Foam x Polaroid: Art & Technology in Polaroid & Photography

For the second event in the Foam and Polaroid series, we're thrilled to welcome Ellen Carey - an American lens-based artist, and John Reuter - a photographer and executive director of the 20x24 Studio.

Join us on 22 November to learn how the development of Polaroid’s technology influenced their practice and elevated the perception of photography as fine art.

Colored Hands, 1975 © Ellen Carey.
Self Portrait, 1987 © Ellen Carey.
Pulls with Penlights, 2007 © Ellen Carey.
Ellen Carey

Ellen Carey and John Reuter, two luminaries in the Polaroid story, have been integral to the company's journey, and their dedication to the art of instant film continues to this day.

Ellen Carey, a pioneer in the Polaroid Corporation's Artists support program, has been at the forefront of pushing instant technology beyond the limits of usage, developing a technique of camera-based abstractions that has become emblematic of her career.

John Reuter, employed by the former Polaroid Corporation as a master photographer in 1980, was entrusted with running the 20X24 Studio in New York. In this role, he collaborated with Ellen Carey and a plethora of other remarkable artists, contributing to elevating the status of photography to the realms of fine art.

Together, Ellen and John remain at the forefront of this artistic movement, weaving the Polaroid legacy into the fabric of modern art.

About the series

Foam x Polaroid

Foam and Polaroid team up to host a series of artist talks and student workshops dedicated to the captivating world of Polaroid photography. This four-part series delves deep into the Polaroid phenomenon, exploring it through the lenses of art, science, experimentation, and technology, unravelling its social and cultural heritage and impact.

Each event is headlined by an acclaimed camera artist known for their creative use of Polaroid photography and pushing the boundaries of what instant film can do. Throughout the evening, they will engage in an artist talk to discuss their work, their perspectives on the storytelling possibilities, and the enduring relevancy of this unique medium.

The upcoming masterclasses will be announced soon. Sign up to our newsletter to be notified.

Polaroid I-2 © Foam. Photo by Tomas de Groot

About Ellen Carey

Ellen Carey is an educator, independent scholar, guest curator, photographer and lens-based artist whose unique experimental work spans several decades.

Ellen Carey's experimental Polaroid practice dates from 1983, when the Polaroid Artists Support Program invited her to work at the Polaroid 20X24 Studio. There, she created her Neo-Geo Self-Portraits (1984-87) followed by stacked installations Abstractions (1988-95). Her pioneering Pull (1996) and Rollback (1997) initiated her practice Photography Degree Zero (1996-2022), which is continued today with her latest body of Polaroid work, Crush & Pull.

Ellen Carey, a Pictures Generation contemporary and member of Buffalo's avant-garde — Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo — upends the medium's collective histories in art and technology with abstract, minimal "picture" signs. Photography Degree Zero and Struck by Light names her twin practices, while Pictus & Writ supports her creative tripod with writing. The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) named Carey one of the top 100 women photographers worldwide - Hundred Heroines - one of 14 Americans.

She emphasizes drawing with light, photography's indexical; light with color, underscored in process and approach, is her performative record: a visual all-or-nothing (zero). Her photographs no longer represent object-subject relations but rather the twin interplay of light and shadow, stark in black and white minimalism while freeing color itself into a kaleidoscope of abstraction. Well developed in the 20th century in Abstract Expressionism, Minimal, Conceptual Art, Carey's photographic pictures of nothing upend the medium's collective histories asking us now: "What is photography?" Or "Is it a photograph"?

Crush & Pull with Rollbacks, 2021 © Ellen Carey

About John Reuter

John Reuter has been a photographer since the early 1970s, majoring in art while attending SUNY Geneseo. He continued his studies on the graduate level at the University of Iowa, receiving two master's degrees. It was there that he began to specialize in Polaroid materials, most notably his SX-70 constructions, combining photography with painting and collage. Reuter joined Polaroid Corporation in 1978 as a senior photographer and later director of the legendary 20x24 Studio, where he worked with William Wegman, Chuck Close, Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellen Carey, among others.

His own work evolved from large-scale Polacolor Image Transfers to digital imaging in the mid-1990s. He has taught workshops in Photoshop, Lightroom, Polaroid materials and encaustic painting around the world. In recent years Reuter has moved into video and filmmaking and is currently working on a feature-length documentary titled "Camera Ready: The Polaroid 20x24 Project".

Reuter remains the director of the 20×24 Studio and is also an adjunct professor of photography at the Hartford Art School.

Woman in Tuscan Landscape © John Reuter.

About Polaroid

As the originator of instant photography, Polaroid withstands the test of time. With the accessibility and advancement of digital technology, instant photography is no longer the fastest way to take a photograph and hold it in your hand. Still, its creative appeal has endured. The charm of a tangible, magically developing in front of your eyes Polaroid photography remains a cherished form of artistic expression.

Polaroid is living through a resurgence as more people are drawn to the tactile pursuit of analog photography. Its factory in Enschede is ramping up the production of the instant film, and recently, the company announced the Polaroid I-2 – a high-end camera designed with professional photographers in mind. With this new product, Polaroid's ambition is to continue the legacy of the brand that has inspired artists like Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, Maripol, Keith Haring, and Guy Bourdin.

This programme is made possible with the support of Polaroid.

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Foam x Polaroid: Art & Technology in Polaroid & Photography