Polaroids are among the most precious and ephemeral manifestations of the dissipating analog era in photography. The turn of the millennium was the period of time that marked the transition from analog to digital practices in photography and in many other common media. The first Polaroid instant film was launched in the late 40’s by Edwin H. Land, the inventor of instant photography and founder of Polaroid.

Rafael Fuchs explored commercial and artistic uses for Polaroids from the 1980s through the advent of digital photography.

“In the analog days, especially in the years 1996-2004, I used Polaroid instant films intensively for various reasons.

First, it was magical. I remember very well the excitement and joy, as the image was gradually appearing on the surface of the Polaroid, as it was processed and fixed by the chemicals that it contained. At that point, the Polaroid possessed a life of its own.

I used the instant film on special camera backs that were attached to my professional cameras that were either medium or large formats (6x7 cm or 4x5 inch format).

It was an instant validation of whether the exposure I manually set for my camera was right for the conventional film I would use right after the Polaroid test shot, and also an affirmation for the set details, wardrobe, and hair and makeup often applied to my subjects.

It was a fantastic tool for engaging with subjects, connecting with them, showing them what the image looked like, and a starting point to discuss with them the direction we were heading with the photo session.

It was a helpful tool to the art directors / photo editors that were often on the set, too. Although, at times, I would prefer to show them the Polaroids only after taking a few frames with conventional film, so the spontaneity wouldn’t be interrupted.” - Rafael Fuchs

This show is a collection of 100 unique Polaroid portraits and includes portraits of some of the most influential people in a variety of fields in culture and society from that era, as in:

  • Entertainment (Burt Reynolds, Emily Watson, Heather Graham, Julia Stiles, Geoffrey Rush, David Blaine, Nathan Lane)
  • Literature (Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers, R.L. Stine, Candace Bushnell, J.K. Rowling)
  • Music (Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Michael Stipe, Tony Bennett, Sean Paul)
  • Commerce (George Steinbrenner, Barry Diller)
  • Sports (Derek Jeter, The Petty Family)
  • Art (Frank Stella, Paul Cadmus)

The portraits were commissioned to the photographer Rafael Fuchs for various publications, such as Entertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, People, Movie Line, Wired, Brill’s Content, Bop, Your Company, The Advocate, Vanity Fair, and more.

With the size of the Polaroids displayed, this exhibition creates an intimacy with viewers, who are invited to come close to the Polaroids and inspect them, a notion that is too often lost in today’s art galleries that display large scale photographs.

Rafael Fuchs

Rafael Fuchs is a photographer and filmmaker. He is considered by many as a photographers’ photographer. His practice in photography and videography is singular in its ability to seamlessly transition between commissions and fine art exhibitions.

In his personal work he remains independent, challenging and unconventional. A few of his most acclaimed bodies of works are: “Hope For Peace”, “911”, “LandLords” and “Bushwick Forever”.

In the commissioned area, his ability to combine his taste for a saturated palette of colors with his outgoing personality (that enabled him to achieve unexpected reactions from his subjects,) gained him hundreds of assignments for top national magazines, record labels and advertising agencies.

Some of his subjects were: Burt Reynolds, Emily Watson, Beyonce, Colin Powell, JK Rowling, Frank Stella, Derek Jeter, and more.

Rafael has been an enthusiastic user of Polaroid instant film since the 90’s. He resides in Bklyn, NY, and divides his time between shooting (stills and videos) and producing/curating art shows.