Target age: 9-12
I’m sure you have seen photos on your parent’s digital cameras or mobile phones. Maybe you have even taken some photos yourself. It wasn’t so hard, was it? Just press the button and the image appears on the screen. However, taking photos was not always that easy. Back when people had to use films, they sometimes had to wait for up to a week to see the photos they took, until one day, when a girl asked her dad “Why can’t I see them now?” Her dad thought this was a brilliant idea. His name was Edwin Land and he went back to his laboratory and invented a special type of camera called Polaroid. When you take a photo with a Polaroid, the photo comes out of the camera instantly.
When a photo has just come out of a Polaroid, it is still a dark brown, nearly black colour. It takes a few minutes for the image to show up on the surface and the chemicals to dry. Some artists make special effects on the photo while it is still wet. Look at the picture below. It is a photo generated by a Polaroid camera, but doesn’t it look like a painting of wiggling strokes? Have a guess of how this was made.
People use Polaroids to make ‘instant’ photos, usually without too much thought. As soon as a cat jumps off a wall or a person makes an interesting expression, they press the shutter button and capture the moment which will be gone in the next second. The man making a funny smiling face in the photo below is Andy Warhol, a famous American artist. He was obsessed with Polaroid and took a lot of portraits with it. When he really liked how the person looks on the photo, he went back to his studio and painted it out.
Polaroid Instant Cameras
42 x 32cm
Although it is very convenient for people to see their photos, Polaroid lacks functionality and quality. You won’t find many buttons and knobs on a Polaroid. Polaroid photos can be quite different from what you see with your naked eyes. However, some artists took advantages of this. Look at the photos taken by Andrien Tarkovsky, a Russian film director, and Hungarian photographer Andre Kertesz. The first photo, by Tarkovsky, looks like a very old image. It was instantly “aged” when it came out of the camera.
The other photo looks like two people bending their heads towards each other, but can you work out what the objects really are? I can’t, because I’ve never seen anything like that before! Polaroid photos may be not accurate records of what you see with your naked eyes, but this also means it may surprise you with something very beautiful, just like those two photos.