I’m excited to share my Christmas gift with you guys, because I can see the potential for young photographers out there to have some fun with it. Gifted or not, this is one cool toy.
You remember your old Polaroid camera, right? The one that spit out film that magically grew an image that you didn’t have to wait for the drugstore to develop, that you didn’t lose in a file of digital prints lurking on your phone? That one. The one gathering dust in your basement if you’re lucky.
Don’t get rid of it, because instant film is back in a wonderful, artistic way.
I’ve been following the Impossible Project for a while – ever since Polaroid announced that they were closing shop and shutting down factories. There was an instant outcry because many artists used Polaroids in their art. There wasn’t anything else like it – and there was nothing to replace it. End of an era, throw the cameras away.
Then the Impossible Project happened. A group of people got together – crowd funding if you will – and bought a Polaroid factory with all the equipment. With the help of former Polaroid employees they reverse engineered Polaroid’s iconic process. Photographers helped test it – they went through many chemical iterations with different effects (not always good) and there was a thriving, wonderful group effort to push this to fruition.
And they did it. They came up with a good, reliable instant film that is very similar to Polaroid but isn’t quite the same. For example, it’s super sensitive to UV light. The images will degrade if exposed to UV light.
Not only did they accomplish their goals, the Impossible Project actually bought out Polaroid – becoming Polaroid Originals. They manufacture their own cameras now for the film (because the old ones are more difficult to come by these days) and they have a wide range of different films that are absolutely amazing! Duotone film? Not a problem. Black and white film? They have that too. And obviously, the classic color film.
Of course, they’re not cheap. The film for the classic 600 camera runs about $19 per 8 pack. If you have one of the newer i-Type cameras with an integrated battery, that film is a bit less expensive.
I love it. I absolutely love it. This is going to be the start of my next art project – because I’m going to shoot B&W film, scan it in, and use it to print cyanotypes. I would love it if they made the classic positive/negative peel film but the CEO has already stated it’s too technically difficult for them to attempt. (For you large format camera types, a different company came up with the 4×5 peel film for the Polaroid backs and is working the kinks out.)
So why is this film/camera so interesting? From an artist’ perspective, it’s all about focus. The camera – and film – forces you to pick carefully and deliberately before you shoot an image. No more punching the button to take 135 images and then wading through to find the one with the best look. No, you set it up, you carefully chose, and you take the shot. It’s deliberate. It’s important. It’s meaningful in a way that digital cameras have erased.
So is the format: the classic square frame. I love square photographs. My little Diana camera that I used in college (oh, the days of light leaks and winding film!) produced wonderful square images that I fell in love with. So did my Brownie camera, but that one was more difficult (the thing had to be loaded in a darkroom, and I only had one peg that fit.) Instant film – especially B&W film – allows me to get that look and the soft image without having to bang around in a darkroom swearing at film reels. Did you know that sweat and tears will ruin film? Found that out the hard way.
So for all the budding photographers out there, dust off grandma’s old Polaroid camera and check it out. It just might be the thing you’re looking for. That and a boatload of money (which is why this was my Christmas gift!)
Want to see more? Here’s a short video about the Impossible Project (not fully child appropriate, slight nudity/potentially offensive art.)
(Note: this film has been around for a little while and is even available on //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=2e07-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=B075H4WWP1&asins=B075H4WWP1&linkId=16082983aab3c5e801ff3b8e05553468&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff“>Amazon (this link will take you to Amazon, please read my disclosure policy at the bottom of the page.) It’s just the first time I’ve had a chance to test it – and write about it!)