Polaroid and the Era of Instant Film

While I was a student of Minor White’s at M.I.T. in 1971, Polaroid had a young artist program which offered our class (7 people) ten boxes of 4×5 Polaroid film to shoot and trade for one of our images. If their committee selected one image, we continued getting the ten boxes of film. We were each paired with a sponsor and got to go to Polaroid once to have lunch with them. My sponsor was Marie Cosindas, famous for her color portraits of fashionable women. If the committee or our sponsor liked more than one image, they traded us film for the first image and $200 for the second. After my year at M.I.T. I returned to Durham and continued to shoot for Polaroid for several years. At some point they did not choose an image and I was “out” of the program. In 1990 I was shooting 8×10 and wanted Polaroid film so the people whose portraits I was making would have some idea of what was going on, engaging them further in the project. Barbara Hitchcock made a grant to me of a n 8×10 back and several boxes of film but said they had discontinued the young artist program. We agreed that I would owe her an image of her choosing after my project was finished. Most recently I taught at Penland in 2007 and asked Barbara Hitchcock for 4×5 film to help my class see what wet darkroom was like as opposed to digital. Again she granted me about five boxes of Polaroid negative film and after the project was over I offered her five images I had made.

Polaroid helped me learn to see with the view camera. We used it throughout Minor White’s class in the 70s. Each film was different. I was able through the generosity of Polaroid to have one of my images published on the back of Aperture, chosen for the advertisement of Polaroid Corporation by Ansel Adams. I also had published in the SX 70 Book one image, and two other images in Polaroid books. When I used polacolor on the big camera with John Reuter as cameraman I acted as director and shot four groups of two people and made 16 images in an hour. I also shot, in addition to SX 70, type 55 4×5 and type 52 Polaroid Land film.

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