Photography and sex are intrinsically linked. However, one format above all others was instrumental in democratising sexual expression – the humble but magical Polaroid. Finally, there was a way for pictures to be made by people without specialist knowledge or wherewithal to develop and print their photographs. This was a truly private means of expression, and like all things private the first thing it will be used for is of course sex. This was especially important for people whose sexuality was illegal, for whom the very act of expressing oneself pictorially could lead to arrest, humiliation, and ruin.
Today the Polaroid has been long usurped by digital technology, its present-day equivalent tool, the smartphone is in the sweaty palm of anyone who cares to use it to make intimate images. Yet the polaroid retains its ability to transform intimate moments into aesthetically glorious works of art and remains a favourite of many an artist, photographer, and sexual adventurer. In a world of easily disseminated digital imagery, its physical form imbues it with value. It is by its very nature an original – there can only ever one Polaroid of a given moment, and its fragility – left in direct light the image will fade away alarmingly quickly – means that it retains its value as a precious record. Let’s face it they also look fucking cool. Their milky, impressionistic images fall somewhere between dreams and reality, and perhaps represent more accurately the way that our memories work.