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Keepsakes of the City: The Polaroid Gallery Show

Photographer Sara Stubblefield is this month’s 2nd Friday guest at Oscar Luis Martinez Fine Art Gallery-Studio in Pilsen at 1841 S. Halsted. For the past six months, Stubblefield has embarked on a project to document Chicago’s changing urban landscape using Polaroids. Her images of street art and architectural fragments have a certain glow to them, the ethereal quality of a surfacing memory that we have come to associate with the Polaroid—now re-contextualized within a fine art setting. Alone, the Polaroids are a portable fragment of one artist’s excursions in Chicago. As a whole, they offer a glimpse at Chicago itself as it both decays and rises up to bear witness to its own ephemeral beauty. I sent Stubblefield a few quick questions as she prepares for her Polaroid Gallery Show, which opens up on Friday, September 13th at 6:00 PM. 

JP: Your images for this show are Polaroids of places in Chicago. Can you describe them a little more and tell me how you selected what to photograph and what to include in your show?

SS: Most of my Polaroids are of the west and south neighborhoods of Chicago, mainly consisting of urban street landscape. I did not start this project with a specific theme in mind, but I do find myself attracted to urban decay and graffiti, things that are constantly changing and in my opinion, need to be documented.

A few untitled images from the Polaroid Gallery Show. Photos courtesy of Sara Stubblefield.

JP: Why did you decide to use the Polaroid as a medium to capture images of Chicago? Imagine I am asking you this in my best snobby arts person voice: Yes, hmmm, yes…Is digital photography passé? A thing of iPhones and Instagram? What can Polaroids offer viewers that other photography mediums can’t?

SS: I am a lover of everything analog and vintage. That being said, Polaroids are like gold to me. They offer so much that other mediums can’t… a moment caught and developed in an instant, unreplicable and uncontrollable, one of a kind, already framed, vintagesque image. One views my show knowing that is exactly how I took each of the images, no editing involved- I am exposing all of my flaws. Of course I Instagram; it’s fun and a great way to network and meet fellow artists. Although I choose and prefer shooting analog, it still needs to be transferred to digital to share with the world via the internet. This show is an exception. 

JP: What is your favorite image in the show? What makes it your favorite?

SS: Any artist knows that is an extremely hard question to answer. I almost want to say they are all my favorites. I cannot choose a favorite, because it is all together that they become something really beautiful to me. I have had these Polaroids stored in little books for months now and it wasn’t until I put them all up on the wall that I truly fell in love with each one.

JP: Do you want people at your show to think of these as keepsakes and mementos? Does this make your show itself a tour of Chicago that you want viewers to remember?

SS: Definitely. Each Polaroid on display represents a moment I shared with the city I love, a memory I will cherish forever. I can only hope that others will cherish them as well.

JP: Is this an ongoing project, and if so, what do you envision it developing into?

SS: Yes, I will continue to take Polaroids of new areas around the city, or the same areas with new construction or graffiti. Eventually I want to publish an all Polaroid book. For now I am taking a break from Polaroids and working on panoramas, which I hope to be my next show.

Polaroid Gallery Show will be on view at Oscar Luis Martinez Fine Art Gallery-Studio through October 4th. After opening night, viewings will be available on Fridays after 6:00 PM by appointment only. To set up an appointment, please contact


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