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The New Polaroid Arrives in New York

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday April 29, 2010

"Polaroid instant photography is back." That's the message that came through, boldly and colorfully, at a press conference in SoHo yesterday. "We are thrilled that today marks the return of instant photography. It's bigger - and better - than ever," said Giovanni Tomaselli, Managing Director of the Summit Global Group, the exclusive worldwide licensee for Polaroid branded imaging products.

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Seen at the Polaroid 300 launch at the Crosby Street Hotel, left to right: Giovanni Tomaselli, Managing Director, Summit Global Group; Photographer Joel Meyerowitz with Dana Triwush and Michelle Dunn Marsh, Co-publishers, Aperture magazine; John Reuter, Director, the New York 20x24 Studio, with his Polaroid 300 portrait. Photos: Peggy Roalf.

Among the fans of Polaroid in attendance were Joel Meyerowitz and Mary Ellen Mark, both known for their portraiture using Polaroid cameras and film. Meyerowitz tells of a time when he set up a makeshift studio at the old Limelite to photograph redheads. "In the course of four hours I shot close to 240 portraits. Using a view camera, I couldn't have done it any other way but with Polaroid," Meyerowitz explained.

"And what made it so much fun is that there was always a crowd of about 50 people waiting to be photographed next," he continuted. "Each time I peeled off a print I would hold it up and there would be a roar of approval. It became like a happening, where all the participants shared the moment with the person whose picture emerged. And everyone left with a portrait in hand, which they could then show to their friends. I never had a shooting experience that was as socially powerful as that one. I think you could say that Polaroid created the first social network through a visual medium, much like what we have with Facebook today - but it's absolutely physical."

Mary Ellen Mark, who has used the Polaroid 20x24 camera extensively says, "There's nothing like a 20x24 photograph. You are taking a photograph and making a print at the same time.  It's a completely different frame of mind from today's digital photography (you can't "fix" anything in post-production). But I come from the tradition of striving to make a perfect negative so I'm used to the challenge of perfection that the Polaroid demands - it's brought even more discipline to my film photography."

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Polaroid instant photography makes people smile, left to right: Joel Meyerowitz (l) as Polaroid Girl peels his portrait; member of the press watching her portrait emerge; Mary Ellen Mark with Maurizio Galimberti and his "mosaic portrait" of her. Photos: Peggy Roalf.

When Edwin W. Land introduced instant photography back in 1948, he engaged legendary photographers, starting with Ansel Adams, to field test the cameras and film. Out of this continuing program grew what became known as the Polaroid Collection, through which artists were given informal grants in the form of film and the use of cameras in exchange for some of the work they produced. The new "Polaroid Movement" will continue this tradition with artist grant and residency programs as well as the sponsorship of two programs at Aperture, of which Adams was one of the founders.

To demonstrate the allure of Polaroid instant imaging, photographer Maurizio Galimberti, who is known for his "mosaic portraits," photographed Mary Ellen Mark, making 70 close-ups, which he put together on the spot. In the space of about a half hour, the face of the renown portrait artist became a collection of square images assembled into a poster-size mosaic portrait of her (photo above, right).

Yesterday the Polaroid 300 camera was launched to mark the return of instant film photography. Featuring classic Polaroid instant film, automatic flash and four scene settings, the new Polaroid camera comes in metallic red, blue and black - adding a new twist to instant photography. The Polaroid 300 camera and film are available at Bloomingdales, J&R, and Polaroid.com.

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