Attention, devotees of instant film. We propose that you spend a few minutes poring over Christopher Makos’s SX-70 beauties—or, if you’re in New York, to take in the fifty on display at the Christopher Henry Gallery. Enjoy the brushes with artists, musicians, and disgraced former athletes.
Makos belonged to the scapegrace entourage that loyally shadowed Andy Warhol. A movement that worshiped the moment. With a mix of love and awe, as the Factory’s house photographer, Makos preserved its history in images. Uniquely suited to this task was his Polaroid SX-70. It was portable and hence pass-around-able. It cherished accidents. And it had mood swings. The camera could toss a wintry silence over any scene, making it pale and bluish and still, yet it could also warm it up, plating yellows in gold or lending flat reds an almost bloody vitality. Hunting for the right adjective for this phenomenon, most settle on dreamy. Dreamy because you know you’re eyeing objects that exist in reality, and yet, whether or not you can put a finger on it, something—the cloudy light? the sanded edges? the deathly skin tones?—seems a touch off. Very faintly, in a word, unreal. Cameras were built to record plain-vanilla reality, but the Polaroid seems magically engineered to flavor, spice, season it. To make the familiar subtly unfamiliar. We couldn’t imagine a better way to remember Warhol and his Factory, and those after-hours adventures in the shabby, sincere, wide-eyed world of 1970’s and 1980’s New York.