In Praise of Polaroid

Lucas Samaras, Photo-Transformation, August 17, 1976

Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry, 1980

Due to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Minnesota’s ruling against Polaroid in 2009, the company had to sell part of its extensive photography collection to meet its creditors’ monetary demands. The sale took place in New York in June at Sotheby’s, and it seems an appropriate time to remember the amazing contributions that Polaroid has made to the art of photography.

In the 1960s Polaroid established its Artists Support Program in which it traded cameras and film to artists in exchange for their Polaroid prints. In this way, the company amassed a collection that includes works by Ansel Adams, Chuck Close, Lucas Samaras, Andy Warhol, and William Wegman. These artists, and many others, were drawn by the portability, immediacy, and simplicity (except for the 20 by 24 inch and 40 by 80 inch cameras) of Polaroid’s products.

The images above from ICP’s Collection both use Polaroid technology. Samaras used a SX-70 camera and manipulated the print during processing. Warhol used Polacolor Type 108 film.

For photo enthusiasts, the bad news of the court’s decision is that the company had to sell over 1,000 of its holdings. The good news is this number is roughly only 1% of its collection.

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2 Responses to In Praise of Polaroid

  1. Pingback: In Praise of Polaroid at ontheimage

  2. photo fan says:

    sadly the company actually didn’t have to sell it’s collection…

    check out a.d. coleman’s in-depth analysis of this giant mess:

    “The Minnesota Bankruptcy Court is definitely not “forcing Polaroid to sell a portion of its collection at Sotheby’s.” The Minnesota Bankruptcy Court has merely endorsed the debtors’ fervent plea to allow this sale to go forward; it didn’t require it of them. In short, the current holders of the collection initiated this sale, not the court; the fact that this will happen under a ruling known generically as a court order should not get interpreted as the court requiring reluctant parties to conduct a fire sale. In this case, the sellers can’t wait to get rid of the stuff, in which they have no interest outside of its cash value.”

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