The Bentley Centenary Polaroid Shoot

Behind the scenes at the Bentley Polaroid shoot

The Bentley Centenary Polaroid Collection

The Bentley Centenary Polaroid Collection is a strictly limited edition of 100 worldwide, that showcases ten landmark Bentley cars like never before seen. Capturing the ten iconic cars on the giant 20×24 Polaroid camera has created the most unique Bentley photographic collection ever.

“A Bentley Polaroid is an analogue creation in an increasingly digital world”

Stefan Sielaff, Bentley Motors Design Director

It would have been easy to shoot ten iconic Bentley cars from a century of grand touring and racing using the latest and finest digital cameras but the Opus team, led by Zenon Texeira, chose a gigantic bellows camera to take portraits of the cars. The ultimate analogue medium. A Polaroid.

Polaroid built five of the giant cameras in 1976 at the height of instant film popularity. The world’s largest Polaroid cameras were built in the Polaroid workshop to showcase their latest film – the results were spectacular! Originally used to photograph the detail in oil paintings and tapestries, Polaroid then gave the camera to the most noted artists of the era in return for a print to live in the Polaroid archive. Andy Warhol was one such artist to use the camera and soon the camera itself was recognised as a landmark camera in the evolution of photography.

The giant Polaroids created by the camera measure 20 x 24 inches. Each has its own unique DNA fingerprint created by the exploding pods at the top of the image that develops the photo. Sadly, with the evolution of cheaper digital photography, the demand for the Polaroid film dwindled and the production of film for the giant camera ceased several years ago. With only a very limited amount of film remaining, the camera is soon to become a museum piece. This makes the Bentley Centenary Polaroid shoot a never to be repeated, one-of-a-kind special event.

Sometimes there is beauty in the unexpected

The analogue approach to the photo shoot was refreshing and unexpected. In modern times we are so used to taking digital photos on SLR cameras or smartphones. The unpredictability of film and chemical errors are lost on a pixel generation that are accustomed to pin sharp, white balanced photos as the norm. During the Bentley Centenary Polaroid Shoot there was a chemical mismatch that resulted in an unusual print that although did not meet our requirements, possessed a charm that reminded us that we were creating art, we hadn’t chosen the easy option and this resonated with everyone who was part of the shoot or visited on the day.

This special print is included in the ‘Signed Edition’ of the collection, where photographer Zenon Texeira individually signs each print.

A photographer’s view

“I have a relationship with this camera that spans over 12 years. As part of Opus I have captured icons from the worlds of sport, entertainment and fashion but never in the history of the camera has it ever captured the ‘faces’ of a motoring brand. Until now. Our challenge was to capture some of Bentley’s most important cars with integrity.

It’s true that every car has its own personality but that’s about as close as it gets to shooting a human. Reflections in bodywork, the sheer size and scale of these magnificent beasts represented the major challenges of shooting with a camera that stands over five feet tall, weighs 150kg and is over 40 years old with cranking mechanical movements.

An ideal approach when shooting cars indoors is to down light them with a giant soft box to evenly diffuse light down onto them. It allows the form of the cars to be highlighted and see the lines as the designer first imagined them. Limiting environmental noise in reflections would help us capture the face and personality of the cars, and luckily for us the Bentley showroom at CW1 House had a circular room at its rear that is used to showcase cars. It was lit from above with a giant circular soft box of light… perfect for showing off the latest models from the factory a stone’s throw away, but also perfect for us for the company’s earliest creations.

The shoot itself was challenging but that’s the nature of the analogue approach we chose. The theatre of taking a 15 second exposure, waiting 90 seconds for the Polaroid to develop and then peeling away the negative to reveal a giant photo had everyone on the edge of their seats. It would be probably safe to say that there will never be another shoot like this, that marries the rich heritage of a company like Bentley with a camera of such stature. I’d like to think we made our own moment of history that day.”


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