Art & Design

The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction: Diego Uchitel’s Polaroids

Art & Design

The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction: Diego Uchitel’s Polaroids

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In the age of digital reproduction, nothing is as auratic as the Polaroid. The Polaroid, a negative made positive, is the only singular photograph. Its novelty of instantaneity made irrelevant by the digital, what the Polaroid offers now is true ephemerality — a moment captured, printed, and then set to degrade, like its subjects.

“Spontaneous by nature and distinct in palette, the Polaroid medium has arguably had the single largest influence on my career and to be able to capture that impassioned relationship in this book has been a lifelong dream,” said photographer Diego Uchitel of his new book, Diego Uchitel: Polaroids, released this fall by Damiani and its accompanying show, which launched last night, at Milk Gallery in New York.

The show is more impressive than the book. The textures and light that make Uchitel’s film so beautiful are somehow lost in the semi-gloss pages of the latter. Though both are worth perusing.

At Milk, you’ll see originals: a wall of instant film of mostly models and some celebs tacked up as on a fastidious tweenager’s locker door. More precious images are blown up and, again, tacked without frames. There’s no glass between you and Bowie, or Isabella Blow, or River Phoenix — my three favorite of Uchitel’s subjects.

(What’s with plus-size models always being posed with fucking food? Just a thought that crossed my mind while looking at Uchitel’s locker wall…)

The tones and romantic fantasy of Diego Uchitel’s images recall those of a more prolific fashion photographer with a similarly cadenced name, Paolo Roversi. “The range of colors in Polaroid is smaller than in regular film. That spectrum lends a certain aesthetic. Helping create images that are ethereal and emotive,” writes Uchitel in his book. He shoots with painterly idealization.

As with all things fashion, here it’s a matter of taste and Diego Uchitel’s aesthetic is not entirely to mine (Viviane Sassen‘s is). But, as with all things fashion, one must absolutely respect the fickle individuality of taste and appreciate its diversity. Diego Uchitel: Polaroids, the show and the book, will appeal to many.

Diego Uchitel: Polaroids, the photographer’s debut book, is published by Damiani. The show, at Milk Gallery, will be on display through December 9th. Digital archive prints of Uchitel’s Polaroids are available for sale through Milk.