Exhibition: ‘The Polaroid Project’ at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 16th March – 17th June 2018


Anna Reynolds. 'Marcus / Mutilation of the Soul' October 1992


Anna Reynolds
Marcus / Mutilation of the soul
October 1992
Phillip Institute, Melbourne



I love Polaroid photography. As “instant” photography it can have immediacy, but it can also be used for conceptual work as can be see in this posting. You can manipulate the image while it is still developing, and you can also later reclaim the negative from the Polaroid itself, providing a useful scannable or printable negative for further experimentation.

The idea of “instant” photography bemuses me. Nothing is ever “instant”. For example, in the Polaroid image of me above (and in all of the images below), there was thought, an idea, a process, and imagination going on well before the photograph was taken, and during its development (the manipulation of the Polaroid around the figure). Even a simple, vernacular photograph of a family scene contains the fact that the person behind the camera made a conscious decision to capture something that they saw, and press the shutter at a particular moment. It is never a “snapshot” for the process of taking a photograph is always a sub/conscious, imaginative, exclamation of choice.

So there is this space and time of in/decision; there is also the space and time of waiting (and manipulating if so desired) for the Polaroid to develop. That is the magical part for me… to see the image develop not in the drip tray of the darkroom, but holding the image in your hand, watching it emerge from the ether right in front of your eyes. Instant no, unforgettable, yes.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


The Polaroid Project will shed light on the broad aesthetic spectrum made possible by the groundbreaking technology of instant photography, showcasing around 220 works by over 100 artists. Polaroid – a brand that has long since become a legend – revolutionised photography in a way that can still be felt today and which lives on in photo apps and on Instagram. The exhibition was developed by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis / New York / Paris / Lausanne, the MIT Museum in Cambridge (Massachusetts), and WestLicht. Schauplatz für Fotografie (Vienna), in cooperation with MKG, and will be shown at numerous international museums.


James Nitsch. 'Razor Blade' 1976


James Nitsch
Razor Blade
Polaroid SX-70 assemblage with razor blade
10.7 x 8.8cm
© James Nitsch


Guy Bourdin. 'Charles Jourdan' 1978


Guy Bourdin (French, 1928-1991)
Charles Jourdan 1978
88.9 x 116.8cm
© The Guy Bourdin Estate 2017 / Courtesy of Louise Alexander Gallery


André Kertész. 'August 13' 1979


André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
August 13, 1979
Polaroid SX-70
10.7 x 8.8cm
© The Estate of André Kertész, courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery


Victor Landweber. 'Garbage Candy' 1979


Victor Landweber (American, b. 1943)
Garbage Candy
Polaroid Polacolor Type 669 composite, bound in a book
10.8 x 16.1 cm
© Victor Landweber, Collection Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona


Bruce Charlesworth. 'Untitled' 1979


Bruce Charlesworth (American, b. 1950)
Hand-painted Polaroid SX-70
10.7 x 8.8cm
© Bruce Charlesworth 1979


Barbara Crane. 'Private Views' 1981


Barbara Crane (American, 1928-2019)
Private Views
Polaroid Polacolor 4×5 Type 58
10.2 x 12.7 cm
© Barbara Crane


Sandi Fellman. 'Grey Lion, Tokyo, Japan' 1983


Sandi Fellman (American, b. 1952)
Grey Lion, Tokyo, Japan
Polaroid 20 x 24 Polacolor
73.7 x 56 cm
© Sandi Fellman


Şahin Kaygun. 'Buttock' 1983


Şahin Kaygun (Turkish, 1951-1992)
Hand coloured, manipulated Polaroid Type 600 High Speed
10.7 x 8.8cm
© Şahin Kaygun


David Levinthal. 'Untitled' 1983-85


David Levinthal (American, b. 1949)
Untitled from the series Modern Romance
Polaroid SX-70
10.7 x 8.8cm
© David Levinthal, ARS, NY and DACS, London 2017



