In 1971, Polaroid released the "Big Shot," an instant camera designed to take simple portraits and priced reasonably at just $19.95.
Andy Warhol was an immediate fan. He became known for carrying it around with him everywhere he went and snapping pics of celebrities, from John Lennon to Farrah Fawcett.
Currently in Charleston, photographer Jonathan Stout, a.k.a. BadJon Photography, uses that same "Big Shot" camera for his own artwork. He found the camera for sale online and bought it for about the same as its original price in 1971. Then, he rigged it with a studio strobe, using colored gel squares in front of the flash when he wants to tint the image.
He's currently compiling a Charleston yearbook of sorts, which is now comprised of around 70 Polaroid portraits of people in the arts community.
"It might be hard to look at yourself that way," Stout says of the harsh Polaroids, which tend to show flaws. "But it's just being able to see your authentic self, with no filter."
In the age of Instagram, when filters and Photoshop can erase blemishes and alter reality, Stout says he finds it refreshing to capture something as it genuinely is.
And much like Stout, Charleston art duo Dos Bandidos (Will Kiser and Candace Patterson) also are trying to make analog art in a digital world. They've teamed up for a month-long art exhibit at Orange Spot Coffee in Park Circle. And their work shares a wall at art shop The Station in Park Circle during July. One piece is a brand new collaborative print featuring the work of both BadJon and Dos Bandidos.
The laborious process of screen printing, another skill that Warhol was well-versed in, also has been adopted by Dos Bandidos. No handmade print is alike. Each is adapted from a photograph, with Kiser and Patterson using hand-mixed ink and spray paint to add texture.
Then, they turn to Adobe Illustrator to tweak the color and add some digital components. Finally, they pull the piece through a screen, letting the ink collect one color at a time. It can take up to three weeks to make an image.
Some of the duo's Lowcountry images include the Coburg Cow and Waffle House, both of which were sold as a limited-edition run of 50 prints for $45 each. Each print is numbered in the bottom corner to show it is unique.
"We want to create art for the people," Kiser says. "Growing up, the only stuff I could afford was Shepherd Fairey stuff. Like he did, we want to make our art totally accessible but still special."
For their most recent endeavor, Kiser and Patterson traveled along Route 66 from Las Vegas to San Francisco and captured scenes along the way on camera. They've been taking those images through their screen printing process, and the results will be on display and on sale at Orange Spot and The Station. The theme of their next series will be "memories."
"Our focus is how across all cultures, we share something in common," Patterson says. "It's about unplugging from our phones, from politics and finding that common ground."
Kiser and Patterson are big proponents of street art, too.
Last year, they decorated an abandoned building at the corner of Line and Meeting streets with 20 pieces of art to brighten the blighted block.
“It’s easier to see how beautiful something is if you put some love into it, just like a little bit,” Patterson says. “You don’t have to completely renovate something to have love.”
It's often those abandoned buildings — forgotten community gems — that tend to capture the attention of Stout and of Dos Bandidos. Stout took a picture of the sign at the old Charleston train station on Durant and Rivers roads in North Charleston a decade ago, and he still sells that print today.
The Orange Spot Coffee art exhibit opening reception will take place 4-6 p.m. July 2. Stout says he will have his "Big Shot" camera for those who want to pay for an instant Polaroid.