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Polaroid Photography in Erotica & Pornography

Polaroid film has made a strong comeback over recent years. So it seems only appropriate, as a major consumer of offline and online erotica and pornography, that I offer a long overdue hat tip to Polaroid technology for it’s place within those (arguable) genres.

Please understand that I’m not interested in pedantic banality with arguments over what defines erotica or pornography. I don’t care whether you approve or disapprove of the amateur or mass market varieties. Or even classifications that inevitably lead down a rabbit hole of reductive arguments for and against depictions of sexual suggestion or activity. I just recognise that humans have bodies and we’re created by and as sexual beings – as long as you stay within the law I have no problems. Consume to your own tastes. Don’t cross legal boundaries.

A famous designer, architect and photographer, Carlo Mollino died unexpectedly of heart failure in Turin in 1973. He left behind a secret cache of 2000 female erotic portraits made on Polaroid cameras – he owned a Model 800, a Model 900 and a J66 Polaroid Land Camera. These tools allowed for one-off photographs to be created, physical images that could be filed away and revisited within the deepest privacy. In this case, it’s hypothesised that Mollino may have been creating a personal erotic single-copy album.

The Polaroid camera circumvented social restrictions on the chemical development of film photographs. One could hardly walk into the local chemist and ask for pictures of last week’s swinger’s party to be provided. Polaroid technology offered instant gratification, controlled privacy, no limits on the photographer or subjects and a Polaroid photograph could be swapped and shared in the same way people exchange baseball cards. This instant imaging power was in the hands of the swinger group, the otherwise straight couple, the pornographer and the image devotee. Suddenly people had the power to make erotic images relatively cheaply and at convenience. Erotica and pornography were democratised.

If you Google around the subject of amateur Polaroid pornography, or Polaroid nudes, or retro Polaroid erotica the images speak to the place Polaroid technologies should be recognised for filling in the 1960s through to the 1990s. It makes me wonder how many people have Polaroid photographs locked away in a drawer inside that secret pile of envelopes. And why not? It’s just about human beings being human.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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