Last month, Polaroid released a new instant camera, the Polaroid Go. It’s a small but perfectly formed analogue camera that can easily fit into your pocket, recharges using USB, and has a nifty little wrist strap. It uses a new film format, a scaled down version of the traditional square Polaroid instant film we have all come to know and love. I’ve been having a great time with it, taking it on many adventures.
This weekend I took it to the COVID vaccination centre where I have been jabbing people. We’ve been using Charlton House as our centre, a Jacobean Manor House built in the early 1600s before the Great Plague of 1665. It’s easy to imagine people fleeing from the the City of London to the lush countryside (as Charlton then was) to escape the threat of plague. And that gave me an idea.
I set myself the target of shooting just one pack of film, looking through the lens of today’s pandemic, as it were, to frame the narrative; eight shots of Polaroid, each one a small visual fragment of what’s happening. For privacy reasons I can’t take pictures of patients, so I had to rely on this fragmentary approach. But that also seemed apt, as I’ve recently been reading about Modernist literature and how WW1 and another pandemic, in 1918, caused the fragmentation of language.
On this particular day we were using the Pfizer vaccine, and its doses are supplied to us in little packs; six syringes, six wipes for sterilising the top of the vial (for each dose given), six vaccination cards and one vial (containing the six doses). The vaccine itself is made of tiny fragments of RNA that prime the immune system. It is very fragile, so you have to shield it in the dark in between shots, rather like the Polaroid film which also needs shielding for the first few minutes. Fragments and fragments, shots and shots. The patients got their fragmentary shots, and I got mine.