We’ve been spoilt, you know. There once was a time when every photo you took cost actual, hard earned money. Film had to be bought then developed, often at a lab. Photography wasn’t as instant as it is today, and was a great pain in the arse at times. However cameras weren’t necessarily hard to use. Companies that Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Polaroid strived to create cameras that were easier to use and cheaper, therefore more accessible to the masses. This industrial urge to make things simpler gave us the Polaroid SX-70, a stylish and easy to use camera that developed your film right in front of your eyes. Magic.
An Instant Icon
The SX-70 retailed for $180 in 1973, which doesn’t seem to be that bad today. Adjusted for inflation though that value skyrockets to a monstrous $900 in today’s markets. Despite the price Polaroid still sold over 700,000 units by mid-1974. Its technology was used by all of Polaroid’s Instant cameras after that, even the much more affordable $40 Model 1000 OneStep.
The SX-70 made waves in the art world too. Andy Warhol famously loved his SX-70, making it his camera of choice for his work in photography. Warhol used the Polaroid Big Shot’s film in the SX-70 so he could shoot prints to use as a basis for silkscreen portraits. Christopher Makos was a professional photographer that taught Warhol hos to use his camera. Here’s what he had to say about it:
“The Polaroid was so cool at the time,” Makos told Polaroid in 2010, “we would all just take pictures of each other and pass them around, sort of the way that people pass around images on Facebook, writing on their wall, poking them––I think you get the picture!” – Smithsonian.com
The Legacy of the Polaroid SX-70
The extent to which the SX-70 has penetrated popular culture is shocking. Take a look at the image above, does it remind you of something? This later Polaroid, the Polaroid OneStep SX-70 is partly the inspiration for Instagram’s logo.
And it hasn’t resigned itself to being a museum piece, either. People still use the SX-70 in their everyday lives, even if their motives for doing so are more artistic than the camera’s 70s buyers. Polaroid phased out film production in 2006 but The Impossible Project’s started production again, so if you’ve got an SX-70 lying around you can go out and use it.
And if you don’t? You can find the SX-70 for sale on eBay or flee markets for affordable prices, but Photojojo is selling pristine, mint condition SX-70s that have been expertly restored to work like new. Sure, they retail for a bit under $400 but that’s a small price to pay to own a piece of photographic history.
I shall close this Throwback Thursday with a quote I found two weeks ago, early on in my research:
Two years ago I bought a vintage SX-70 at a consignment shop and became so entranced by it that I wrote 14,400 words about the camera… I called it the greatest gadget ever. After mulling it over, I see no reason to modify that assessment. – Harry McCracken, TIME