Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Nude Polaroids Project

As mentioned before, this is something I've been considering for a while, nudity, copyright and other more concept-based concerns are I suppose, what have prevented me from having published the idea sooner. The seed of an idea emerged when I was browsing ebay several months ago, I am an avid eBayer and Polaroider and it was whilst browsing eBay for said Polaroid products that I came across something which struck me as rather odd. Someone was selling nude Polaroids. These were not the artistic nudes we are so used to seeing in 'high-brow' photography exhibits, these were, for the most part, either cheap-looking text-prints from photoshoots in the 1970/80s or either amateur private home-shot photographs, of various people, presumably the partners of the invisible camera operator. These photos ranged from the out and out amateur nude to the suggestive and cheap-looking studio shots. I began to investigate further, purposefully entering the multitude of search key-words (a skill which now seems almost second nature to many of us, whether in Google or eBay, we know exactly the 3 words we need to find what we want) for these nude polaroids. I turned up some further images, dim grey-black shots which seemed to hold a kind of crude and unknowing artistry and a particular moment in an anonymous persons life.
The three images above are some of the more mild-images, there are others whose depictions are much more frank, and again, others that are so completely un-erotic that they seem absurd, one particular image of a man of around twenty, sat in a pair of shorts with his legs wrapped around a potted-plant is at the forefront of these 'erotic Polaroids'.
These are not 'found photographs' in the traditional sense, infact, quite the reverse, these are not images people have no use for, have discarded and thrown away, rather they are prized images, given a monetary value. They are infact 'Searched-for Photographs'. (Herein lies my somewhat grey area of copyright, as they are not discarded images, do I have the right to reproduce them?).

These sale of images seems completely different to the typical sale of photographs, even that of the pornographic image, which the internet has enabled. This kind of sale of image seemed to suggest that there was value in the image as solid object. That the image becomes object when it is taken with a Polaroid camera, and then undergoes a second transformation, from object to commodity, to something of real physical value. Indeed, the prices of these images vary greatly, from as little as sixty-five pence, plus postage and packing, to as much as fifteen pounds (GBP). Another striking element is that the price is not proportional to the nudity in the photo, as it were. For example, an image of one cheap-looking completely nude studio shot can cost 50p, whereas a photograph of a woman's head and shoulders, without revealing any regions below, can be offered for £6.00. Perhaps this is linked to the quality or artistry of the photographer or model? Yet this seems unlikely. Perhaps the value accredited to a photograph particularly that of a Polaroid, a physically grounded image, is linked to its intrinsic origins of the human-story, and its role in it, much as the value of an antique can drastically increase if it were owned by a famous historical figure. For now I suppose this question will go unanswered.

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