University of Iowa’s Video Quantizer and Polaroid SX-70 1975

Image from Visual Alchemy

My first semester of grad school at the University of Iowa was an exciting time. I was in transition from silver based photography to alternative techniques and Polaroid SX-70. In the fall of 1975 I was invited into the lab of the Intermedia Program run by Hans Breder. They had a device called the Video Quantizer whose technical purpose was to compress colors to fit into various video formats.
As Wikipedia describes it, “In computer graphics, color quantization or color image quantization is a process that reduces the number of distinct colors used in an image, usually with the intention that the new image should be as visually similar as possible to the original image.”
We of course came to see how we could turn the dials and make art. I put several black and white images on the copy stand and turned on the camera. Tweaking the Quantizer forced color into black and white tones. It was pretty exciting but how could I print this out? I decided to render the images off the monitor to my Polaroid SX-70 camera. I was just beginning to make my SX-70 constructions, stripping off the negative and removing dyes and replacing them with acrylic paint. These images not only represent my earliest foray into digital imagery, but my first digital/analog experiments. I only worked one day with the Quantizer, not sure if it fit into where I was going. It would be almost a decade before I combined video imagery with painting in my 8×10 transfers, but these few images remind me of the those exciting times in the 1970s when everything seemed possible and boundaries between mediums were there to be violated.