When you think instant photography, Polaroid cameras naturally come to mind. While the popularity of the technology may have waned at the onset of the digital age, there remains a fascinating history and cultural legacy that connects it to today’s realm of social media, and that’s what the new exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore explores.
In an Instant: Polaroid at the Intersection of Art and Technology spotlights a collection of about 220 artefacts and artworks that came out of the 20th century, where Polaroid’s popularity was at its peak. From the development of Polaroid photography by inventor Edwin Land in the late 1940s to its lasting legacy, the gallery makes you think about the Polaroids of years past and their parallel connections to the current social media landscape of selfies.
Polaroid works by iconic artists and photographers like Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams, Lucas Samaras, Ellen Carey, David Hockney, and Marie Cosindas will be on display, with highlights such as Oliviero Toscani’s duotone print made of six images from the Andy Warhol portrait series, and Barbara Crane’s scene shots of Chicago beaches and summer festivals.
Also look out for Polaroid artefacts like the iconic SX-70, which was hailed as “the original magic camera” for being the first to use a single lens reflex and shoot instant photographs, and the Big Shot, a sought-after contraption in the ’70s.
Moving on from the past to the present, the final room of the exhibition presents a modern day take on instant photography, featuring videos of local faces that you may find familiar projected on the walls. They voice their opinions on everything from family life to female empowerment to an entrepreneurial spirit. Names include Karl Mak, the co-founder of Sgag, YouTuber Jianhao Tan, comedian Preetipls, and Instagrammers Jamie Chua, Life’s Tiny Miracles, and twin duo Yafiq and Yais Yusman.
To get a little hands-on, check out the photo booth and selfie station; and with a (recommended) donation of $2, you can take home a classic Polaroid shot. Other fringe activities of the exhibition include a curator tour, an artist talk by American Meridel Rubenstein, workshops on photography, sessions with the founder of a vintage camera museum in Singapore, and talks by local photographers.
In an Instant: Polaroid at the Intersection of Art and Technology is on from Nov 10-Mar 31, 2019, daily 10am-7pm at National Museum of Singapore, Exhibition Gallery 2, Basement Level.
Adults $12.50-$18; free for senior and student citizens/PRs; $14 for non-citizen seniors and students.
MRT: Bencoolen/Dhoby Ghaut