It’s the iconic camera like you’ve never seen it before

Everyone’s dabbled in Polaroid camera fun at some point in their lives. Whether it was fiddling with a proper vintage Polaroid, or going trigger-happy on the pastel-hued Instax minis, the undeniable thrill of getting an instant print has lasted throughout the years, across countries and cultures. A new exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore hopes to chronicle and capture that thrill—for photography enthusiasts and amateurs alike.

It might seem out of place at the National Museum, but the new travelling exhibition certainly brings fresh content to the museum’s repository of Singapore history and culture. Making its Asia debut here, In an Instant: Polaroid at the Intersection of Art and Technology first premiered last year in Europe, and has travelled to countries like Berlin and Canada since. On show is a curated collection of both iconic Polaroid artefacts and Polaroid-produced artworks—most of which were made at the height of the brand’s popularity in the 20th Century.

You’ll get to see original artefacts like the world’s first-ever instant camera, invented in the late 1940s by scientist Edwin Land after his daughter asked a harmless question on a family vacation: ‘Why can’t we view the photographs now?’ Aye; who’d have thought we would have the impatience of an inquisitive child to thank for one of the world’s greatest inventions? After, trace the entire history of instant photography through various conceptual models and finished products, on loan from The Polaroid Collection and international museums.

Still, the cameras themselves aren’t the star attraction at In an Instant. Some 200 Polaroid artworks on display take up much of the exhibition, shedding light on an under-appreciated art form: Polaroid photography. In exploring the artistic boundaries of his invention, Land passed film and cameras to artists and photographers of his time to trial the Polaroid materials. Some of the resulting artworks include portraiture and images from the likes of Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams and David Hockney—all of whom are featured in the exhibition. There are also large-scale prints in actual size (20 by 24 inches), taken by a Polaroid 20x24 camera—subverting more popular notions of Polaroid as being a small-format medium.

For visitors who like their art a little more interactive, a special exhibit within the show brings thegroundbreaking Polaroid technology to the forefront. Slap on a pair of the Polaroid glasses provided to watch a short film screening; the polarizing filter in the lenses is the only way you’ll be able to view images on the screen, which to the naked eye just looks like blank white light. At the end of the entire exhibition, visual installations featuring interviews from local influencers attempt to tie the instantaneity of the Polaroid past to the instant gratification culture of social media today. Apt perhaps, seeing as how the ubiquitous Instagram icon is after all modelled after the Polaroid camera.

Unlike its featured subject, In an Instant isn’t a permanent exhibition to have and to hold forever, opening Nov 10 and running through Mar 31, 2019. It is, however, a comprehensive snapshot of the revolutionary brand’s mighty journey into present day, and certainly worth a snoop around—at least so your next Instax selfie is a little more culturally informed.


In an Instant: Polaroid at the Intersection of Art and Technology runs from Nov 10-Mar 31, 2019 at Exhibition Gallery 2, Basement Level, National Museum of Singapore. Tickets start from $12.50 and more information is available here.