Academic journal article Afterimage

The Camera Does the Rest: How Polaroid Changed Photography

Academic journal article Afterimage

The Camera Does the Rest: How Polaroid Changed Photography

Article excerpt

The Camera Does the Rest: How Polaroid Changed Photography

By Peter Buse/University of Chicago Press, 2016/308pp./$30.00 (hb)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Peter Buse's recent book The Camera Does the Rest: How Polaroid Changed Photography is not a history of the Polaroid Corporation, but rather an investigation into the material and materiality of Polaroid film. Buse sets out to explore whether Polaroid photography is distinct from other kinds of photography and, if so, what makes it singular. (Spoiler: it is different, but not for the reasons we think.) In six chapters, he describes the rituals surrounding Polaroid, arguing that ultimately "the act of photographing is just as important as, if not more important than, the resulting photograph" (20). Anecdote is interwoven with science, gossip, and a dose reading of many diverse images. The sheer difficulty in writing about vernacular photography is this variety--there is no overarching snapshot "style"--and a challenge Buse deftly accepts.

The notable shortcoming is the lack of attention paid to fine-art Polaroids. While Buse convincingly and expertly discusses vernacular culture and its images, he avoids a close reading of art Polaroids and instead writes (weakly) around the subject. …

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