Polaroids: Personal, Private, Painterly

Polaroids: Personal, Private, Painterly

Photographs from the Collection of Robert E. Jackson

Personal, Private, Painterly

The technology to engineer an optical camera that could produce an instant physical photograph was developed by the Polaroid Corporation in 1972. ‘Polaroid’ has entered the American lexicon, similar to trademark brands such as ‘Kleenex’ or ‘Xerox’, as a generic word for do-it-yourself picture making via self-developing film. Marketing emphasized ease of use, but, implicitly, the unique selling point of the Polaroids camera was privacy.

In the age of 20th century chemical photography, mass image-making required exposed negative film to be developed and printed, and thus seen, by a professional developer. Instant photography changed the game, allowing for image-making away from prying eyes and creating a special bond between the photographer and their subject—often one-and-the-same.

Today we live in the digital age of the selfie, where image-making (and destruction) is almost unlimited. Our photographs can be intensely private and instantly disposable or they can be disseminated to millions via social media. Sometimes, they are both. The polaroid images in this exhibition, images that are personal, private, painterly, and mostly anonymous, become a window not only into a lost world of personal contemplation, but reveal contemporary insight into our own digital culture of public self-reflection.

For over two decades, Seattle-based Robert E. Jackson has been a serious collector of mass popular photography and photographic ephemera. Aspects of his important collection have been published and exhibited in both the National Gallery in D.C. and the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as via gallery shows in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City.  This is the first museum exhibition of his collection in the Northwest and one of the first to feature the vernacular Polaroid.

Polaroids: Personal, Private, Painterly is curated by Robert E. Jackson and BAM’s chief curator, Benedict Heywood. It is the first in an ongoing exhibition series highlighting collectors and their collections.


About Robert E. Jackson

Robert E. Jackson has collected photography since 1997.  In the fall of 2007, his collection was the subject of an exhibition and catalog entitled The Art of the American Snapshot: 1888-1978 which was on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  The show traveled to the Amon Carter Museum in early 2008. In 2011, Pure Photography was published by Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books in Portland, Oregon. It included approximately sixty images chosen by Jackson to embody the non-narrative aspect of snapshot photography.  His photos were included in the 2011 bestselling book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  In October of 2012, Seattle based Marquand Books published photos from Jackson’s color snapshot collection in the book The Seduction of Color.   In June of 2013, Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York City featured his collection in a show entitled Snap Noir: Snapshot Stories.  Jackson holds a MA degree in art history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill  and an MBA from the University of Texas, Austin.

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Exhibition Credit

Polaroids: Personal, Private, Painterly—Photographs from the Collection of Robert E. Jackson is organized by Bellevue Arts Museum and curated by Benedict Heywood and Robert E. Jackson. The exhibition is made possible with assistance from Rare Medium, Seattle.