In 1972, Polaroid introduced the SX-70, a fully automatic, motorized unit that ejected a square print from the front. The high technology removed the barriers of speed and distribution between the photographer and the photo. Polaroid SX-70 film produced a fully developed print in about one minute. Instant gratification and simplicity were key for David Robinson who purchased the camera. The simplicity of the SX-70 system belied its technical complexity. Within the 2 millimeter thick film unit was a sandwich of thin polymer sheets, a positive image-receiving sheet, reagent, timing and light reflecting layers, and the tri-color negative -17 layers. When mechanically pushed through a roller system, the reagent housed in the iconic white frame spread evenly across the 17 separate layers of emulsion. He experimented with both SX-70 film and SX-70 Time zero film which had a strong following with artists who used it for image manipulation.
When the image forms on an instant photo, the developer dye has the basic consistency of wet ink. "Seeing others rubbing and blurring the emulsion inspired me. At first, I used architect's tape suspended on film or taped to the film pack and exposed. With instant film I was able to create photos that were difficult to accomplish with traditional photography," David Robinson said. Finding abstraction in the ordinary, he shot hundreds of photos of scrambled TV broadcasts and test patterns worldwide accumulating ideas. This experimentation was the catalyst for designing the album cover for The Cars, Complete First Greatest Hits. His visual acuity coupled with a penchant for sequences are evident in the works selected for this exhibition.
Polaroid inventor Edwin Land believed that aesthetic abilities were equal in importance to scientific knowledge. He hired several art historians to work for the company, worked closely with arts professionals and challenged his staff to build films and cameras to the exacting demands of professional artists. Polaroid successfully bridged ideals in both scientific research and the arts. In the late 1970's the Polaroid line introduced the 20x24 studio camera. Few were made; these giant cameras shoot massive 20 inch by 24 inch exposures. Polaroid built a studio on Ames Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts that contained two studios and a gallery to exhibit the images. Initially, they invited a number of select photographers to experiment with the cameras, in exchange for donating images to the Polaroid Collection. These artists received free 100 film packs and studio space. David Robinson was invited and created a series of TV test patterns and portraits of musician, G.E. Smith, one which became the cover art for Smith's In the World album. The Polaroid Artists Corporate Collection grew to 16,000 prints by 120 recognized masters including Ansel Adams, William Wegman, and Andy Warhol.
David Robinson is a native of the Boston area. He is the artistic director, and drummer for the Boston-based band The Cars, responsible for logo, album cover and stage set designs. "If music industry success had not happened, I may have become an architect, or portrait painter," David Robinson said. He resides in Rockport, Massachusetts and makes jewelry sold alongside antiques and paintings in his gallery, Windemere Art and Antiques.