the love for something absent: Polaroid books

« when mystified viewers, many of whom owned the same model of camera, asked how he got such remarkable results, Kertés explained, " you have to learn to work on the edges of those boundaries " »

Robert Gurbo, Introduction to André Kertész The Polaroids.


for many years, I did not see this Polaroid "magic". sure, everyone seemed to have a Polaroid camera as I was growing up, and all through to this day, but I was never captivated by them. they were ways to capture ephemera, in the same that we can look at phone-camera photos, but without an artistic intent.  

then in 2007 I got this book by Kertész, and was captivated by the results one could get from a Polaroid.  not surprisingly, and despite my longtime avoidance of Polaroid as a means for my photography, this is among the favorite books I own. part of it may be the story behind the photos included in the book, and how it reflects so well the told story of Kertész's life after his wife's death.

by André Kertész

the current state of Polaroid books

the current state of Polaroid books

since then, and despite the slightly-reduced aversion to using "Polaroid" — now Fujifilm equivalent Type 100 film — the collection of Polaroid books is my most affectionate genre of books. 

After the first book, it was The Polaroid Book, that just wowed me. it is a compendium of photographs, and I loved the cover by Taschen.


The Polaroid Book , and a copy with its original wrapper.

The Polaroid Book, and a copy with its original wrapper.

of course, the book is not uniformly excellent, but hardly any photo is uninteresting, and some examples are just incredible. it is quite the journey through photography, admittedly, not all through the same type of Polaroid film.

seemingly, Taschen, on the first printing of the book, went quite a bit into a splash on the book design. not only on the hardcover design, but that in came wrapped in a silver-coloured bag like Type 100 film does.  

what sealed my interest in Polaroid books, and there seems to be quite the push to publish as many of them as possible, was the release last year of the book by Sibylle Bergemann. ( not to be missed is the review by Jörg Colberg [ link ]. )

by Sibylle Bergemann



 « in an [sic] 1970 interview with Sonntag, the newspaper that published her first photographs, she admitted: " When I take one hundred pictures on a topic, for which the blurry image conveys the greatest truth, then I simply offer the blurry photograph." Lack of focus as a potential asset. truth and blurriness — a fascinating combination. Sibylle Bergemann allied herself with the Polaroid, particularly in the last years of her life." »
—  With Immediate Effect by Jutta Voigt on S.B.

both Kertész and Bergemann managed to extract a similar magic out of the medium, in the way that they saw the limitations of the medium and how it still revealed a truth they wanted to convey about their personal convictions of this truth. that... is very powerful, and a clear distinction among photographers.  

be it the mastering of the medium, in this case the shortcomings of the Polaroid camera and presentation, or the subjects chosen being so closely personal to both of them in their late stages of life, there is nothing short of amazement at the collections of Polaroids that both offer.

by Sibylle Bergemann

these days, I have come to be curious at the Polaroid system: a Polaroid 350 with some modifications, and its use in a Graflex camera. the Type 100 film from Fujifilm does not offer the colour shifts that the original Polaroid offered, but there are still the quirks of these cameras that brings the slow-thinking required by the set up to take a photo, and the immediacy of instant development.