St. Louis Photographer Takes Eat-Rite to the Smithsonianan. Again.



In 2007 Jane Linders, an artist specializing in alternative-process photography, took her Polaroid to the corner of Chouteau and 7th to nab a piece of St. Louis' Route 66 history. She captured the original Eat-Rite Diner, still serving slingers and bags of burgers for over 60 years, in a gritty, ominous photo that could have been taken decades earlier.

For the second time, the Smithsonian will be utilizing Linders' work on Smithsonian Spotlight: Picture Perfect on the Smithsonian Channel on March 6 at 10 a.m. and March 8 at 8 p.m. The program is a behind the scenes look at the Smithsonian's annual "Picture Perfect" contest and the photos that have been a part of it.

Linders talked to Gut Check about her iconic photo, restaurant photographs, and how to make your own haunting old diner photos.

  • Jane Linders

When was the photo taken? The photo was taken in 2007 and exhibited in the Smithsonian Museum for several months that same year in the "Through the Eyes of Our Readers" exhibit. Tell us a bit about the process you used, and why. I used the Polaroid transfer process to capture the Eat-Rite Diner because the final image ends up having a painterly antique quality reminiscent of an old post card or fresco painting. Since the Eat-Rite is an old-timey diner, I felt that using this process helped magnify the vintage quality of the diner. Have you gotten any reaction from the Eat-Rite folks about the show? I'm afraid to tell them. They might get all weird on me and say that I'm not allowed to use the image of their diner for commercial use. I sell the hell out of the Eat-Rite Diner photo and don't want to kill off my cash cow. A few years ago I took a Polaroid transfer of the Elvis Is Alive museum in Wright City , MO and started selling it online. I got a cease and desist order from the "Elvis Police" demanding that I stop selling the image. I don't want that happening again. What can we expect to see on the program? The Smithsonian program is about what properties make a good photo. I haven't seen the show yet, so I'm not exactly sure.

Any other St. Louis iconic restaurants in your photo inventory? I have photos of Amigetthi's Restaurant and Crown Candy Kitchen in my photo inventory. Will you have the print for sale at any upcoming craft shows? I will be selling the Eat-Rite Diner [print] at the upcoming St. Louis Craft Mafia-sponsored event, Indie Craft Revolution at the St. Louis Artists Guild April 30th, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and May 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Folks can also purchase the print online at

Next, Linders gives instructions on how to create that vintage diner look as seen in her photo. Polaroid image transfer is both deceptively simple and complex. The dyes in the emulsion of peel-apart Polaroid prints migrate to a receptor surface (usually watercolor paper) and create a one-of-a-kind image that looks like a combination of photography and a painting. These unique images can be created as a post-production process using your positive transparencies (a color slide).

Equipment Vivitar or Day Lab instant slide printer Small tray for soaking paper Soft rubber brayer A developed positive transparency (a color 35mm slide) 140lb Arches watercolor paper, hot press Peel apart color 669 Polaroid film Vinegar

1. Load Polaroid 669 film into a Vivitar or Daylab slide printer and place your slide in the holder.

2. Expose the film and pull the Polaroid 669 print through the rollers of the slide printer.

3. Wait 10 to 20 seconds and peel the positive from the negative.

4. Normally you would save the print (positive) and throw away the negative, but the opposite is true for Polaroid transfers. Place the negative face down on a piece of 140lb Arches watercolor paper.

5. Gently roll with the brayer over the back of the negative taking care not to let the negative slide around on the watercolor paper. Let the negative stay in contact with the watercolor paper and place this in a hot water bath (the temperature should be just shy of boiling) for 2 minutes.

6. After 2 minutes, remove the negative, which is still stuck to the watercolor paper and gently peel back the negative from the watercolor paper.

7. Polaroid chemistry is very basic, so you need to soak your image in a room temperature vinegar bath for 1 to 2 minutes to neutralize the image. This step also intensifies the colors in the image.

8. Rinse the image with water for 4 minutes and hang to dry.

9. Transferred images are fairly stable, except when exposed to bright lights, such as UV light. Use UV absorbing glass when framing images and avoid all direct sunlight exposure.

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