The Polaroid SX-70 alpha camera is the perfect tool for a creative person, the SX-70 photograph the perfect medium.

The photo is not just  an image, it is an object, a thing.  It is photograph and developing laboratory in one.

It consists of a layer of photosensitive emulsion, pressed between two sheets of acetate, one clear and one opaque, and wrapped in a white aluminium/paper frame. A developing paste is forced by rollers over the photosensitive emulsion, developing and stabilizing the image

The fold-out camera is a technical marvel: It is Polaroid’s version of a single lens reflex camera, to which exchangeable lenses could be added by snapping them in front of its standard  lens: A small macro lens which photographs the same surface area as the image surface of a Polaroid photograph (scale 1:1), and a bulkier tele lens. The device which holds the macro lens doubled as a filter holder.

A wheel is used to adjust focus, one looks through the lens via a  – by SLR-camera standards – huge mirror.

It has a built-in adjustable light meter. A cassette of ten Polaroid photo’s is inserted through a front-positioned hatch, and after exposure the photo exits the camera through rollers, which disperse the developer from pouches in the photo’s frame.

A sophisticated electronic flash is optional. It can be positioned off-camera on a tripod, or clipped onto the camera with an adapter.


The device holding the macro lens can be used as a filter holder or, for that matter, to hold anything fitting the rectangular shape: Pieces of glass or plastic, small objects, coloured transparent paper, cut-out shapes. The limit is your imagination. One has to adjust the light meter experimentally, but one developed a feel for its sensitivity. It works all very intuitively.

If all light is blocked from the light meter, the lens aperture stays open. You can then press the shutter, open the front hatch, and the lens will stay open indefinitely. I used this trick to take photo’s of the moon and the stars crossing the sky, with an exposure tine of many hours.

In the dark, I used small flashlights, coloured lamps, candles etc. which all registered on the film. I hung the camera in a moving cradle, pointed at a small light, to create Lissajous patterns.

The emulsion, which develops the image, is soft and malleable for several minutes after emerging from the camera. It can be manipulated by pressure: The entire image can be distorted. There was no other way before photoshop by which this effect could be achieved.

One of the least appreciated characteristics of the Polaroid SX-70 photograph had two aspects: Its uniqueness (each and every Polaroid is unique. It has no negative, no exact copies can be made), and the fact that it is an object that was actually there, at the time and place the photograph was taken. It is not just the registration of an event, it is an actual part of the event. In other words, it is not an image, it is a relic.

This gives a Polaroid picture it’s extraordinary presence.

Dunes 1979

The presence of a person, the absence of a person. The photographic proof , replacing the person.

Dunes sequence 1979


Mendelsohn.s Nose 1979

A sequence of photographs from photographs, making use of the macro lens, which takes a picture in 1:1 scale. It was necessary to take a picture at a distance shorter than the lens allowed, resulting in a slightly out of focus image. The blurring was amplified with each successive photo, as was the contrast.

Mendelsohn's Nose polaroid sequence

Lost and Found 1981

Found outside on a roof near a friend’s house, ten Polaroids neatly stacked and taped together, like thrown away evidence at a crime scene.

Clearly a person had been redacted out of the pictures with a pair of scissors. Male? Female?

These silent witnesses had been there – on a hotel balcony, near the sea, on board of a tourist ship, in a bathroom. Objecs Trouvé. Unintended aesthetics, not meant to be kept, but also not meant to end up in the dustbin.

Lost and Found Objects Trouvécensored polaroids

Lost and Found Objects Trouvé
censored polaroids

Red Tape 1981

A Polaroid had turned completely yellow, probably through over-exposure. Instead of discarding it, I stuck red tape over it and took another photo, using the macro lens to keep the scale 1:1. I repeated the process, sticking tape to each following developed Polaroid. The differences between the real tape and the photographed tape became more and more pronounced, as did the tiny bands of yellow background colour leaking between the tape. The last picture shows an eery light trying to break through the images of Red Tape, like cool sunlight filtered through a boarded up window. The imperfection of the hand-held camera distorting the clean geometry photograph by photograph.

the Red Tape Sequence adhesive tape on polaroid pictures

the Red Tape Sequence
adhesive tape on polaroid pictures


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