NEoN Digital Arts Archive

Abstract polaroid photo


William (Bill) Miller (USA)

Guthrie Street

William (Bill) Miller's 'The Ruined Polaroid’ series results from the artist using a broken Polaroid SX-70 camera. With the majority of representational elements removed from the images, the resulting abstract images function as a signature of the polaroid process itself.

This project is an unintended exploration into the three-dimensional physical character of an antiquated photographic medium that touches on subjects from the artistic value of chance, to questions of what constitutes a photograph.

William Miller writes:

“These pictures were taken with a camera that is, by most definitions, broken: an old Polaroid SX-70 camera that I rescued from a yard sale.

“Right away I realized the camera wasn’t functioning properly. It would spit out 2 pictures at a time and the film would get stuck in the gears, exposing and mangling them in unpredictable ways. Over time I figured out how to control and accentuate aspects of the camera’s flaws but the images themselves were always a surprise. Each one was determined by the idiosyncrasies of the film and the camera.

“I was impressed with the old technology’s resilience. This Polaroid camera was broken, by chance, in a way that was productive but the flaw that gave it that extra dimension had also robbed it of its initial purpose. When the narrative and depictive elements are nearly removed from the photographs one can concentrate on the details of its painterly abstraction. Any representational remnants of the original image, as well as any hint of the will of the photographer, become secondary.

“Cheap and ubiquitous digital photography has long since replaced Polaroid film. In doing so it’s rendered the old technology antiquated for conventional image-making. What Ruined Polaroids offer is a picture of the Polaroid process itself frozen in time and plucked out of the camera mid-gesture.”