26 August, 2013
The Polaroid Revolutionary Workers
In 1970, Caroline Hunter, a young chemist working for the Polaroid Corporation, stumbled upon evidence that her multinational employees were indirectly supporting apartheid. With the collusion of local distributors Frank & Hirsch, Polaroid was able to provide the ID-2 camera system to the South African state, to efficiently produce images for the infamous passbooks. The camera included a boost button designed to increase the flash when photographing subjects with dark skin and two lenses which allowed for the production of a portrait and profile image on the same sheet of film. Alongside her partner Ken Williams they formed the Polaroid Workers Revolutionary Movement, and campaigned for a boycott. By 1977, Polaroid finally did withdraw from South Africa, and the international divestment movement – which contributed to the end of apartheid – was on its way. The radical notion that prejudice might be inherent in the medium of photography itself is interrogated by the artists Broomberg and Chanarin in this presentation of these works produced in South Africa on salvaged polaroid ID-2 systems.