The journey to the island of Anafi takes me more than half a day from Athens, and returning every summer has become something more than a ritual: it’s a seal that marks one more time around the sun. The small Cycladic island doesn’t seem to belong in the digital era, and that’s probably why I always pack an analog camera in my backpack. Because of that, the Polaroid SX-70 and a couple of color SX-70 films have slowly become the ideal way of documenting this tiny dot on the map.
I always daydream of shooting the best polaroids the SX-70 can handle. The cornerstone tips I share with my Polaroid mailing list are relatively simple: have the sun behind you and never shoot in the afternoon when it’s sunny outside. And yet, the moment I step foot on Anafi’s soil, I forget everything. It’s always sunny on the island, and I don’t save the golden hour for photography; I usually go swimming.
Quite often, the SX-70 polaroids I shoot on the island become instant postcards. I give them to the locals, or I post them to friends around the world. Yet, some of them make it back home, often becoming part of my Polaroid Diaries. Photography is about the snapshots of moments already gone, and polaroids feel like Instagram before Instagram.
The SX-70 is not the easiest instant camera. It proves you wrong when you think you know everything about it. It’s a highly intuitive camera. A slight turn of the focus wheel might make everything out of focus -the same goes for the exposure wheel. And then, it’s the film’s development. Even if you do everything right, the film might fail you. There’s not much to do then. Some will call the result arty, and others will find it nerve-breaking.
Last year, I took a different approach. Instead of being thoughtful when shooting polaroids with the SX-70, I decided to photograph whatever I found interesting. It wasn’t just about randomness. I mainly wanted to see if an instant camera could serve as a travel camera. Would it even be possible to photograph Anafi’s landscape with the SX-70 and get enough details? Or would I just have washed off images that will decolorize further due to the intense Greek sun?
The 5 frames you see here are all taken on a hot day in mid-September. Specifically, you will see the view from my room and a church I came across daily on my way to the bakery. Moreover, you’ll see a photo (frame 4) from a secluded beach that needs an hour of hiking to reach and the remains of a sarcophagus somewhere in the mountains. And finally, there’s a friendly reminder: always keep an eye on the bees of Anafi.
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George is a published Greek novelist and travel writer. During the last couple of years, he’s running the travel blog Letters to Barbara, where he presents articles and photos from his journeys, mainly shot with the Ricoh GR ii. He lives between Berlin and Athens.