Polaroid and Magnum Photos Join Forces to Celebrate Imperfection

A tryptich photograph: on the left, a family having a picnic in the mountains; in the center, a man in a cap posing for a portrait; on the right, two women seated at a table, looking at the camera. The caption under the left image reads "Men family on a picknick.

Two stalwart names in photography, Polaroid and Magnum Photos, have launched a collaborative partnership, “The Next Imperfectionists,” to discover the next generation of photographic storytellers and showcase the creative possibilities of instant photography.

As part of the partnership, the first ever between Polaroid and Magnum, renowned Magnum Photographers Jim Goldberg, Newsha Tavakolian, and Enri Canaj used the Polaroid I-2 instant camera as part of new black-and-white photo projects.

Polaroid I-2 instant camera
Polaroid I-2

“Photographing with the Polaroid I-2 is a unique experience. Its slow process requires time to interact with the subject, light, and angle before pressing the button, making it special to me,” says Canaj, who used the Polaroid camera to explore cultural, societal, and economic shifts in his project “Albania Homecoming.”

A black-and-white photograph shows an elderly man wearing a hat and a suit sitting at a wooden table. He is intently looking at a chessboard with pieces in play. The background features a wall with significant peeling paint.
© Enri Canaj
A black and white photo of an older woman leaning on a wooden chair with one hand on her hip. She wears a floral-patterned blouse, a matching skirt, and a headscarf. Her expression is stoic, and she stands in a room with blurry, indeterminate furnishings in the background.
© Enri Canaj
A black and white photograph shows a small parked car in a partially deserted area between modern and older buildings. The modern building has a curved facade with circular windows, while the older building appears worn with visible cables overhead.
© Enri Canaj

Tavakolian’s “Mount Damavand Community” project looks at two remote communities living around Iran’s Mount Damavand, the highest peak of the Middle East and West Asia. “While you’d expect sheepherders and nomads, those living around the crown of Iran’s plateau come from all layers of society,” the photographer says. Just two hours from Iran’s capital, Tehran, the region invites people who want to be very close to nature and avoid the hustle and bustle of the major metropolitan area.

A black and white image depicting a solitary tree standing next to a curved road sign in a mountainous area with a cloudy sky. There is a small structure to the right, and string lights are visible in the background. Handwritten text at the bottom reads "A lonely tree.
© Newsha Tavakolian
A woman sits outdoors in a chair, smiling as she holds a small baby ostrich in both hands. She is wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a light-colored dress. Mountains and open fields serve as the background. Handwritten text at the bottom reads, "She loves her baby ostriches.
© Newsha Tavakolian
Black and white photo of a person with curly hair wearing a jacket, standing on a path that winds through a mountainous landscape. The person is looking to the left, with mist-shrouded mountains in the background.
© Newsha Tavakolian

Goldberg’s “Augusta Community” project looks at the hidden spirit of the American South through its residents. Goldberg, inspired by Michael Disfarmer’s Heber Springs portraits, as well as the White River portraits by photographers Hugo and Gayne Preller, photographed a diverse range of people and became ingrained in small, local communities.

A young person stands outside in a grassy area, wearing a dress and glasses, with a handwritten note above their head that reads: "my name's madison and I am 15 years old I want to be an anesthesiologist and help people be normal. I look Decent." The note is surrounded by a colorful, scribbled border.
© Jim Goldberg
A black-and-white portrait of a person with text overlaying the image. The text reads: "I wish... I looked normal & had a straight nose that ain't been broken 8 times. I hate this picture." An arrow points to the person's nose.
© Jim Goldberg
A black-and-white photograph of an elderly man with a camera bag over his shoulder. He stands in front of a handwritten note on a whiteboard describing his battle with cancer and limited time to live. The note mentions prayer and addresses in blue and red ink.
© Jim Goldberg

“We are thrilled to announce an exciting new partnership with Polaroid. By combining the unique visions of Magnum photographers with the tangible and meaningful medium of Polaroid photography, we are ready to explore new realms of creativity and spontaneity,” says Marine Merindol, Magnum Photos COO. “This collaboration promises to redefine the boundaries of instant photography, bringing unparalleled authenticity and immediacy to our storytelling, and to more photographers out there.”

Through the Magnum Photos and Polaroid partnership, the companies hope to inspire photographers to embrace imperfection and focus on the story.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect a life, nor a perfect image,” says Tavakolian.

“Beauty isn’t just in pretty moments; it’s in the moments you can’t plan for, in mistakes, in our everyday. It’s everywhere. That’s what I truly believe,” adds Goldberg.

Polaroid believes its instant cameras reflect this spirit of spontaneity. Its I-2 camera, the first instant camera with built-in manual controls, is a compelling tool for talented photographers who are focused more on capturing moments than pure image quality.

An image of a white car with the driver's door open in a rocky, mountainous landscape. The photograph is displayed as a Polaroid on a yellow background with texts: "Open Call," "polaroid," and "MAGNUM.

Polaroid also wants to see what all photographers can do. Until August 12, 2024, photographers can submit their portfolio (digital, analog, or Polaroid) and an idea for an empathy-inspired story to Polaroid. Selected photographers can win a Polaroid I-2 camera, a selection of film, and a mentorship from Magnum photographers. Winners will be announced on August 26.

Image credits: Polaroid and Magnum Photos. Featured image, from left to right: Newsha Tavakolian, Jim Goldberg, and Enri Canaj.