Polaroid SX-70 – The Camera of Artists
The SX-70 is more than nostalgia. It’s more than a hipster prop.
It’s amazing technology that gave everyone the freedom to create.
It made everyone an artist with a canvas that developed in their hand.
It taught restraint, patience and decision. 10 shots per pack then. 8 now.
An analog paint brush, futuristic tool, game-changer and camera all in one.
In 1972 – Edwin Land created and released the iconic Polaroid SX-70 camera. He claimed 20,000 technological advancements in its design. “The tool for supplying a rich texture for memory…” is what modern architects/designers/filmmakers Charles and Ray Eames said about the Polaroid SX 70 in 1972. They were commissioned by Polaroid to produce an 11-minute film that shared the technical and emotional components to one of the most famous cameras in the history of photography. The film was first shown at a Polaroid shareholders meeting then later used as a sales tool within Polaroid. Legendary film composer Elmer Bernstein wrote the haunting score that merged together the technology and humanity. The film is a fantastic look at how the revolutionary SX-70 works and the creative opportunities it provides its user.
This instant-photography was embraced by millions of people around the world, including renowned artists, for its ease of use, collapsible portability and tangible output created mere seconds after pressing the shutter button. 10 instant photographs emerged from each pack of Polaroid film that self-developed in a matter of minutes. Convenient, practical and instantaneous results let all sorts of artists create small but permanent images where subject and composition trumped everything. Here are few of my favorite artists that embraced the Polaroid camera:
THE INDUSTRY CAMERA
Digital photography has long ago taken over but until about 2006 the Polaroid was the defacto standard for every casting call all over Hollywood. Every commercial, TV show and movie needed a photo to share internally. Every model agency on the planet took Polaroids of their models. Every fashion show across the globe snapped Polaroids of each outfit to maintain the order. Corkboards in countless offices were littered with tens of thousands of faces waiting to be picked for their moment in the spotlight. Now it’s JPEGs attached to emails or posted online.
THE EVERYONE CAMERA
The SX-70 is still readily available on eBay, Etsy and a thrift stores but the functionality of a 44-year old camera sometimes is questionable. Fully operating SX-70s can cost $200 to $400 and since Polaroid stopped making instant film in 2008…the only option is The Impossible Project. They purchased an old Polaroid factory and created new instant film packs for most Polaroid cameras. They make color and black & white 8-packs of instant film and I now have the opportunity to start shooting with my SX-70 again. Here are a couple comparison shots that I took personally in 1979 and 2016:
THE COMPREHENSIVE POLAROID HISTORY
A very nice overview of the SX 70 can be found at FORGOTTEN CHARM
FREE POLAROID PHOTOGRAPHY ASSETS
The Original Polaroid SX 70 USERS MANUAL (PDF)
The Polaroid SX 70 Alpha 1 USERS MANUAL (PDF)
Doctor Love’s SX-70 TROUBLESHOOTING GUIDE (PDF)
LAWRENCE OLIVIER sells you the Polaroid SX-70:
Until next time…