While the photography world awaits the sale of the Polaroid collection next year, a group of Europeans is trying to produce polaroid film again. That’s because the last batch of polaroid fill has just passed its ‘sell-by’ date. The Telegraph offers an elegy to Polaroid film and the artists who used it:
The technical achievement was all very well, but Polaroid photography had something else: romance and alchemy, the image appearing as if by magic, an image that somehow made people look different, more beautiful, more enigmatic, imperfectly human. Land, an astute businessman, immediately began to collaborate with artists. A year after he launched the Land Camera, he hired the American landscape photographer Ansel Adams as a consultant. This encouraged other artists to experiment with the new phenomenon. From the outset, photographers loved the practicality of Polaroids, originally as a technical tool for checking composition and exposure times before shooting film – the Polaroid tucked into the armpit of the assistant to ‘cook’. Helmut Newton wrote in his 1992 book Pola-Woman, ‘It’s a wonderful sketchpad, the Polaroid. Polaroids often contain a freshness and spontaneity that is lacking in the carefully planned final shots on what I call “real film”.’
To mark the film’s final use-by, or expiration, date, ‘Polaroid: Exp 09.10.09’ at the Atlas Gallery in London brings together artists as diverse as the Hungarian-born fashion photographer and photojournalist André Kertész and the provocative Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, as well as a number of contemporary British artists, including Marc Quinn, commissioned specially for the show. And of course Andy Warhol, who shot Polaroids as preparatory sketches for his paintings of subjects such as Bianca Jagger and Muhammad Ali. Warhol often turned the camera on himself, as in his series known as the ‘Fright Wigs’, his translucent face frozen in a frame of mad white hair. ‘Mr Land invented this great camera called a Polaroid,’ Warhol said. ‘There is something about the camera that makes the person look just right. I take at least 200 pictures and then I choose. Sometimes I take half a picture and a lip from another picture.’ All the images at Atlas are for sale. A Helmut Newton ‘Big Nude’ Polaroid will sell for between £5,000 and £8,000 (a bargain considering the traditional film version would set you back about £180,000).
Polaroid Last Picture Show (Telegraph)