Dear Friends,

It is with great pleasure that I announce "Iconographies" - a show at PHOTO in Oakland, September 3-October 10, 2015.

On September 3, Uptown Oakland’s PHOTO will open an exhibit of “Iconographies” - selections from two series of unique, large-scale Polacolor images created in the 20x24 Studio in four intense days - two sessions of two days each - during the decade of the Eighties. In addition to the one-of-a-kind Polacolor studio images I created with the rare 20x24 Polaroid camera, I will show other images from my fine art photography.

Detail from Truth and Beauty

My days in the studio working with the 20x24 Polaroid Camera were the most intense photographic experiences of my life. To help understand the drama of it, think childbirth! Each session was two days back to back in the studio with 32 sheets of film a day and required several people in the studio to fully assist in the process. The studio itself was run by Executive Director John Reuter, and his assistants were there managing the film and rolling the camera this way and that. My models and their helpers completed the cast of characters. I could feel a collective desire to have everything run smoothly. The hoped-for result was that almost every image would make it into the long life of a series.

When I first worked with the 20x24 camera in 1984, I had to come a long way to meet this mammoth camera and know its magic. But in many ways I never left “home.” My photographic journey began at Polaroid Corporation after I graduated from Smith College in 1957, and grew out of my study with art history professors Ruth and Clarence Kennedy. Working for Dr. Edwin Land inspired me to become a photographer, and I was lucky to be working in an environment that encouraged, even demanded, that I explore photography in all its aspects.

Polaroid prototyped the 20x24 studio camera in 1976. The 20x24 camera took advantage of the large size of the multi-layer Polaroid film as manufactured. According to John Reuter, each 44” wide sheet of baseroll was slit to make the 20x24 stock, and the remainder was used for Polaroid 4x5 or pack film. Only a few 20x24 cameras are still in existence: three are in commercial use (one in New York, one in Cambridge, Mass., and one in San Francisco) and two more are in museums. The remaining film stock for the 20x24 camera was purchased by a private investor in 2009.

A 20x24 camera lets photographers create huge images with exquisitely high resolution. Like all Polaroid prints, 20x24 images are unique. There’s no negative, and only one original. For archival purposes, each 20x24 image was immediately captured as a 4x5 transparency using a conventional camera. For this show, PHOTO is planning to offer a limited number of smaller prints made from these archival transparencies and printed as archival pigment prints.

The 20x24 images in this show are from two series: "Iconographies from Isadora Duncan Dance" (1984) and "Iconographies from the History of Art" (1989).

The images of “Iconographies” are open to many levels of interpretation. Images may include familiar symbols such as the conch shell or calla lily. Some images refer to well-known works of art, but include sly changes of perspective, or gender. In the triptych “Adam and Eve”, Eve is a sensual goddess who enlivens Adam with a gesture reminiscent of Michelangelo’s God and Adam. The large format adds to the impact of these multi-referential works.

Detail of Adam and Eve

The PHOTO show runs from September 3 to October 10, at PHOTO, 473 25th Street, Oakland, CA 94612 (between Telegraph and Broadway, Oakland, California).

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 3, 6:00-8:00.
Reception and Artist Talk: Thursday, September 17, 6:00-8:00 with talk at 7:00.

Gallery hours are noon to 6:00, Thursdays through Saturdays. Open First Friday until 9:00.

Schedule your own 20x24 Polaroid Portrait Session with Margaretta Mitchell in October. Details to be announced soon at and

With Love,

Margaretta K. Mitchell


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