Peel-Apart Peelers: The Polaroid Photography of Matt Smith

The fast action of surfing is not best suited to polaroid photography. But, where many would find the challenge of peel-apart film and the wide angle lenses and slow shutter speeds of instant cameras too much to even consider, British photographer Matt Smith has found creative opportunities.
Matt lives in Cornwall, the UK’s southwestern-most and surf-soaked county. Like a lot of surfers with a love of photography, he tends to capture the moments before, after, and around surfing, choosing to surf as much as possible rather than photograph others doing it. This fits perfectly with his chosen medium. Matt has a collection of cameras, many of which he’s adapted himself, and a collection of instant film. Polaroid famously stopped making their instant film in 2008, and whilst several niche after-market producers sprang up, there is also an active community of polaroid photographers who collect and trade in expired and rare instant film stock. Out of date film can go either way. If you thought that shooting analogue film was a gamble compared to the machine-gun methodology of digital photography, risking the moment on expired film that could be a complete write-off is another level. But with risk often comes reward.

Matt’s instant film surf photography is ephemeral, often bringing to mind halcyon days of summer. It evokes a nostalgia for a time that never was because it is the present dressed up like the past. He’s hauled his cameras on surf trips around the world, and continues to add to his body of work, and his collections of cameras and films. Surf Simply caught up with Matt recently to talk about some of his most memorable images.

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