Human beings are constantly categorizing. “Polaroids: Personal, Private, Painterly" Photographs from the Collection of Robert E. Jackson, showcases a variety of Polaroids separated into the aforementioned categories. Out of the 13,000 photos in his collection, about 300 are Polaroids, 150 of which were selected and curated by Jackson in conjunction with Ben Heywood, chief curator at the Bellevue Arts Museum.
“Personal” refers to portraits. These images capture individuals, and the essence of who they are—the focus is on the photo’s subject rather than their actions or environment. There are certain parallels to be drawn between these portraits and selfies in our age of instant, digital cameras—they serve the same purpose. The importance doesn’t rest in what’s happening in the photo, but in the subject. However, when one thinks about photos as documents of history, even if they’re not depicting a well-known historical event, one can think about not just what’s going on inside the photo, but what’s going on in the world around that photo. Compiling photos from similar time periods can help you piece together foreign places. Social and political movements can cause people to make similar art and take similar photographs—the shared experiences of a group can influence a whole generation and their ways of thinking. Textbooks can easily miss out on depicting the way history has impacted individuals, but experiencing history through a lens makes the intangible, tangible, and the inaccessible, accessible. Conversely, capturing individuals in the context of different societies shows the universally human responses to situations, despite the circumstances. Two pieces framed together in this section portray two couples: one from the early 2000’s of a young pair posing by a fountain with flowers, and the other of a middle-aged couple posing on the beach, superimposed above the ocean. Although the individuals are from different worlds with different historical settings, they both display the same human response to being in love: a desire to capture their bond as couples.