Warhol, With His Polaroid Big Shot

Warhol, With His Polaroid Big Shot

Andy Warhol- pure visionary, true artistic pioneer. Many art forms that we take for granted today were innovated and perfected by his creativity. The more one learns about him, the more he fascinates. He was filled with contradiction and enigmas. A devout Roman Catholic, he spent hours of his own time volunteering in soup kitchens in NYC, helping the underprivileged. He was a loyal and loving son to his mother. Warhol brought elite socialites together with street people, to discuss social and popular issues. Warhol was almost killed by an assassin’s bullet. If you haven’t seen the outstanding movie “I Shot Andy Warhol”, please see it. While not a fan of all of his work, I think he perhaps is one of a handful of the 20th century’s true artistic geniuses. If you want to learn more about his art and influence, OvationTV has run several outstanding documentaries. More on that below.

Warhol painted, made avant-garde films, drew, sculpted, and yes, photographed. With Polaroid-

Warhol With The Polaroid 600

His Polaroid portraits of celebrities, athletes, politicians, and unknowns, are fascinating and beautiful. Many of these Polaroids were taken as test shots, or as foundations for silk screened prints. Warhol was an early adopter of the SX-70 format. But most of his portraits were taken with one of the strangest Polaroid Land Cameras ever made, the Polaroid Big Shot.

The Polaroid Big Shot was a “niche” camera, which has attained cult status today. Only on the market from 1971 to 1973, it was a manual, fixed-focus, 220mm lens behemoth. To obtain proper focus, the photographer has to bob and weave with his/her feet, in a strange manner now known as “The Big Shot Shuffle”. The flash diffusion is built into the front of the camera snout, above the lens. It takes Magicube flash bulbs, which do not fire via electricity, but are set off via a plastic mechanical pin. They were also known as X-Cubes. The portraits that the camera can produce have a surreal, iconic look. When Polaroid announced that the camera was being discontinued, urban legend has it that Warhol sent his minions from The Factory out on a frantic shopping binge into NYC camera shops, to purchase the remaining cameras.

Later this month, OvationTV is showing Andy Warhol’s Factory People: Welcome to the Silver Factory”.  You can see a preview here: http://ovationtv.com/programs/394-andy-warhol-s-factory-people

Yesterday, the author won a bid on a Polaroid Big Shot. And yes, Magicubes. Anxiously waiting for the mailman, and results to follow. And maybe add some Campbell’s Soup to the grocery list.


2 thoughts on “Warhol

  1. I’m glad to see you like Warhol. Personally, since I was born after the Warhol era, it’s a struggle to learn more about the man and what he did to the realms of both art and celebrity. It seems that he was able to create such an enigma out of his persona that the truth of who he was is potentially lost to the ages.

    • Thanks, Dan- I think he was absolutely brilliant. A few years ago, an exhibit of his Big Shot Polaroids toured the country. I don’t think it came to Boston, but I am pretty sure Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has some of them on display. When I visited MIT in December, they had a Big Shot on display, as part of their Polaroid exhibit. I had to learn more about it, and Warhol. Very excited to start taking portraits with it.

      The funny thing is, I never really appreciated Warhol’s artistry until seeing one of the shows on OvationTV. He influenced so many. Dave LaChapelle, who Warhol hired, was likely influenced the most. I know his work is very controversial, but I think he is one of the greatest living (digital) photographers.

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