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Thursday, 19 November 2009


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Mike: I agree about the quality of Polaroids you have identified, but what do you think causes that self-consciousness?

Is it the immediacy of the feedback? We would expect that with digital too, no? Perhaps it is indirectly related to the cost per shot (as in: "on x exposures per pack . . got to make this count . . .")? Or on a related note: is it the fact that these are like mini-view camera shots rather than the best images of a 36-exposure roll or a 500-image photoshoot? Or is it that we, as observed subjects, were not practiced with the instant-feedback that digital has now made commonplace? Or maybe there was simply less control over all of the factors that we ordinarily control when making an image: color balance, exposure etc. I'd be interested in your speculation on this.

Ben Marks

I've seen the Polaroids at Danziger and they're really charming. But, like all photos, you really need to see them in person. Each sports celebrity is actually represented by three shots -- I wonder how many frames Warhol shot?

I love the look of most Polaroids & can immediately think of a few photographers who got great results using them. Sarah Moon's work with 665 is outstanding, as is Paolo Roversi's fashion work with 8x10 colour. Walker Evans did some amazing stuff with the SX-70 in the 1970s, it's extraordinary how that technology both reinvigorated and transformed his style. There is also a wonderful book of Andrei Tarkovsky's colour polaroids.

On the other hand, it was exactly YOU who made me buy "André Kertész: The Polaroids". You credibly made an enthusiastic impression, and for good reason indeed. The book is absolutely stunning :)

The Warhol polaroids make me think of nothing so much as the word "cramped". There's nothing comfortable about them.

I've always thought that the most beautiful portraits of the 20th Century were Maria Cosindas' Polaroids.

I saw the Warhol Polaroids over the weekend. As photographs, they're merely OK; not worth the gushing. (Kertesz, for my money, is the master of the cheap little Polaroid). Their principal interest derives, obviously, from the fame of the photographer coupled with the fame of the subjects.

But if one is interested in Warhol, the Polaroids are well worth a look. They are quintessentially Warhol -- fame, and the nature of fame in modern society, is his principal topic, no? And, of course, the use of machine-made objects in the realm of high art, as well as the blurring of the line between high art and popular culture.

If I recall, the prices were not astronomical -- less than $10K, even for the better ones? Certainly a lot less than the $42 million someone paid last week for the silkscreen of 200 one-dollar bills. So, if you collect Warhol, why not these Polaroids?

Anyway, for some of us of a particular age, the pictures are quite amusing simply as 1970s artifacts. Ah the memories flood back -- Tom Seaver, Dorothy Hamill, and even O.J. Simpson! (Do the kids even know who Seaver is, or that O.J. had a life before Brentwood?)

Mike, have you seen Kertesz's The Polaroids? Only 127 pages, but well worth having. It is one of my favourites.

From the blurb: " Taken in his apartment just north of New York's Washington Square, many of these photographs were shot either from his window or in the windowsill."

Yeah, how did she DO that, anyway? I've never seen anybody else's work look like hers.


My two younger brothers and myself used to do ghost pictures with a Polaroid camera by carefully holding the camera (fairly) still on a dining room chair and taking two exposures.

We soon learned to adjust the exposure and have the 'ghost' standing against the dark inside of the shed; Having only eight shots concentrates even the mind of small boys.

Andy Warhol must have liked photography because when Movado commissioned him to make an art wristwatch, he used 5 photos of New York.

He also made a lot of oxidized brass or bronze plates that he had famous people urinate on before the oxidation but that's another story.

A lot of great photographers seem to have started as painters. That does not bode well for my photography since my painting and drawing ability is zilch!

Well, I like the ship, (but I am a Naval Architect). I'm not sure its in a dry dock though, looks more like a patent slip.

I don't know what it says about my taste for polaroids, but I've looked at the Warhol exhibit online, and read your article. My conclusion: that picture of the boat kicks massive tush.

There's nothing wrong with you Mike; you have the balls to admit that you don't get something most people in your community see as cool....keep up the good work.

So, how much does the particular photographic medium matter and how much is it really a question of the photographer and their style of picture making? The medium doesn't make the photograph, the photographer does.

For example, I was much impressed by an exhibition of early Robert Mapplethorpe Polaroids seen earlier this year at Modern Art Oxford, (currently at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle until January 31st - warning, contains some distinctly adult material). His composition and control of light are superb. However, I couldn't help yearning for larger prints of these excellent images. His use of Polaroid seemed fairly incidental to the capturing of his carefully planned pictures. I don't think these photographs would have differed in their impact much if he'd used, say, 35mm film rather than Polaroid.

Polaroid seems ideal for off the cuff, spontaneous photography, but lets not get too carried away. Surely its simply a matter of horses for courses?

Mike -
Since you put up those two photos from my collection on your site yesterday afternoon, my new (3 day old) snapshot gallery has gotten 11,489 hits (as a comparison, the next most popular gallery on my website has gotten 870 hits since the first of November).

What this demonstrates to me is the incredible power of the internet in general and of TOP in particular. I bow to your mastery. If anyone doubts in which direction the future lies, these numbers surely point the way.

Went to see this yesterday. Pretty neat, and the quality of the polaroids actually surprised me. They have a couple on exhibition that aren't on the site, and a couple on the site that aren't on exhibition. They're selling each tiny polaroid for $10k each, and most are already sold.

The question is, what's wrong with all of us?

I have the "Polaroid Book" and its nice, but most of what's in there are the type of 'art' photographs that were common in the '70s and '80s.

To get a real taste of the Polaroid aesthetic as practiced today go to Flickr and look at the Polaroid pool. I like to just hit slideshow and let the current images just flash across the screen. I think there you get much more of the snapshot feeling in the photos. Many of them are taken by younger photographers and while many are banal, there is always something extraordinary in there.

Mike D

Mike, Bill,

I read that Cosindas produced her beautiful colors by using exposure times as long as 10 seconds and extending the developing time of the Polacolor film to as much as 90 seconds instead of the regular 60 seconds.

Hi Mike,
FYI, there is a nice project by Robert Frank, 'Seven Stories' that Steidl just released. As the title does not suggest, it's about Polaroid shots from the Great Swiss. Beautifully printed, hard to fully grasp, it is so intimate that it is deeply moving. Like flicking through a shoe box from an old uncle, full of snapshots.

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