After its waning popularity at the turn of the century, Polaroid is enjoying a resurgence in the digital era. For one, the immediacy of its technology is akin to the photo-sharing platform, Instagram, but this isn’t its only appeal to 21st century audiences. The brand’s renaissance also owes to a trend for nostalgia, which is summed up somewhat by the washed-out filters and post-productive methods that many social media users opt to use.
Yet, for Polaroid to be associated with a by-gone era, it has to also be a symbol of innovation. The arrival of the Polaroid SX-70 in the early 1970s changed photographic history and, prior to its release, the company sent filmmaker, director and photographer Wim Wenders (b. 1945) a prototype to try out. It would become Wenders’ companion of sorts, using the medium to capture and preserve objects and moments of everyday life. An image from summer 1973 is not merely of the director’s breakfast in an American diner, it marks the first day of filming for Alice in the Cities (1974) – a movie which also incorporated the camera.
Between the late 1960s and early 1980s, Wenders took thousands of snapshots across the globe, amassing a visual diary documenting people and places, including self-portraits and intimate shots of celebrities and friends, like Annie Leibovitz and Dennis Hopper. Approximately 240 of these personal images are on show at C/O Berlin in Wim Wenders: Instant Stories, alongside excerpts from films that make reference to Polaroid products.
Regarded as one of the founders of New German Cinema, Wenders has received much acclaim for his cinematic work. Using the format of instant photography, the exhibition offers a unique insight behind the scenes – a glimpse into life on set that predates social media.
Wim Wenders: Instant Stories is at C/O Berlin from 7 June – 23 September. Find out more here.
1. Wim Wenders, Valley of the Gods, Utah, 1977.