Andy Warhol’s silk-screened portraits sell for millions. But many of the moments captured in these portraits first emerged from a Polaroid camera that cost less than twenty dollars.
Warhol often referred to his Polaroid camera as his ‘date’ or his ‘pen and pencil’, and it was with him night and day. Both out on the streets and in the Factory itself, photography was Warhol’s diary of choice, documenting the world around him and the people within it. However, his photography – whether the photo-booth strips, Polaroids or his 35mm camera’s unique silver gelatin prints – is less studied and celebrated than the rest of his artistic output, despite being central to his art-making process and the source material for his work.
James R. (‘Jim’) Hedges, IV has been an active art collector and patron for over 25 years. With a specialized focus on Andy Warhol’s photography, Jim has acquired and placed more Warhol photography than any other collector, private dealer or gallery in the world. He believes that Warhol’s 35mm black-and-white photography probably reveals more about Andy’s life, obsessions and fascinations than any other part of his work. For Hedges, the significance of the photos is the cozy conspiracy between famous types on either side of the lens. “The subjects allowed this interaction, and they saw the value of it,” says Hedges. “It’s a dialogue with the artist.”
And, in Jim’s hands, these photographs become more than art; they’re an incredible investment. If you consider Warhol as a currency, you have these unique pieces of art, never diluted by 250 reprints, forever iconic and representing a valuable asset. If one were looking for a financial safe harbor in uncertain times, owning Warhol’s photographs could be seen as the most culturally interesting description of blue-chip diversification out there.
The Polaroid image is a uniquely magical thing. It’s a moment in time; captured in light and never to be repeated, with something of an instant nostalgia in the raw immediacy. In the hands of Andy Warhol, Polaroid photos became enigmatic glimpses into his extraordinary life and vision. But they’re also more than a memory because they were there; they were part of that moment. And they’re still here, without filter or digitization, as part of our history. The Andy Warhol Polaroids are pieces of art; instant Warhol originals.