In my project, Instant Classic, my collaborator, Shane VanOosterhout, and I have been sleuthing and acquiring anonymous Polaroids circa 1960-2000. Discarded photo albums, shoeboxes packed with forgotten snapshots; images lost beneath decades of clutter. Years ago, our subjects showed up for a Christmas party, a romantic encounter, 10th grade geometry. Responding to cues from what we perceive in these Polaroids, we add poignant and humorous phrases from our personal journals and recent conversations – inner thoughts we imagine the individuals and their observers may be thinking and feeling.
Friends from childhood, we grew up a block apart from each other – simultaneously following and deciphering the codes of preppy suburbia. Irony and sarcasm were our preferred secret language – this is how we buffered our tender, emerging identities against what we perceived as the winds of deadly conformity. Looking in the rear view mirror at middle-age, we aim to give an empathic and humorous voice to our subjects, just as we wished someone in the outside world would have validated us.
For Gen X kids, the Polaroid SX-70 was a magical device, producing an on-the-spot tangible photo which recorded a heartbeat of time. With the push of a red button and a synchronous buzz, the moment became evidence. In today’s digital universe, we remain transfixed by the Polaroid camera’s clever design and the vibrant memory-object it leaves behind.