Opinion

Turning Ruined Polaroids Into Artful Abstractions

"Ruined Polaroid #45" (all images courtesy William Miller and used with permission)

LOS ANGELES — This past weekend, I stopped by MacArthur Park in Los Angeles and had my portrait taken by one of the famous Polaroid photographers who line the lake. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a proper Polaroid photo taken of me — so much of my experience of photography is now online, experienced primarily through social networks.

Ruined Polaroid #51

Which is why William Miller’s new Polaroid project caught my eye. It happened by accident, as he told me:

I think think that this project was more of a realization than an idea. I bought this old Polaroid SX-70 camera at a yard sale two summers ago. Right away I realized the camera wasn’t functioning properly. It sometimes spilled out 2 pictures at a time and the film would often get stuck in the gears, exposing and mangling it in unpredictable ways.

It turned out the camera just couldn’t produce good photos, but that’s when Miller had an idea to work with that. “Before long I was participating in its process, collaborating with it,” he says.

Ruined Polaroids is the series that emerges, a series of, well, ruined Polaroids that have lovely abstract colors and textures that paint a subtle aesthetic. The results are unpredictable, but Miller harnesses that into foreign landscapes and abstractions. It’s a great way to remix an a nonfunctioning analogue tool and to find a new function: art.

“What I find most appealing with the Ruined Polaroids project,” he said, “is that in this age of digital photography I’m taking this technology from the 70s and through a process making it look like paintings from the 40s.”

"Ruined Polaroid #40"

For more images by William Miller, visit williammillerphoto.com.

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