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Polaroids.

Photographs by Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Essay by Colete Alvarez Urbajtel.
Editorial RM, Mexico City, 2005. 96 pp., 63 color illustrations, 8¼x10¼".

Reviewing this work immediately made me think of Walker Evans’s Polaroids, explored in Jeff L. Rosenheim’s nearly identically produced 2002 book (published by Scalo). First, there’s the thrill of exalted artists making use of an idiot-proof, plebeian tool. Polaroid introduced the SX-70 model in 1972. Evans acquired one in 1973 and used it in a last flurry of creative activity before his 1975 death; Álvarez Bravo, who was born a year before Evans and outlived him by 27 years, enjoyed working with the Polaroid over a long period of time as one of his many cameras. Second, there are the curious pleasures of color and the implication of immediacy, countering the black-and-white distance and thoughtfulness associated with both of these artists. And there are the artists’ responses to the camera, evident in words and images. Evans claimed in 1974 that “nobody should touch a Polaroid until he’s over sixty. You should first do all that work. It makes things awfully easy to have that thing pop out. It reduces everything to your brains and taste….You have to really know something before you dare point it anywhere. You have to know what you’re pointing at, and why—even if it’s only instinctive.” If this new book manifests Álvarez Bravo's knowledge and taste, his is a mind I’d like to know better. These are engaging images, alternately modest, sensual and surprising, consistently reproduced at actual size so as to clarify the original work’s scale and ambition. While Evans was wary of instinct, Álvarez Bravo relied on the Polaroid as the ideal camera to capture the fleeting impression, the playful spirit that is so often latent in his more “serious” works. This is an enchanting volume and a valuable addition to the Álvarez Bravo literature. GEORGE SLADE Read Publisher's Description.

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