Beyond its nostalgic charm, the inherent visual qualities of Polaroid photography make it a popular medium among both young and seasoned photographers. Instant photos are characterized by their washed-out colors and soft, gauzy focus--resulting in diffused and beautifully dreamlike images. If you appreciate the artistry of instant photography, we invite you to discover new works by some of the most talented emerging photographers working in this medium. Browse our international selection of Polaroid photography for sale today.
The invention of polaroid photography arose from a series of experiments by Edwin H. Land, who worked on light polarization and patented his discoveries. The Polaroid Corporation was established in 1937 and first produced polarized eyeglasses and goggles. Land did not begin work on the now iconic instant camera until 1943, and by 1947, the first instant camera, the Land Model 95, was put on the market. This camera served as the prototype for Polaroid cameras in the following fifteen years. Later models included capabilities for black and white film and Polacolor, Polaroid’s first instant color film. The Polaroid instant camera made it easy for people to quickly see the results, but its popularity waned with the rise of digital cameras. A resurgent, nostalgic interest for the medium sparked Polaroid to create instant digital cameras and printers. Though Polaroid has discontinued its line of film, other brands have brought these products back on the market, allowing photographers and novices alike to continue using Polaroid cameras.
Artists who work with Polaroid photography play with exposure settings and the film development process to produce unique images. Polaroid cameras are SLRs, meaning they have a single lens reflex and allow the photographer to manually focus to capture shallow depth of field effects. Some artists remove the natural density filter in front of the camera to avoid overexposed, washed out images. The original Land 195 model camera also allows the artist to set the shutter speed and aperture settings for more control over the composition. Though the development process is short, photographers often manipulate their image during this time. Artist Lucas Samaras, for example, physically alters the colored dyes as they dry, rubbing them with everyday objects like erasers and pins to mix them up. Photographers can also peel off a developed print to adhere it to another surface or take the negative portion while it is still in development to press it onto a different surface.
Polaroid photography was popular amongst pop and contemporary artists as well as established photographers in their later years. Edwin H. Land, founder of the Polaroid Corporation, hired Ansel Adams as a film consultant. Adams visited the Polaroid labs and tested new cameras and films, continuing to capture the American West on film in images like “Yosemite Falls” (1979). Other artists who served as consultants include Paul Caponigro, Nick Dean, John Benson, and William Clift. Walker Evans also experimented with the photographic medium in his late years. Andy Warhol is known for his series of Polaroid self-portraits and portraits of celebrities like Farrah Fawcett, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Debbie Harry, taken during the 1970s and 1980s. Lucas Samaras physically manipulated the drying ink on his images to create otherworldly, swirled compositions in his “Photo-Transformation” series (1974). Pop artist David Hockney is known for his “Composite Polaroid” series (1982), in which he photographed segments of a scene and placed the resulting polaroids together to create a disjointed composition. Other artists known for their polaroid photographs include Chuck Close, Robert Heinecken, Miranda Lichtenstein, David Levinthal, William Wegman, Marie Cosindas, Victor Raphael, Maripol, and Christopher Makos.