In an Instant: Polaroid at the Intersection of Art and Technology showcases a curated collection of around 220 iconic artefacts and artworks produced at the height of Polaroid’s popularity in the 20th century. It provides a fascinating look at the development of Polaroid photography, and its lasting influence on instant photography, enabling visitors to discover how the concept of creating and sharing moments “in an instant” began and has evolved.
Consider what “in an instant” means today. The exhibition offers food for thought on how social media today mimics the Polaroid experience of days past. As such, visitors are encouraged to consider the parallels between past and present developments of instant photography, and discover their personal potential for creative expression.
Director of the National Museum of Singapore, Angelita Teo, said, “We hope this exhibition will spark lively conversation among visitors and inspire the spirit of innovation – just as how Edwin Land, the artists and photographers dared to dream and pushed the boundaries to create impactful memories that will last a lifetime, and beyond.”
Discovering the cultural impact of Polaroid
In an Instant showcases art and technology at play, pairing Polaroid artworks with the Polaroid artefacts that made these creations possible, offering visitors a unique insight into the history of Polaroid photography through the lens of art and technology.
The arrival of Polaroid inspired a generation of notable artists and photographers such as Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams, Lucas Samaras, Ellen Carey, David Hockney, Marie Cosindas and more, whose works are featured in the exhibition.
Highlights include Oliviero Toscani’s duotone print comprising six images from the Andy Warhol portrait series, and Barbara Crane’s Private Views, which captured scenes of Chicago beaches and summer festivals, focusing on individuals who make the city so culturally diverse.
The exhibition presents “the instant” of the past, tracing Polaroid’s iconic history of instant photography from its development, to conceptual models and prototypes of notable camera models, and finally, the Polaroid camera as we know it today.
Recognising Polaroid’s international cultural significance in the history of photography, the National Museum has collaborated with the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP) to bring in a diverse range of Polaroid artefacts from various sources. Artefacts featured in the exhibition include popular Polaroid classics such as the iconic SX-70 – dubbed the “the original magic camera” as it was the first camera that made truly instant photographs, as well as the first to use a single lens reflex. The uniquely-shaped Big Shot, which was popular in the early 1970s among photographers such as famed American artist Andy Warhol, will also be on display.
Connecting past and present on social media
In an Instant draws connections between the past and present by exploring the impact of instantaneity in today’s digital landscape, in which smart devices and social media platforms enable people to capture and communicate just about anything in an instant. The origins of the “instant” can arguably be traced back to Edwin Land’s invention of the first Polaroid camera in the late 1940s, which paved the way for people to share their photographs and special moments instantly, a familiar experience for many of us on social media platforms today.
The exhibition features a contemporary take on instant photography technology to connect past inventions to present-day developments, brought to life by diverse observations about the digital landscape from familiar voices in our local community such as Singaporean influencers SGAG, Jianhao Tan, Preetipls, Jamie Chua, Life’s Tiny Miracles and Yafiq and Yais Yusman.
“Social media today mimics the Polaroid experience in more ways than one,
from the way it connects us with others, to the immediacy of the medium.
Through the exhibition, we hope to welcome our visitors to embark on a journey to
explore the history of Polaroid photography, and discover how past developments
in instant photography continue to impact us significantly in the present day.”
— Priscilla Chua,
Curator of In an Instant:
Polaroid at the Intersection of Art and Technology,
National Museum of Singapore
Interactive experiences featured in the exhibition – which include themed Polaroid photography opportunities, a photo-booth, and a selfie station – will provide opportunities for visitors to draw inspiration from the story of Polaroid photography and express their creativity through instant photography, mirroring the creations of artists in the past as they experimented with the possibilities afforded by Polaroid cameras.
Delving deeper into Polaroid and photography
As part of efforts to extend the visitor experience beyond the exhibition space, the National Museum will also present public programmes that explore photography, in conjunction with the exhibition.
Programme highlights include talks by photographers, collectors and enthusiasts; workshops on photography and alternative photographic processes; and a behind-the-scenes tour led by the exhibition curator.
The exhibition will be on view from 10 November 2018 to 31 March 2019 at the museum’s Exhibition Gallery 2, Basement Level. Visitor admission charges apply.
For more information, visit the exhibition website here.