Tom Sachs’ Cameras

For many years, a small but significant part of Tom Sachs’s production has dealt with cameras. Here are a few of the twelve works, from 1972 to the present, that not only explore the camera as both sculptural and functional object, but, perhaps more importantly, chart the course that photography and the globalization of precision manufacturing has taken over the past century.

The exhibition, which showed in 2009 at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum,
 includes the earliest existing work by the artist, a clay replica of a Nikon SLR camera that Sachs made when he was eight years old as a gift to his father. This contrasts with his recent elegy to the now-defunct Polaroid Corporation: a fully functional “instant” camera that has been cobbled together out of (among other things) a Canon digital camera, a tiny HP inkjet printer, and a battery from a Makita cordless drill.

Sachs’s cameras turn the tables on the usual artistic photographic process, where the image made with the camera is the “art” and the camera itself is merely a tool. Playing off the consumer fetishization of photographic equipment, Sachs’s cameras simultaneously deconstruct the technology of photography while at the same time revealing that these ubiquitous machines are compelling subjects in and of themselves.

Aldrich exhibitions director Richard Klein said, “While Tom is widely known for his do–it–yourself version of Pop appropriation, the Cameras exhibition expands upon his interest in the functional, utilitarian, and socio–economic meaning of objects, rather than their superficial character. This concern is what sets him apart from most other artists working with Pop influences.”

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