Fleet Week in New York
Paul Solberg began experimenting with the Polaroid SX-70 camera and film process in 2009, testing temperature extremes and the response of various films. Freezing film, heating film, searching for a particular characteristic he didn’t know until he saw it. A year later, during “Fleet Week”, when the military annually sails into the Hudson River to visit Manhattan over the extended Memorial Day weekend, he discovered a particular film stock the same day the military and sailors arrived in May 2010. The fragility of this particular damaged film, while manipulating the tone by manipulating the film’s climate, was the narrative solution Solberg was seeking. He got on his bike and threaded through the streets of Manhattan- mainly Time Square- to seek out any service person walking past a clean white building façade, a challenge in the dense walls of electricity. As the first portraits and conversations were experienced, the project was obvious and immediate. It was four 20 hour days until the film ran out.
Solberg’s intention of putting together a large body of such works was interrupted when in just days most of the faces abruptly vanished from the developed film. The chemical instability of the film, abruptly, left a blank space where the faces had existed. Many of the images were immediately scanned after photographing, and many vanished with no record. Of the men and women he photographed, these images are what remain. Left with the surviving pictures, Solberg decided to follow the story instead of control it, understanding the missing faces, like in war, is the inevitable true story.
The process began with Solberg’s curiosity to capture faces of the young heroes. He saw in his subject’s eyes, and learned through their conversations, something of the magic and trepidation of youth. He gained a deeper understanding of their world, and respect for their dedication. Solberg harnessed chance events in his technical process to ultimately produce images of depth and resonance. The faces in Service look almost haunted by early experience, innocence lost too soon. In their world, courage and fear, invincibility and vulnerability, are close companions. The fading, ephemeral quality of Solberg’s images speaks to the often unseen trials and sacrifices made, and burdens borne, in the name of service.
Peter Wise, January 2013. New York City.
Paul Solberg: Service
From March 7th to April 16th, 2013
Casa de Costa
11 Stone Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10004