Seminar in Composition A blog for Annette Vee's section of Pitt's SC


the Ansel Adams of Polaroids

In a technology-driven world, we’re conditioned to perceive newer as better, more mechanical as more advanced. Every once in awhile, though, something comes along to make us rethink that view. The West Licht Photo Gallery in Vienna, Austria announced Monday that it has acquired a collection of over 4,500 Polaroid photos taken by photographers including Ansel Adams and Robert Frank. The photos were originally part of a collection of more than 16,000 Polaroid photographs belonging to Polaroid’s founder, Edwin Land. Land gave cameras to a number of famous photographers to show consumers the artistic capabilities of the Polaroid camera. To provide some perspective, a small portion of photographs from the collection fetched $12.4 million at auction in 2010. With this emphasis on Polaroid photographs, which many people have taken for a forgotten technology, is it possible that newer isn’t always better? If the art in question had been a more modern medium (digital camera, etc.) would their worth change? Or vice versa, does the fact that the photographs are in a somewhat “antique” medium make them more valuable, or the attachment of a recognizable name like Ansel Adams? If technology’s aim is to make things cheaper and faster, does that cheapen the product of that technology?

Posted by SrInAStrangeLand

Comments (1) Trackbacks (0)
  1. The value of the photos is based on many different characteristics. The first, as questioned, the artists who the photos were taken by. Newly discovered Polaroid’s taken by my mother would by no means sell for a worth close to 12.4 million, let alone a price at all. If the given artist were to have taken them with a different type of camera there’s a great possibility the collection would have gone for a similar value noting the fame of the artists and the collection being more of a legacy and tribute to their art when alive.
    The pictures were taken with a Polaroid. When the Polaroid camera was created it was the first of its kind. No other instant camera had been introduced to the market before. In comparison to the new art of digital cameras, instant cameras are considered an antique, no longer being produced nor used.
    Similar to the unknown video of the 1960 World Series found in Bing Crosby’s basement in 2010, the photos were just recently discovered. The collection, comparable to a hidden treasure, holds more value because its existence was unknown or greatly forgotten about. If the photos were to have been displayed shortly after they were taken, when Polaroid’s were the new technology, as are digital cameras now, the worth would be less. If you think about it now, an infamous photo taken by a living celebrity would sell at a high price, but if the photos were to be hidden and come to circulation after a more technologically advanced camera than the digital, the value would rise because of the rarity of that type of photo. Also if the celebrity was dead, the value would increase even more, being a piece of memorabilia rather than a lone photo.
    The point of the photos was to showcase a newly developed item, rather a long time existing one. The fact that the photos exhibited some of the first uses of a Polaroid camera also raises the value. In relation, digital cameras at first were expensive, rare, and considered a desirable commodity. These cameras held a higher value and worth in comparison to now, many years after their creation when it is not unusual for each family to own one.
    It’s hard to define the quality of technologies from different time periods. It is also hard to define what actually constitutes “better”. The definition is more opinionated than straightforward. The idea of better, does not necessarily accompany a particular price tag, value, or age. Therefore, it is hard to judge the quality and worth of technology together. These traits should be examined separately. But whether analyzing the worth of technology or quality more characteristics should be considered than age.

Leave a comment

Trackbacks are disabled.