August 13, 1979. A window sill, softly lit by light rays passing through a glass heart. Above the glass heart, a curiously framed image of a single, brilliant blue eye.
The moment, frozen in time, is one of many small Polaroids shot by photographer André Kertész from the window sill of his New York apartment, after losing his wife to lung cancer in 1977.
Fast forward to today and this wouldn’t look out of place on Instagram, where life’s most noteworthy and mundane moments are archived in Polaroid-inspired squares. In fact, the rainbow stripe in Instagram’s original logo is a nod to the Polaroid SX-70 instant camera, popular in the 1970s.
Fittingly, Kertész’s Polaroid, along with other works by his contemporaries, is on show at the National Museum of Singapore’s exhibition, In an Instant: Polaroid at the Intersection of Art and Technology.
The show traces the story of Polaroid, from its creator Edwin Land, to the works it inspired in the hands of artists and photographers such as Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams. It also reflects on the enduring cult of instant photography; today, we whip out our smartphones at every opportunity to preserve fleeting moments.
Yet Polaroid continues to stand apart. Unlike smartphones or film cameras, the Polaroid has no delete function or negative, so every print is truly unique, says the exhibition’s curator Priscilla Chua. “Polaroids also fade so quickly,” she adds, “but I suppose that’s the beauty of it.”