• 04.27.12

A Broken Polaroid Camera Spits Out Amazing Abstract Art

William Miller’s Polaroid SX-70 is broken in all the right places: It warps his film into something resembling abstract art.

New York photographer William Miller thought he scored big when he snapped up an old Polaroid SX-70 at a yard sale for $20. “I’ve always loved this camera,” he says in his artist’s statement. “It is an ingeniously conceived, complicated bundle of gears and switches with dozens of moving parts packed in tight like a chrome and leather pistol.”


One problem: The camera was broken. “It sometimes spills out two pictures at a time and the film often gets stuck in the gears, exposing and mangling them in unpredictable ways,” he says. “The image as it is exposed within the camera becomes pulled and stressed by these violent mechanisms, often to abstraction.”

He thought about returning it. But then he realized he could generate equally, if not more, intriguing images just by letting the defects work their weird, warpy magic.

The photographs in Ruined Polaroids are beautiful mistakes in a very real sense. They’re abstract, painterly, and wildly varied from one shot to the next. “I’ve figured out how to control and accentuate aspects of the camera’s flaws,” Miller says, “but the images themselves are always a surprise. Each one is determined by the idiosyncrasies of the film and the camera.”

Prints are for sale in two sizes, 30 inches by 36 inches, and 58 inches by 45 inches. Contact Miller for pricing.

[Images courtesy of William Miller; h/t It’s Nice That]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.