'Smushed' Polaroid exhibit coming to Miller gallery

Julie Schwarz’ manipulated photos will be on display at the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts in Miller.

Photographer Julie Schwarz will showcase her smushed Polaroid collages at the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts.

“Polaroids by Julie Schwarz” will be displayed in the gallery at 540 S. Lake Street in Gary's lakefront Miller neighborhood from March 15 through April 7.

“My first camera was a Polaroid One-Step that I received for my 10th birthday in the mid-1970s. That’s when the interest started,” said Schwarz, who studied the craft at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana. “Professionally, when I was at RMSP they held a workshop on hand-manipulating SX-70 Polaroids that I was unable to attend. While I was away, my husband bought a Polaroid camera at a garage sale and, when I returned, I bought a book and taught myself the process. I call it 'smushing' and, when I smushed my first Polaroid, I always say ‘the clouds parted and the angels sang.’ When I left RMSP, I felt like my photos looked like everybody else’s, but when I smushed the Polaroids, I made them my own. I finally found a way to get a picture that matched what was in my head.”

More than 50 of her works will be on display.

"I just take pictures of whatever moves me at the time,” she said. “Sometimes I get an idea in my head and go from there, other times I'm just out and about and I see something. I can tell you I don't care to take pictures of people. Trees are some favorite subjects for collages. I’m also quite nostalgic and love to take pictures of pop culture from the past, like 45 records and record players, old diner coffee cups, typewriters, old bicycles and trikes, etc. Musical instruments are wonderful collage subjects, too.”

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All of the photo manipulation in Schwarz's work is done by hand, not computer programs like Photoshop.

“I feel just using Polaroid is unique in this digital world. People seem drawn to my subject matter. It's not usually what you see pictures of,” she said. “Also, what you see in front of you is what comes out of the camera. There’s no fixing them. Being a photographer that doesn't reproduce is also unique.  I do, however, reproduce and enlarge, in limited editions, the hand-altered SX-70 pictures from my first foray into Polaroids.”

An open reception will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, March 15.

The gallery is open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, visit millerbeacharts.org or find Miller Beach Arts & Creative District on Facebook.


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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.