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Exploring Patti Smith's personal Polaroid collection


For more than 50 years now Patti Smith has channelled her artistry through as many means as she can possibly relate to, the punk poet meticulously battering her way through music, art and literature with a mindset of pure determination.

Smith’s unique relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, which began around 1967, kicked off her close association with photography and the ability to translate her creativity through a lens.

While Mapplethorpe took extensive and varying images of Smith throughout their time together, Smith had become drawn to the use of Polaroid images and, for the better part of 40 years, has documented her life through this medium.

Her influences, ranging from Mapplethorpe or close friend Andy Warhol—who himself focused heavily on the use of Polaroid—Smith was in good company when it came to exploring this avenue. In fact, the extraordinary German filmmaker Wim Wenders kept an extensive Polaroid diary himself and, when he finally decided to give it up, passed on his final camera to his close friend Smith who was tasked with carrying on its work: “Hers was old and damaged and letting the light in,” he says. “I had the same camera. I was never going to use it any more.”

A few years ago Smith decided to collect 100 of her personal photographs to go on show at Robert Miller Gallery in New York and, following that, she put together an exhibition called ‘Land 250; at Fondation Cartier pour lart contemporain, Paris.

“I take my camera everywhere I go, especially when I’m touring with the band,” Smith in an old interview with The Guardian. “It’s hard for me to find the solitude I need for writing when I’m travelling, but with my camera, I’ve been able to take a little walk – visit a graveyard, look at statues or architecture – and if I get a picture I like, I feel like I’ve accomplished something,” she added.

“I don’t consider myself a photographer,” she continued. “I take lots of photographs; it’s a part of my life. But I think of myself as an amateur. There’s nothing wrong with being an amateur. I take them with all the photography knowledge I have and with a certain aesthetic, but I wouldn’t compare myself to people who devote their whole life principally to photography.”

“The need for immediacy drew me again to the Polaroid. I chose a vintage Land 100.”

Below, see a few examples of Smith’s work:

(All images via Lens Culture)