The artist Mickalene Thomas, best known for her vibrant paintings of women in lushly patterned living spaces, owns some 15 Polaroid cameras. She has seven or eight of the brand’s bellow-lensed Land Cameras in different colors. Her partner, the art consultant and collector Racquel Chevremont — who often opens the fridge in the couple’s Chelsea home in New York only to find packs of film — gifted her an SX-70 for a recent birthday. And when Thomas travels, she scours Salvation Army stores for other models to add to her collection.
Not only does Thomas use the cameras routinely in her practice — making portraits that she sometimes modifies by peeling back the images’ edges and bleaching the negatives — but she also enjoys them as design objects and amusing additions to a party. “They introduce a sense of play,” she says. “It becomes D.I.Y. almost. You don’t have to be a professional photographer” — but it helps. (An exhibition of Thomas’s photographic work will go on display at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle on July 14.) For T’s art issue, we sent Thomas a Polaroid camera of our own and asked her to document a week in her life. “I spent a lot of time with my friends, and I really wanted to capture them,” she explains of the images below. The project was such fun, she says, that it inspired her to buy yet another camera.