Self-taught, New York City-based photographer J. Shotti worked non-stop for 14 days for his Polaroid portrait/documentary project, “EVERY TWO WEEKS,” a visual journal of people he crossed paths with over the course of two weeks. Recently published as a (very) large book, PDN wanted to know more about the process and why he’d spend so much time—and money—shooting Polaroids.
PDN: When did you start this project?
J. Shotti: I started to conceptualize this project at the end of 2013. The winter-time is usually slow for photographers, so I like to take on personal passion projects. “EVERY TWO WEEKS” was shot during a period of 14 days from the end of January 2014 to the beginning of February 2014.
PDN: What interested you in this project?
JS: I had just found a Polaroid pack film camera in a family member’s house and was told I could use it for a while (I still haven’t given it back). I wanted to scale back my “setup” and use ambient or a singular light. Polaroids seemed to fit with that desire.
I wanted “EVERY TWO WEEKS” to appeal to everyone on a human level. It’s like someone finding an old photograph in a thrift shop; for some reason the images resonate with them. There is something for all of us to relate to in this book—family, fun, heartache, depression, hopelessness, excitement and passion. These are human emotions we all go through no matter our age, gender, race or nationality.
PDN: Which Polaroid cameras did you shoot with? What were the project’s parameters?
JS: I used two land cameras, one for color film and one for black-and-white film. I set a goal of shooting 50 images per day minimum, so I would have at least 700 photos at the end. I wound up doubling that by the end of the project. It was challenging and expensive.
All of the images were to be photographed in a two-week period and that it would be shot entirely on instant pack-film as it complimented the kinetic flow of life. And people can measure their lives in two weeks…14 days to try an item we purchased, 14 days is a pay period, or the amount of time between haircuts or getting your nails done.
PDN: Who are the people in the book? Were the portraits sessions planned or spontaneous?
JS: Everyone in this book was someone I crossed paths with during the two weeks. I guess some of the portraits can be considered set-up, like the people who stopped by my apartment to hang out and do shoots for other unrelated purposes. Some people were actually upset that they weren’t featured in the book. I can only respond with “I didn’t see you during the two weeks.”
PDN: Tell me about the making of the book.
JS: Editing roughly 1200 images down to 350 took me about 6 weeks and a lot of red wine. Then I worked with design studio Stella Giovanni for another month or so to get the 350 down to 240. The editing was about the bigger picture and the stories, not my affinity for one particular image over another. A lot of my favorite images didn’t make it into the book.
The physical book needed to be obnoxiously big. We also wanted to toy with the idea of negative space and non-linear storytelling. I want people to look at it differently every time they open it. Working with Offset Impressions in Reading, PA, we mixed up the look of trendy ‘zines with a handmade book cloth slipcase. They allowed us a hands-on experience with the printing process.
PDN: How do you plan to promote the work?
JS: I printed 500 copies of the book (available on the project’s official website), and the book launches with a pop-up shop at (Blank) Shop at 312 Bowery, March 26-29 2015. We’ll be selling the book, related merchandise, a special showcase of the images that did not make it into the book, and a good time! I’ll also be shooting Polaroids so people can come get their picture taken by me.