100,000 Polaroids: Solar Art Self-Portraits

Welcome: this site works to share the results of David Lundahl's Polaroid self-portrait project. For fourteen years, the artist used a Polaroid SX-70 camera and a revolving series stencils, natural and fiber media to create a remarkably various and provocative body of work. David constructed a complicated and evolving matrix of mirrors to harness the sunlight that both illuminates and adds depth to these photographs--without the use of digital photography or digital editing tools. Instead, the artist uses mirrors to "cook" the completed photographs and selectively increase the dimensionality and tone of the original Polaroid film. David Lundahl worked for 15 years through every season, through solar eclipses and sub-zero Wisconsin winters, to create this monumental collection of photographs -- a brief selection of which is included below.

This site is updated by the artist's friends. David is neither comfortable nor conversant with internet technology. Instead, he hopes this site will lead viewers to contact him and perhaps even visit New Light Studios in person for a conversation.

Below you will find a slide show of David's Polaroid Self Portrait project and an introduction to the artist's life and the story behind how he turned a dilapidated dairy farm into New Light Studios. This slide show, given the amount of work in David Lundahl's self-portrait series, doesn't claim to be a definitive "selection," but rather a gathering. We regret how poorly these handmade photo-postcards and calendars appear in their scanned form, yet we hope that it offers an introduction to David's work.

About David Lundahl and New Light Studios:
David Lundahl is a photographer / sculptor / musician who lives in southern Wisconsin. He's created an amazing body of work in the last two decades: over 115,000 self-portraits, all taken with a Polaroid SX-70 using natural light manipulated with a series of mirrors and filtered through media such as stencils, scarves, organic matter and transparencies. Though the photographs included below may suggest otherwise, no digital processes were used in the creation of these images. They have a depth that digital devices cannot replicate.

The story of David Lundahl's art and life can't really be put into one paragraph, but, as an introduction, this in an attempt. Mr. Lundahl's art, and his choice to live in rural Wisconsin, all speak to his lived experiences. He contracted polio as a boy in the 1950's and has worn a leg brace ever since; his family were prominent executives in John Deere; he came of age in the heady years of the late 1960's and decided to set out on his own path. As a result, his work values self-reliance and questions modern social and artistic conventions. It's also incredibly playful. When you sit down across from the table with him, and he sets out his latest work, it's hard not feel the way most of us did when we first fell in love with the arts: somehow more excited, more alive, and inspired to go out and make art ourselves.

But part of the story here is New Light Studios, the dilapidated farm that Mr. Lundahl rebuilt, largely by himself. Despite his restricted mobility, he reroofed and refloored the barn and completely rehabilitated the house and other buildings. Thus, an abandoned dairy farm became a place for people to come and visit and make art: the silo contains musical instruments, the barn is floored to accomodate dance performances, one room in the house is covered in three layers of white shellac to make it an overwhelming space for music-making, a modified shed is a welding studio and the corn silo is affixed with a level of decks leading all the way to the top--so that one can watch the sunset or just read a book 100 feet in the air. 

There's way more to the story of Mr. Lundahl, his art and this place. Though he has shown his work around the nation, he could easily be considered an "outsider artist." Yet he troubles everything that's packed between those quotation marks. 

Further information:
A recipient of awards such as The DaVinci Prize for his creative use of light, David Lundahl has shown his artwork in competitive exhibits across the United States - 40 states so far.

The Museum of Modern Art, includes his work in their permanent collection of Books by Artists. San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art also houses his art in its permanent collection. 

Lundahl works in several media including welded cast iron and photography. “Everyone is creative,” he says. “I love to teach people how to bring forth their own self-expression.”