The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
People love their photographic technology, some so much that they write songs about it. There’s Paul Simon’s well-known ode to color photography Kodachrome, by Paul Simon. And more recently, Hey Ya!, recorded by Outkast in 2003, paid an energetic homage to yet another photographic delivery system, Polaroid instant photography. Watch, listen, and see if you’re able to sit still when the catchy refrain, “Shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture,” kicks in 4 minutes into one of YouTube’s more fabulous music videos. Polaroid photography, ever since it was introduced by Edmund Land in 1948, has elicited fantastic public response, and for good reason. For amateur photographers and their subjects, instant photography meant you no longer had to wait for film to come back from processors to see what you, or an image would look like. More fun was the fact that the photograph you had just snapped developed in your hands, as you held it and looked on. Since it’s invention, photography has always seemed magical to people, but Polaroid upped the ante and created an imaging revolution. At motor vehicle bureaus, at the finish lines of race tracks, in hairdressing salons, in people’s bedrooms, or in the hand of insurance adjusters, Polaroids not only changed the way and the kind of images that got made, but also the way business was done in the second half of the 20th century. That’s why we invited Sam Yanes, who worked at Polaroid for many years—and initiated some of the company’s most innovative programs in support of the arts—to contribute a piece for click!. What Sam focuses on is how Polaroid, in a very real sense, humanized photography by turning taking and looking at pictures into a more intimate experience. With the rise and rapid spread of digital imaging in the 21st century Polaroid’s heyday and its unique ability to deliver instant images ended, and the company’s recently been resold to new investors who hope to revive and redefine the brand. As we reported in Link Love, Polaroid’s trying the make news again. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, Polaroid announced it had hired pop-sensation Lady Gaga (whose song, Paparazzi was a recent hit) as it’s newest “creative director.” What does that mean? We’ll have to wait and see. But if you want to watch something that’s mesmerizing on a number of levels—from its review of Polaroid’s history to the manifestation of a bunch of investors’ hope for the future—take a look a the video made at that trade show event.
- News from Haiti—Michael Shaw of BAGNews Notes' acute reporting on the ethical issues that Haiti photographs may pose and on the media’s chronic misinterpretation of the “looting” going on in Port au Prince; Philip Kennicott on why the images coming out of Haiti are some of the most graphic ever run by the media; Pete Brook over at Prison Photography with an incredible list of who, what, and where of photographing Haiti; and a Today Show interview with a man who used his camera to help him escape a collapsed building [last link via Susannah Wells of SPI]
- A great Flickr Commons set from the Nationaal Archief on crazy inventions, including a revolver camera! [via Effie Kapsalis of Smithsonian Photography Initiative]
- A link in honor of Jeff Sandoz's new click! story on Alzheimer’s Disease—artist Pascal Dufaux talks about taking 360-degree portraits of Alzheimer’s patients, including his uncle: “Alzheimer’s Disease makes you disappear in a sense . . . So I find it interesting [to be] trying to keep a memory of someone who is in the process of losing their memory.”
- The NY Times Learning blog talks about using photographs to build writing skills (and gives a shout-out to the SPI!)
- Phil Bradley has been posting some great vintage image and visual history resources lately, including: Vintage Browser and V Like Vintage [via Phil Bradley's weblog]