The Masterful Polaroid Pictures Taken by Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky


Today, dig­i­tal­ly empow­ered to take, view, and share a pho­to­graph in the span of sec­onds, we think noth­ing of the phrase “ïnstant cam­era.” But to cel­e­brat­ed Russ­ian film­mak­er Andrei Tarkovsky, who died in 1986 after liv­ing almost his entire life in the Sovi­et Union, the tech­nol­o­gy came as a rev­e­la­tion. He had, of course, to use a prim­i­tive Polaroid cam­era, but, Tarkovsky being Tarkovsky, his aes­thet­ic sense still came through its lit­tle square, self-devel­op­ing frames loud and clear — or rather, it came through, rich, pen­sive, solemn, and autum­nal.

tark photo

In 2006, Thames & Hud­son pub­lished Instant Light, a book col­lect­ing “a selec­tion of col­or Polaroids the film­mak­er took from 1979 to 1984 of his home, fam­i­ly, and friends in Rus­sia and of places he vis­it­ed in Italy,” and you can see some of these images on the blog Poe­mas del río Wang, or on this Face­book page.


The post quotes Tarkovsky’s friend Toni­no Guer­ra, remem­ber­ing the auteur’s Polaroid peri­od: “In 1977, on my wed­ding cer­e­mo­ny in Moscow, Tarkovsky appeared with a Polaroid cam­era. He had just short­ly dis­cov­ered this instru­ment and used it with great plea­sure among us. [ … ] Tarkovsky thought a lot about the ‘flight’ of time and want­ed to do only one thing: to stop it — even if only for a moment, on the pic­tures of the Polaroid cam­era.”

tark photo2

Now that we find our­selves in a new wave of Polaroidism — you can even buy the cam­eras and their film at Urban Out­fit­ters — we’d do well to study these pic­tures tak­en by a man who mas­tered their form just as thor­ough­ly as he mas­tered cin­e­ma. And if you want evi­dence of the lat­ter, look no fur­ther than our col­lec­tion of Tarkovsky films free online.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Film­mak­ers: Sac­ri­fice Your­self for Cin­e­ma

Tarkovsky’s Solaris Revis­it­ed

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Very First Films: Three Stu­dent Films, 1956–1960

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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