For Ruined Polaroids, William Miller uses a broken polaroid SX-70 that he stumbled upon at a yard sale; quickly discovering that its decades-old gears mangled the film and transformed the exposure, the artist submitted the the whims of the photographic relic, allowing it to form blurred and unpredictably patterned abstractions from his shots.
Within the “ruined” images, we find a surprising emotionality, with the faulty chemical process producing expressionistic renderings of a less literal kind of photographic memory. Cataloging the accidentally lovely results of mechanical happenstance, each shot enters a richly moody realm evocative of the work of mid-century abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko. As the spastic movements of gears, chemicals, and fingers become the subject of the work, the artistic process overrides a predetermined result. Rather than serving as a record of a particular instant, Ruined Polaroids poignantly archives the accidental deterioration of a camera past its time.
Ultimately, the conceptual work also serves to refute contemporary understanding of the photograph. In her seminal work On Photography, published in 1977 at the height of polaroid popularity, Susan Sontag discusses the illusion of a photographic truth, theorizing that the photographer, unlike all other artists, is capable of disguising subjectivity for objective fact. Miller’s work expertly challenges this assumed power of the photographic medium, acutely presenting each image as evidence of its failures. The immediacy of the polaroid image only accelerates this process; printed instantly and held against some imagined reality, the bleeding lights and darks veer jarringly from what we expect from the camera. Take a look. (via Lost at E Minor and This Is Paper)