Born in 1937 and widespread in Europe in the 60s as a machine capable of producing snapshots, the Polaroid revolutionized photography. “Those who have used a Polaroid can hardly forget the unique smell of the emulsion to develop the photo or the thrill of the instant image,” writes historian Matthias Harder. Although it was heavy and uncomfortable, at least until the folding model SX-70 of 1972, even if the famous cartridges were quite expensive, the fascination of this equipment involved both amateurs who liked the idea of immortalizing life live, and those artists who consciously found a new aesthetic in between.
Since most of the time it was a stolen shot, the combination with the sphere of eroticism and sexuality was easy: indiscreet looks, insistent voyeurisms, overcoming taboos and inhibitions. Today, with the advent and diffusion of digital technology, the problem of waste no longer exists, and what you don't like is immediately deleted. In the Polaroid, on the other hand, there was a sort of "come first time" aesthetic and, above all, those who used it on an ongoing basis were seized by a bulimic effect that made it impossible to stop. Mario Schifano alternated the work on the paintings with thousands of photos in his studio, some Polaroids, other 13×18 cm postcard size prints, capturing frames from the always-on TV or “immortalizing” improvised models who happened to come to the studio in Rome, photos that then he retouched by hand with nervous and intuitive brushstrokes. For Andy Warhol, on the other hand, the Polaroid was somehow functional to the idea of cinema, he needed it to "test" the actors who were portrayed in close-up against a neutral background, but also to capture the elite of the international jet set.
Among the celebrities photographed with the Polaroid by the Pop Art guru, the artists Jasper Johns, Keith Haring, the actress Liza Minnelli, the director Paul Morrissey. Andy Warhol's polaroids were taken between 1966 and 1984. In that period the artist never separated from his instant camera, considering it a real extension of his body. The subjects portrayed are mainly well-known faces, ordinary people and factory goers. Mario Schifano lived with the television always on. He snapped photographs and polaroids in front of the screen, then choosing the images he liked best, retouching them with paint interventions. Among the favorite subjects, the erotic-themed photographs taken in the second half of the 1980s.