4 May 2013
We take the Uband to Rosenthaler Platz where we walk two minutes to the bar "Mein Hous Am See" translated it is "My House On The Lake". I wonder why it has this name, is the bar the house and the street outside the lake? This bar and about 16 others are doing a promotion night for a drink called Campari. It is a bitter sweet beverage but towards the end of the night it will grow on me. As I walk in to the Hous Am See the most defining feature is a set of staircases at the back of the room leading to nowhere with large cushions on each step for sitting on. We meet our friends half way up the stair seats. Maybe this is why it is called "my house on the lake"; a somewhat more conceptual idea that on this elevated area, the obvious attraction of this bar, the person sitting is themselves their own house looking out over the sea of people. I am told that this is an area for rich hipsters.
As we drink, a bubbly looking photographer working for the Campari campaign asks to take our picture, the camera is a modern Polaroid camera. We tell her we don't want to pay but she says they are free. Whenever I get my picture taken formally, reinforced by the fact it is an old camera, the opening lines from the song "Non, je ne regrette rien" play in the back of my mind and I imagine I am an old man in the future explaining to a young journalist some epic drama of my life and this is the start of the flashback.
Two awkward smiles later we have our photographs. We instinctively shake the photos, this dose not help the development time of a Polaroid but I bite my tongue for fear of sounding pedantic. I remember I have my digital camera in my bag, if I asked someone to take the same photo on my digital camera it seems it wouldn't be half as valuable as the Polaroid snap. Why is it that this photo is more precious than a digital one? Is it because there is only one of it in existence? Well the digital cameras would only have one of every photo it takes, it can take a lot more at once but you will never get an identical photo on a digital camera, maybe almost identical to the human eye but never identical. So the value of the Polaroid must be created by the lack of Polaroid photographs in the modern world. If we had one thousand photographs taken on Polaroid the value of them would massively decrease and we would probably take the few best ones away with us. Today, by having so many photos of ourselves on social network sites and digital albums, do we devalue our own image?
I can hold the Polaroid in a different way than holding the digital image; the Polaroid is more visceral, more tangible and feels like it is a grounding part of reality, whereas the digital photo floats in space, its mechanics minute and indecipherable. Where does the image go when I turn the camera off? To a memory card, but what does this mean? When one quantifies it the digital image is as much there as the Polaroid but the Polaroid, with its rustic charm and novelty, makes it more valued. It also has a longer ritual of creation than a digital photograph, this is the ritual of the development time and the shake (which is pointless but we do it any way) and ritual can create value, so not is it just the by product being the image but the experience is different. One thing to remember is that there is no actual value to this photograph, I got it for free and don't plan on selling it but the value is in the mind.