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The Late


artist's statement


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Back in the late '70s, long before digital cameras, instant photography meant waiting several minutes for your image to emerge from the milky blue square of an SX-70. At that time Polaroid sold a "Special Edition" of the folding SX-70 camera, denoted by a blue, not a red , shutter button. Blue dot camera owners were entitled to participate in a byzantine system that allowed them to send unwanted images to Polaroid for any reason whatsoever. In return Polaroid would mail them coupons redeemable for fresh film packs, equivalent to the sum of all the spurned pictures.

This policy created an instant cult of artist/photographers with limited budgets and a shared curiosity about how their world could be captured in a three inch square. Without penalty of expense every possibility for this new tool could be explored, no darkroom required. Junk store tableaus, TV broadcasts, the found world outside, all was fodder for the lens. We never knew how the Polaroid film was going to respond to a scene or lighting situation, but it was easy to find out. Evenings were spent poring over the stacks of accumulated images, deciding which to return before the date stamped on the back made them ineligable. This restriction, it turned out, had a key effect on the outcome since it


forced us to edit right away, with no time for reflection or second thoughts, and the result was a visual time capsule.

Most of us imagined a basement full of people opening envelopes at Polaroid headquarters, sifting through our rejects, their favoritess pinned to the walls. As for me, I can't tell you how many packs I shot and returned, but I have two drawers full of images that survived all the editing sessions. Some of those pictures are reproduced in this series.

It has been a long time since Polaroid's corporate experiment, but it struck me that it is no accident that I found myself pondering those images on the eve of the purchase of my first digital camera, which borrows those special edition features and shortens the time frame. Every image can be inspected within seconds after it is taken, and if it doesn't make the cut, immediately deleted. The the cost of film and processing no longer looms over the process. So there are a lot of reasons why I just can't wait to go back to the future of spontaneous photography and see what happens this time.                                                        - K.W. 1999