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Instant Gratification

April 23, 2006|Hanna Dryland | Hanna Dryland is a high school junior living in Laurel Canyon.

Before I head out with my friends, I'm never exactly sure whether I'm going to take a picture or not. I feel very natural with a camera, and I put no pressure on the subject--or myself. That said, I'm picky. Everything has to fall together perfectly: the light, the subject, the negative and positive space.

I can't quite explain it, but something clicks in my 17-year-old brain and I reach for my camera. It's always on me, my foldable leather SX-70 Polaroid, the kind your grandparents bought brand new in the 1970s. My 10th-grade photography teacher suggested I try shooting with one. A few days later, I picked one up at a flea market and instantly took to it.

The signature SX-70 colors, created by Time Zero film, are wonderfully retro and give photos delicate character and moodiness.

There's the instant gratification factor as well. Most people looking for that these days turn to digital photography. I've always been slightly turned off by the quality of digital photographs; they look like home-video stills or are otherwise too perfect. They don't possess the film-like qualities or grain that give photographs real character. Plus, Polaroids are unique. You know that the photo you have is the only one in the world. No negative or other print exists. That's romantic.

I photograph what I know: my teenage friends and our bubble here in the expanse that is Los Angeles. Living in L.A. has proved limiting. Because only some of us have bothered to get driver's licenses and we can't get around much because of the nature and size of the city, we've learned to make do with what we have and find solace in creating. Whether we're stuck in a parking lot or lying around in a clearing of cacti, we always end up rhyming words or drawing portraits.

I find my creative release through taking Polaroids. As my friends and I walk on the perilous path of teenage-hood, I sit back and observe. I try to capture the mundane, yet intimate, lives of the people around me. Over time my camera has become an extension of my body. I don't feel as if I'm ever being intrusive, because I think most people in my circle realize the importance of documenting our youth. They are undaunted by my camera lens, which allows me to capture their true beauty, zits and all.

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Hanna Dryland's Polaroids are part of the group exhibition "Dolls to the Walls," through April 25 at Project, 5016 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles. Her work is also part of "Queen of the Night; Women Under the Influence, 1963-2006," through May 13 at Berman/Turner Projects, Bergamot Station Arts Center, Santa Monica.

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