January 3, 2018

Close-up with the New Originals

On the night of December 6th, 2017, a buzzing crowd filled the Chesterfield Gallery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The clean, cozy space brimmed with people, attracting the inquisitive glances of passers-by. The big smiles and celebratory vibes – captured across phones, DSLRs and Polaroid cameras – lasted long into the night. There are projects we do because they are fun. There are projects we do because they are beautiful. And there are projects we do because they are important. The New Originals project, which culminated in the exhibition launch we just described, was a special combination of all three.

Video directed by with additional cinematography by
@daemgen. Cinematography & Editing by @randrosenberg.

Every Polaroid picture is an original. It can’t be replicated or re-posted. You can hold it in your hand, or hand it to someone to hold. But who are the original characters that often in appear in these images? And who are the original artists on the other side of the lens? With the New Originals, we had a chance to bring photographers and subjects alike into focus. And to do it, we partnered with a truly original artist who launched his photography career with the help of instant analog film.

Between 1998-2003, Ryan McGinley shot over 10,000 Polaroid photos. It was this body of work that contributed to him becoming the youngest artist to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2003. It makes sense that over a decade later, he would help us discover a new generation of instant photographers.

Photo: Kris Mae
Photo: Kris Mae
Photo: Kris Mae
Photo: Kris Mae
Photo: Kris Mae
Photo: Kris Mae

To start, McGinley chose 5 photographers to be the faces of the New Originals. Marcus Branch, Rochelle Brockington, Myles Loftin, Sabrina Santiago and Hunter Abrams all use photography in distinct, expectation-shattering ways. We gave each of them a OneStep 2 camera and film for them to create all the originals they could. And create they did.

But part of the beauty of Polaroid photography is that it lets anyone create an original image, anywhere, at any time. That’s why we launched the #NewOriginals social media contest, too. We invited everyone to submit one Polaroid image in which they had captured an original character. And Ryan McGinley would choose 5 images and photographers to feature in our limited edition New Originals ‘zine (we threw in a new OneStep 2 camera and film for good measure).

Photo: Kris Mae
Photo: Kris Mae
Photo: Kris Mae
Photo: Kris Mae

We received thousands of entries, from all over the planet. The images depicted grandmothers and best friends, pets and partners in crime, children and colleagues. We still have no idea how McGinley narrowed it down to 5, but he did. The winners were a collection of image-makers from different countries, each with a perspective unique unto themselves. They are Zareeq Azmil, Roi Dolev, Jonathan Mora, Philip Hight and Brian Bruno.

The exhibition at Chesterfield Gallery, which ran for 3 days, featured the new work that Branch, Brockington, Loftin, Santiago and Abrams created using the new OneStep 2. And it was there that we also introduced our social contest winners to the world, by handing out as many copies of the limited edition New Originals ‘zine as possible.

Photo: Kris Mae
Photo: Kris Mae
Photo: Kris Mae

Thanks to all the originals out there. We couldn’t have done it without you.