Mark Morrisroe in Bed, 1989
“I am not a photographer,” Gail Thacker insists. “I am a painter who discovered a medium that has a soul with painterly effects.” Her love affair with the camera took off in 1989 when a dear friend, the photographer and performance artist Mark Morrisroe, gifted her with a box of Polaroid 665 Positive/Negative film. It was three years after he had been diagnosed with AIDS, and he was able to see some of Thacker’s early Polaroids before he passed away later that same year. He was thirty years old.
Thacker’s unusual process began when she left some of her un-rinsed Polaroids wrapped in plastic. The chemicals distorted the images, and they reconfigured themselves. Suddenly, apparitions, specters, ghosts, black holes, and constellations appeared over the surface of people’s faces and bodies. She followed a similar routine for decades, storing the film under her mattress, in closets, all over the place–sometimes for years before printing. As the art historian Jonathan David Katz puts it, her pictures were allowed to “age and cook in their own chemicals.”