Polaroid instant photography revolutionized the taking and making of pictures, and the story of its beginnings is a simple one. In 1943, after being asked by his daughter why she couldn’t immediately see the photograph he had just taken, American inventor and scientist Edwin H. Land conceived of the technology required to make this seemingly impossible demand a reality—within an hour. Land’s creation was a groundbreaking scientific accomplishment that also heralded an exciting new chapter of artistic expression. Through the efforts of thousands of photographers the world over, as well as the corporation’s own artist support program, which provided many with materials, Polaroid would help shape the artistic landscape of the late twentieth century.
Published to accompany a major traveling exhibition, The Polaroid Project is a creative exploration of the relationship between Polaroid’s many technological innovations and the art that was created with their help. Richly designed with over 300 illustrations, this impressive volume showcases not only the myriad and often idiosyncratic approaches taken by such photographers as Ansel Adams, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ellen Carey, and Chuck Close, but also a fascinating selection of the technical objects and artifacts that speak to the sheer ingenuity that lay behind the art. With essays by the exhibition’s curators and leading photographic writers and historians, The Polaroid Project provides a unique perspective on the Polaroid phenomenon—a technology, an art form, a convergence of both—and its enduring cultural legacy.
Contributors: William A. Ewing, Barbara P. Hitchcock, Deborah G. Douglas, Gary Van Zante, Rebekka Reuter, Christopher Bonanos, Todd Brandow, Peter Buse, Dennis Jelonnek, and John Rohrbach.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth: June 3–September 3, 2017
WestLicht Museum of Photography, Vienna: December 5, 2017–March 4, 2018
C/O Berlin: March 16–May 27, 2018
MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA: early 2019
William A. Ewing is an author, a former director of the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, and a curator with the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and the Fondation Carène, Switzerland.
Barbara P. Hitchcock is a writer and curator. Formerly Director of Cultural Affairs at Polaroid and Curator of the Polaroid Collections, Massachusetts, she serves on the Collections Committee of Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Deborah G. Douglas is Curator of Science and Technology and Director of Collections at the MIT Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Gary Van Zante is the curator responsible for design, photography, and architecture collections at the MIT Museum and the author of Public and Private: East Germany in Photographs by Ulrich Wüst.
Rebekka Reuter is a curator of photography and a cultural scientist. She is currently Chief Curator of the WestLicht Museum for Photography and the OstLicht Gallery for Photography, both in Vienna.
Christopher Bonanos is a senior editor at New York magazine, and the author of Instant: The Story of Polaroid.
Todd Brandow is the founder and executive director of the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis, New York and Lausanne.
Peter Buse is Associate Dean for Research, Arts and Social Sciences, at Kingston University, London, and the author of The Camera Does the Rest: How Polaroid Changed Photography.
Dennis Jelonnek is an author, art historian, and associate member of the Center for Advanced Studies "BildEvidenz: History and Aesthetics" at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
John Rohrbach is Senior Curator of Photographs at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.