In 1972 when Edwin Land first introduced the Polaroid SX-70, it instantly became a favourite of such artists as Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, and David Hockney.
Was it perfect? No, and that’s precisely the charm of it.
The true magic of a Polaroid picture is that it delivers an interpretation of what we see rather than the reality of what exists.
In fact, this so-called “magic camera” (as it was dubbed when it first launched) produced rather blurry images that felt dreamy and abstract. That didn’t deter people from wanting an SX-70. Here was a camera that made everyone feel like an artist and turning even the most pedestrian images into something arty and avant-garde.
Edwin Land shows off his new “luxury” camera on the cover of Life Magazine.
Since 1937 Edwin Land had tinkered with the idea of polarizing light and by 1947 revealed his first “instant” camera. But it took another two decades to refine the contraptions and the film to the level of the SX-70.
The SX-70’s portability and streamlined technology propelled it to the forefront of photography as an altogether new means of visual expression. The camera was – and continues to be — a cultish object of obsession.
An early adopter of the SX-70, Andy Warhol used the camera to record his daily life and in many cases, his photos of celebrities became his iconic screen prints. Here, an autographed self-portrait from ebay.
Andy Warhol was seldom seen without one and treated the camera as a way to create a visual diary of his everyday life. He snapped photos of celebrities and made those images into works of art. The Polaroid, in short, became a medium all its own, something more than just a camera and film.
While the camera offers instant gratification with its immediate photographic results, the real appeal comes in the unexpected nuances that occur from irregularities in light, exposure, and the particular film you’re using.
While decidedly un-modern today, the allure for disciples of Mr. Land’s invention is that it allows one to step back into an analogue world and discover the artistry that can result from that sandwich of chemicals forever known as “the goo.”
‘Look, even a woman can use it!’: For some, the camera was daunting to use which is most likely what led to an advertisement featuring a woman using the SX-70.
In a world where images often have more power than words, more than perhaps at any other time in history – think social media, television, movies, and the ever-mundane selfie – it’s worth considering that the true magic of a Polaroid picture is that it delivers an interpretation of what we see rather than the reality of what exists.
Or in the words of Mr. Land, Polaroid is “a partner in perception enabling us to see the objects in the world around us more vividly than we can see them without it, a system to be an aid to memory and a tool for exploration.”
>> Own a rare New-in-Box Polaroid SX-70 from 1972. Click here.