The Fairy Tales by Alessia Amati


I started sharing my Polaroids on Instagram almost a year ago. One of the first accounts I followed was @alewino, enchanted by her photos and fairies. When she announced she was releasing a zine, I picked up one asap. I asked her if she would be my first interview subject for This Instant Life and thankfully she said yes. Below is a discussion we had over email.

Be sure to pick up a copy of her zine today! 

Let’s start from the beginning, how did you begin shooting Polaroids? 
In my house we have always used the Polaroids to immortalize the most important moments, but the real love for me was during the event held a year ago in Bologna, ISO600 the Festival of Instant Photography. It was love at first sight.
How long have you been shooting Polaroids?
I started shooting Polaroid not only as a souvenir photo, but mainly with an idea and a concept, exactly one year ago. Since I was a child, my father used to take portraits of me with his Polaroid. For me it was a real magic, and this marked me.
Do you only shoot Polaroids or do you shoot other cameras and film as well?
My photographic journey started with digital photography, but for my need of concreteness and tangibility I landed in the analogical world. I have started shooting with 35mm, medium format, Instax and Polaroid. For one year now I have focused mainly on instant photography (Polaroid it is my true love), but I continue to shoot with my faithful Pentax and Zenit.
Where did your love of fairies come from? 
My love for fairies was born many years ago. I was (and I am) a child who has always believed in magic, in a world that we do not want to see. I like to think that fairies and other creatures are always with us. I love the mystery and the tales. Me and my friend Laura, spent the whole afternoon to do magic, to seek faeries in her garden or creating potions with everything we had in the house.
How did you decide to combine Polaroids with fairies? 
I decided to combine Polaroid and Fairies because I wanted to create images with a slightly vintage flavor. When I was a child, I was fascinated by the photo of the Cottingley Fairies. That series of images has remained in my mind for so many years, it was a small obsession. Being a lover of vintage, I could not help but combine the two things together.
Your model choices are great. Where do you find models to dress up like fairies for your shoots?
Until now I have taken with two models turning them into Faeries: Albina and Valentina. When I thought about starting this project, I chose Albina because she is a great model and she was perfect for impersonating a fairy or an elf. Valentina is a model and cosplayer, in the past she had already played a fairy, so with her it was even easier to choose. In general I choose girls who in my imagination could be part of the fairy people, and who are ready to enter a strange world.
How long did it take to put together this new zine? 
The idea of the fanzine was born from a collaboration with Alan Marcheselli, one of the greatest national and international experts of instant photography. Through My Instant Life Editions (the publishing house of his shop), Alan has proposed me to insert my work of fairies in the number 0 of “Eight little wonders”. After choosing the format, I have prepared the texts and images. All this lasted for about two months, including the print of copies.
What did you love about compiling the photos for the zine?
I have adored preparing the order of succession of the photos. I wanted it to be like an approach to the fairy, from a distance to the particular. I also loved to write the texts of the zine: I was inspired by lots of ballads from the Victorian era, as well as some of Shakespeare’s poems.
What was something you didn’t like about the zine printing process?
The wait!! Usually I love to wait: analog photography is basically knowing how to wait … But in this case I was so excited that I could not wait to have the copies in my hands.
How did you come to work with My Instant Life? (I love their name by the way 🙂 )
I have met Alan Marcheselli a year ago, on the occasion of Iso600 “Festival of Instant Photography” (by the way, there will be this year in Riccione from 26 to 29 July and my polaroids will be exhibited with Fairies and other works). I attended several of his workshops, he is a great teacher, always ready to share his knowledge. I also often buy the films in his shop “my Instant Life” (unique in Italy).
I love how the zine folds out instead of a typical zine where it’s more like a book with pages. How did you decide on the formatting? 
The choice of format was quite difficult: We wanted something paperback and could contain 8 Polaroids or the exact content of a film pack. In the end we chose the folding format because it was the one that best suited all these features.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make their first zine?

I think the advice I would give is: build a story behind it. A story that has roots in passions of the creator of the Fanzine. Do not be afraid to put personal ideas, even if they are too original. Also the choice of format is important. Choose something that you can always carry with you. 

Are there any more zines coming in the future?
I hope so! I would like to create a series dedicated to the world of fairy tales. It’s all a work in progress, but who knows. Maybe I will write and photograph a story of my own.
 Alessia_amati_white flowers field_polaroid 600_polaroid originals Black&white


I Love My $10 Polaroid SX-70 Sonar OneStep Camera

My meeting canceled the minute I arrived at the coffee shop and ordered my drink. Before going back to the office, I decided to finish the coffee and scan an estate sale app to see if any sales were close by. Fortunately there was a sale less than a mile from me. Why not check it out?

Upon entering the house, I noticed shelves covered in cameras and binoculars. I skimmed over the cameras – most were overpriced point and shoot models – when I noticed something lying flat on the end of the shelf. I could tell it was a Polaroid SX-70 by the long flat base. It was without a price tag but I picked it up and continued to shop.

I decided to buy a vintage Pioneer SX-434 receiver and brought the camera with me to the cashier. When I asked him how much for the camera, he laughed, “Oh that old thing, how about $10?” he replied. I tried not to smile too big.

This is my third SX-70 camera and the two previous cameras are broken and need repair. If the cashier had named an expensive price, I would have reconsidered. However, at only $10 I knew I could get in cheap enough for it to either work or I could resell for parts and get my money back.

Introduced in 1978, this model offers Sonar auto-focusing which is best described by Polaroid from their manual:

As you begin to press the shutter button, your camera releases sound waves to the central part of the scene. The frequencies are far beyond our range of hearing and travel at the speed of sound. The split second it takes for the sound to reach your subject and the echo to return is fed into a tiny computer inside the camera. The computer uses this time measurement to calculate the distance between the camera lens and your subject, then signals a motor to turn the lens until your subject is in sharp focus. This extraordinary chain of events takes place in less that 1/3 of a second.

My first photo with the camera was out of focus, as you will see below, because I was unaware of this feature. Once I understood how to use the focus option, I went crazy with it.

So, how did the photos turn out? 

My first shot was of our flower bed in the back yard. I impatiently loaded the film and hit the shutter button like I would on any regular Polaroid camera. I obviously did not take into account the auto focus option of the Sonar model and the shot came out blurry. However, it was a positive sign that the photo ejected and developed properly.

User error is to blame for this photo. One morning there was an intense fog in our neighborhood and I tried to capture the house across the street. Technically, that’s just what the camera did, however it captured more of the white fog than I anticipated.

This is the photo where I began to understand the power of the Sonar auto focus. I love how the tree in the foreground is in focus while the river and other trees in the background are blurry.

I continued to harness the auto focus power of the camera by focusing on the street lamp.

At this point, I’m obsessed with the auto focus feature and want to push the limits with what the camera can capture. The idea here is to capture the tree in focus with more of the background out of focus. I took this early one morning and I believe with more sunlight the background would have shown more color.

I love this little tree in our neighborhood. Again, it was an early morning shot and I think more sun would have resulted in brighter colors.

At this point you understand my obsession with the auto focus and I need not explain further. Understand I usually shoot with a Polaroid 600 model without any focusing options so the SX-70 Sonar is an upgrade in terms of focus.

I am excited that after 40 years, the camera works properly and I was able to shoot an entire pack of film. I look forward to using it as much as possible in the future!