The Polaroid Book : Selections from the Polaroid Collections of PhotographyJanuary 5, 2023
The Polaroid Book : Selections from the Polaroid Collections of Photography
Edited by Steve Crist, Essay by Barbara Hitchcock
As a photographer, and especially as one who has shot a lot of instant film, I could wax poetic about the wonders of the Polaroid film process; that it was invented in 1947 by Edwin Land and his Polaroid Corporation; that he formed a partnership with Ansel Adams to explore the artistic capabilities of the medium in 1948; that Land and the Corporation made hundreds of cameras and film available to artists around the world on the condition that they gave some of their images to Polaroid’s collection of photos. I could tell you that it was THE photographic medium of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and that creating a photo was indeed as easy as “Push, pull!”. However, there are so many writers and photographers out there who have extolled the virtues of the process over the last 75 years that I can’t possibly say anything new.
The Polaroid Book : Selections from the Polaroid Collections of Photography tells the story in 254 photographs by 203 artists. The photos include black and white documentary and landscape images taken with the cumbersome early models of the Polaroid line of cameras to incredibly immersive large format color images made by celebrated artists and fashion photographers. The creativity in these polaroids is boundless. From Adams to Warhol with a little Close and Hockney in between, Polaroids were a tool used by well (and lesser) known artists to create stunning pieces of work. Chuck Close’s Self-portrait (seen below) stands out; a mosaic made up of 9 separate images to create a large, somewhat disjointed selfie in Close’s trademark (and usually painted) style.
Perusing this book will lead you to want to try capturing this photo-magic yourself, which you can do by using Fujifilm’s Instax line of film and cameras. Anecdotal evidence points to these colourful, well designed cameras acting as lures to teens everywhere to further explore the possibility available to them in analog photography as a creative outlet. It is one of the reasons that film sales are quickly growing again after years of domination of the market by digital photography.
The Polaroid Book is available from numerous online and bricks-and-mortar retailers.
~ Mark WaltonRead More
Walker Evans – James R. MellowMay 19, 2022
James R. Mellow
Basic Books; Revised ed. edition (Oct. 11 2001)
Walker Evans is one of the most famous American documentary photographers of the past 100 years and his images will stand for another hundred at least. While every serious photographer is familiar with his work (the best known of which was shot during the 1930’s for the U.S. Farm Security Administration as per the examples below), there have been relatively few books that discuss Evans as a man. James R. Mellow captures his complexities in this eminently readable biography, published in 2001.
What makes particularly interesting reading is Evan’s evolution as an artist, from failed student in the Mid-West US, to failed writer in Paris, to acclaimed photographer on his return to New York in the late 20’s and early 30’s. The book quotes extensively from his letters and other writings. One can almost hear him speaking… I imagine his voice to be a low pitched, slow drawl; a mix of Henry Fonda, Peter Coyote and Alan Rickman (minus the accent).
Evans comes across as dour and fatalistic, yet strangely still likeable. Much of his writing describes his unhappiness with things as they are, whether it be his annoyance with his mother, his dissatisfaction with the quality of the prints made from his negatives or his despondence about his romantic relationships. Many of his friendships with other famous artists are discussed, including Ben Shahn, Steven Crane and Hanns Skolle.
The book offers details about the trips Evans made to do his photography and specifically the trips he made with author James Agee as they worked on the seminal Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Evans plays the role of aesthete opposite Agee’s sensualist, the collision of which resulted in a book acclaimed for its intimacy and realism… a strong documentary account of the lives of sharecroppers and their families in the American South during the Great Depression.
It is sad but somehow inevitable that Evans ends his days as somewhat of an alcoholic / academic recluse. Mellow’s reliance on Evans’ own words leave you feeling as if you really knew him, that you cared about him, but weren’t overly close to the actual man behind the photographs, because of his determination to keep people at bay.
Walker Evans by James R. Mellow is available from numerous online retailers.
~ Mark WaltonRead More