Chase My Yellow Kite - Online Photography Newspaper
Spring Issue 2014

The Clunk, the Whirr and the Artefact

Instant photography is loved and cherished by many. I decided to try and put into words what my connection to the process is.

Words by Sam Taylor – 18/04/2014 (originally published in ‘Susan! Artzine for the Obzine’)


Instant gratification within photography, for me, is summed up in one word; Polaroid. There really isn’t anything more instant. What about digital, it’s lack of physicality gives the impression that image is almost an imaginary construct.

I have a strange relationship with photography; I meticulously construct for a photograph that is in my head from the off. The problem is the translation between brain and execution. There is no Bresson-esque moment for me. So where does my love of Polaroid come from, it doesn’t exactly tie into this idea of planning, so what is it?

Three words some it up, the clunk, the whirr and the artefact.


The clunk is that satisfying sound when you take the photograph, using a camera that feels like a wise old veteran when you compare it to today’s digital silver cigarette lighter image makers, especially when today’s instant digitals are just smaller than my palm whilst the Polaroid camera is just smaller than my head. The whirr is that lovely aural addition as the camera unfurls your new image like a photographic tongue. Then, then the wait, do you leave it alone, do you shake it, and do you put it under your arm? Some people get very anal if they see you shaking a Polaroid but sometimes those little imperfections are what make the image that extra bit special. Still we wait and seconds feel like minutes and then the first signs of something appear, your instant memory fades into existence and will never fade out. The quality of the image already puts it in the past, what were mere moments ago, now feels like a eo;, the saturation, soft focus and the imperfect development. The Polaroid is an instant memory, one to hold in the hand rather than the head, and this is the third aspect of my love; the artefact.


The Polaroid is treasure, it has more of a link to the time of its creation than other kind of photography, of course you can see a digital image straight after taking it, but it is not tangible, you cannot hold it in the your hand. Not only is the Polaroid a physical accompaniment to memory, but it becomes more, it melds into the memory in an irreversible way because simply, it was physically there too. The taking of the Polaroid is not just take, develop, finish; it is, take, develop, share and show, discuss and laugh at, hold and caress, investigate and cry for.

The Polaroid records the moment, not just the visual, but through some magical process records the emotion of the moment as well. Whilst writing this I cannot help but feel a sadness, because I write this at time where Polaroid in the copyright sense rather than the colloquial no longer exists as we once knew. Production has ceased and supplies are rare and out of date. You can find replacements such as the work undertaken by the Impossible project or convert to Fuji Instax; albeit lacking in the squareness we have come to know, the essence is the same. I take away with me the pleasure that I found my love for the process before it died and I beg of you, find a Polaroid camera, snap up those last supplies of film and discover all of this for yourself.