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Sustainable Prospects – Unseen, Amsterdam – Roger Ballen and Miles Aldridge, Polaroids

One of the highlights of Unseen for me was to see Roger Ballen’s new work ‘Polaroids’.

The new images on display are not in his characteristic monochrome.

An artist and photographer, in his instantly recognisable work, Ballen blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. This is still true in the Polaroid collection.

His unique style of combining drawings, paintings and sculptural aspects in his photographs is also still evident.

However, his normal style of square format black and white aesthetic is nowhere to be seen.  Instead, we are presented with intimate, colour images.  This presents his work and aesthetic in a new light.

The subject matter is the same. His work is still strange and extreme.  As mentioned in my previous blog post, Ballen’s work confronts the viewer and challenges us to go with him on his journey.  Where are we going? As previously explored, Ballen is taking us on a journey into the deepest recesses of our minds as he explores his.

His images, whether colour or monochrome are surreal, making statements that are absurd and challenging.  He has not lost this from his work by moving to the colour Polaroids.

Ballen chose Unseen to be the venue for his premiere of the Polaroid photos.  The Reflex Gallery have exclusive access to the work. His exhibition is due to be accompanied by a book of the images (yet to be published).

I was lucky enough to have the gallery show me other images in the body of work.  These were kept in a folder under the display.  Looking through the other images, I was able to fully appreciate the skill and vision that Ballen has.  The images are sharp and the colour palette enhances the overall narrative and aesthetic. I felt quite privileged to have had this opportunity.

But Ballen is not the only photographer who had displays at Unseen of Polaroids. The same gallery had a display by Miles Aldridge, ‘Please return Polaroid’.

In the display, it is evident that many of the Polaroids on display have been damaged.  The damage in some cases is intentional, in others it is accidental.  The images have been trimmed, marked, cut and pasted into new contexts.  

Parts of the images are modified, enhanced, rearranged or removed through this process. The images now have more of a narrative.  The display and the images themselves reminded me of a storyboard that might be prepared before a shoot.

What I particularly like about the images is that they are playful and celebrate the imperfections and flaws in the finished images. Too often digital images are manipulated to produce the perfect image.  Photoshop is used to create the images of the type that Aldridge is producing in the physical form.

The resurgence in Polaroid popularity is really interesting.  In an age where people constantly take images purely to post them to various social media sites, Polaroids are pretty amazing.  They exist in a physical form, whereas many digital images are destined to remain unseen on a hard drive of a computer.  There is something special about being able to touch and hold an image. There is a fascination with watching the image develop in front of your eyes, even after all these years it seems like magic.

Polaroids are distinctive.  The aesthetically distinctive iconic white borders have been replicated in filters on mobile phones and computers. The size of the images makes them intimate and engaging.

I am excited to see new work produced by photographers using Polaroids in the future.

#Amsterdam #UnseenAmsterdam #September2017 #MilesAldridge #RogerBallen

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