Albert Watson's Polaroids

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday September 9, 2015

Albert Watson has made his mark as one of the world’s most successful and prolific photographers since he began his career in 1970, blending art, fashion and commercial photography into some of the most iconic images ever seen. From portraits of Alfred Hitchcock and Steve Jobs, glamor shots of Kate Moss, to Las Vegas landscapes and still-life photographs of King Tutankhamen artifacts, Albert’s diversity and body of work are unparalleled. His work is regularly seen in New York museums and galleries, and now, for the first time, ‘Roids!, an exhibition of huge blowups of his working Polaroids, are on view at Christophe Guye Galerie, Zurich.

Watson started using Polaroid on the back of his Hasselblad in 1972 and since then has shot more than 100,000 for a vast array of professional shoots, for art projects, ad campaigns and everything in between. At the outset, Polaroids were a fast way to preview a shot to make sure everything was properly set up, with lighting and exposure set to match his vision. As time went on these preview shots became more important, and sometimes they had their own beauty, which transcended their significance as mere tests. 

With ‘Roids!, the photographer scanned select images at enormously high resolution and made prints that are almost 2.5 meters in height [100 inches], in which the beauty of the image combines with flaws inherent in Polaroids to create a new image. 

Since 2004, Albert Watson has had solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art in Milan, Italy; the KunstHausWien in Vienna, Austria; the City Art Centre in Edinburgh; the FotoMuseum in Antwerp, Belgium; the NRW Forum in Dusseldorf, Germany; the Forma Galleria in Milan; Fotografiska in Stockholm, Sweden; and the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow. A major retrospective, with a body of work Albert shot in Benin, Africa, was held at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, Germany, in 2013. 

His photographs have also been featured in many group museum shows, including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, the International Center of Photography in New York, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Deichtorhallen. His photographs are included in the permanent collections at the National Portrait Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, the Scottish Parliament, the Deichtorhallen, and the Multimedia Art Museum, among others. Earlier this year Albert Watson was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his lifetime contribution to the art of photography.

Albert Watson | ‘Roids! opens Wednesday, September 9th, with a reception for the artist from 6 to 8 pm at Christophe Guye Galerie, Dufourstrasse 31, 8008 Zurich. +41 44 252 01 11. Visit his website.  Find Albert Watson here and here and here in DART.