Presenting Polaroids Part 4: Framing the Icon

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

To my mind, there are two paths to framing Polaroid SX-70 prints. The first is to highlight the image, making it the focus of the framed print. This path will be considered in “Part 6: Framing The Image.” 

Today, I’ll delve into the second path: a celebration of the iconic form of the SX-70 photo, which includes not just the image area but the entire “frame” of the print as ejected from the camera. It’s an industrial design form that anyone, anywhere, can easily identify as a Polaroid. It is so embedded in our cultural psyche that it is still borrowed for countless advertising campaigns. Think of how rare that is.

The other feature of the SX-70 is its tactility. When it’s ejected from the camera, you grab it by the edges. Arguably, you can hold it while it develops. And 15 minutes later, you can pass it on to others to gaze upon the magic of an “instant” picture. There is a solidity to the object that feels good in the hand. It’s thicker, much thicker, than your average photo. And it seems to fit between the fingertips so naturally.

The first series I completed after being reintroduced to SX-70 photography in 2020 was “From Our Windows.” Right from the get-go, I was thinking about how I would eventually present these photos if I was to have a show someday.  I wanted to emphasize the images (of course) but also the iconic SX-70 form and the tactile, hand-holdable nature of an SX-70 photo.

It struck me that my SX-70 photos needed to float above the mount board and be held in place with finger-like mounting strips or corners, almost as if I’m holding the photo in my hand and saying to the viewer “Look at this!”

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Presenting Polaroids Part 3: The Grimm Truth About Albums

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

There are many options for storing SX-70s in albums. Polaroid makes them. There are crafty versions on Etsy and elsewhere. There’s the 3-ring binder approach using with PrintFile 44-8P print preserver sheets. All work and most are archival safe. 

I have a two issues with these types of albums. 

They all use some form of plastic sleeve to hold photos. Sure, they’re sold as ‘crystal clear’ plastic sleeves but pop in a Polaroid and all I see is the shiny dimensionality of my photos being sapped by the reflective and slightly cloudy plastic sleeves. 

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Presenting Polaroids Part 2: Conservation Tactics

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

Before getting into the meat of presentation techniques, I thought I should discuss the conservation materials used in the upcoming posts and videos. Coming from a black and white gelatine silver print background, proper processing, storage and display to maximize the longevity of my prints has always been a concern. I can’t help but be equally careful with my current Polaroid SX-70 integral film photos.

Most photographic print materials typically have an exposed emulsion layer on a paper substrate which makes them particularly vulnerable to acidic materials, physical wear-and-tear and what-have-you. This demands mount boards and mats that meet conservation standards and mounting corners or hinges that are not only acid-free and archival but allow for the print to be removed (to be repaired or reframed) without physical damage.

However, SX-70s are significantly different; the emulsion is sandwiched between polyester sheets front and back with white plastic seals along all edges. To that extent, you would think SX-70s are less vulnerable than paper-based prints to acidic matting and mounting materials. It’s hard to gauge because so little is known about the longevity of SX-70 photos. 

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