear." For most people, waiting to see the photo emerge was the end of the process.
Not for Joe. He used sticks to manipulate the surface before the emulsion hardened, giving the image the dreamy, watercolor look. Initially, this would be the extent of what could be done. Years later as digital technology advanced, he was able to scan, enlarge, and color correct the film to create prints up to 40"x40" from the original 3.5" x 3.5" photograph.
When I met Joe in 1997, he was creating these images for fun, as a creative outlet from the constraints of the advertising photography he did for a living. Most of the time, he enlarged them on a color photo copier and gave them away as gifts, which was my first exposure to them. At my urging, he started creating them more often.
The "big break" came in the early 2000's when he could digitally scan the images to create art prints in a larger format.
This single advancement changed our lives. Joe was able to shift from his location-based advertising photography business to art photography that could be done and published anywhere in the world. The switch enabled us to move from South Florida to Asheville in 2007.
The SX-70 camera needed to create these images had long been discontinued, but Joe found them at garage sales and on Ebay. Polaroid continued to sell the Time Zero film, however, until about 2006. Joe bought up as much as he could, but ran out of his supply sometime in 2008. The aftermarket replacement film could be used in the camera but didn't have the same manipulation properties, so basically it was an end to the art form.
But Joe's talent and creativity never diminished. Having learned from his many unsuccessful attempts to recreate a fortuitous moment, he turned his attention back to digital photography and exploring the seemingly endless art forms emerging. What evolved from his efforts was a unique look he called "photoartistry" that identified his images on sight. People knew a "Gemignani" when they saw it.
So often when things are going well, we have the urge to try to hold onto a moment in time. But change is the nature of life. Enjoying these moments when they occur is the secret to everlasting happiness.
Once we learn to make the most of the present, which is all we ever have, we create the life we want just by making and taking our best shot—in each and every ongoing moment.
Image: Shelley's Flowers ©Gemignani. Purchase prints here.
Text ©Shelley Lieber
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