In the exhibition The Polaroid Project, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg presents for the first time the full scope of the phenomenon of the Polaroid photograph. Based on some 220 photos by over 100 artists, as well as 90 camera models and prototypes, the show sheds light on the whole aesthetic spectrum of instant photography and on the innovative technology that made this visual revolution possible. Polaroid stands for a technology, an industry, a company, and its products. Presented to the public for the first time in 1947 by Edwin Land in New York, instant camera film made the photo lab superfluous. As if by magic, the picture gradually appears before the eyes of the photographer and subject. Polaroid – a brand that has long since attained legendary status – thus transformed our handling of photography in a way that is still pervasive today, living on in photo apps and Instagram. In the heyday of the company in the mid-20th century, Polaroid sold its cameras and film to millions of amateurs and professionals. The technical and aesthetic qualities of the new medium, and above all the immediacy and spontaneity of the photos, made it an exciting field of experimentation for artists as well.

Polaroid itself has worked closely with photographers from the start. One of the earliest advisors to Edwin Land, inventor and founder of the Polaroid Corporation, was Ansel Adams, the godfather of American landscape photography. In its Artist Support Program, the company provides film and cameras to both established figures and nascent talents in the art and photography scene. In return, it receives not only feedback on its products but also selected works for the company collection. For artists, the inventions from Land’s company offer a playground for their own discoveries, one that provides fresh inspiration for their photography. It thus came about that the exponents of Pop Art – chief among them Andy Warhol – raised the status of the Polaroid photo to a whole new level with their excessive use of the medium, securing for it a place in the artistic sphere.

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Dennis Hopper. 'Los Angeles, Back Alley' 1987


Dennis Hopper (American, 1936-2010)
Los Angeles, Back Alley
Polaroid SX-70
10.7 x 8.8cm
© Dennis Hopper, Courtesy of The Hopper Art Trust


Pierre-Louis Martin. 'Graines de Pissenlit' 1990


Pierre-Louis Martin
Graines de Pissenlit
Gelatin silver print from Polaroid-Film Type 55
48.9 x 40cm
© Pierre-Louis Martin


Shelby Lee Adams. 'Esther and Bee Jay' 1991


Shelby Lee Adams (American, b. 1950)
Esther and Bee Jay
Polaroid Polapan 4×5 Type 52
12.7 x 10.2cm
© Shelby Lee Adams


Kunihiro Shinohara. 'Cosmic #9' 1993-2000


Kunihiro Shinohara (Japanese, b. 1948)
Cosmic #9
Inkjet print from Polaroid-Film Type 55
29.8 x 22.3cm
© Kunihiro Shinohara


Mark Klett. 'Contemplating the View at Muley Point, Utah' 1994


Mark Klett (American, b. 1952)
Contemplating the View at Muley Point, Utah
Gelatin silver print from Polaroid-Film Type 55
40.6 x 50.8cm
© Mark Klett


Ellen Carey. 'Pulls (CMY)' 1997


Ellen Carey (American, b. 1952)
Pulls (CMY)
Polaroid 20 x 24 Polacolor-Montage
210.8 x 167.6cm
© Ellen Carey, Jayne H. Baum Gallery, NYC, NY and M+B Gallery, LA, CA


Timothy White. 'Untitled' 1998


Timothy White (American, b. 1956)
Inkjet print from Polaroid-Film Type 665
50.8 x 40.6cm
© Timothy White


Toshio Shibata. 'Untitled (# 228)' 2003


Toshio Shibata (Japanese, b. 1949)
Untitled (#228)
Gelatin silver print from Polaroid-Film, Type 55
61 x 50.8cm
© Toshio Shibata


Chen Wei. 'Everlasting Radio Wave-Test #5' 2008


Chen Wei (Chinese, b. 1980)
Everlasting Radio Wave-Test #5
Fujifilm FP-100C
8.5 x 10.8cm
© Chen Wei


Paolo Gioli. 'This Is Not My Face' 2010


Paolo Gioli (Italian, b. 1942)
Questo volto non è il mio volto (This Face Is Not My Face)
Polaroid 20 x 24 Polacolor and Polacolor transfer on acrylic
71 x 55cm
© Paolo Gioli



Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 6pm
Thursday 10am – 9pm
Closed Mondays

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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