January 30, 2015

I am a huge fan of Polaroid cameras.

In fact, the first camera I ever owned was a Polaroid camera, given to me in 1976, the year I turned 12.  I still have the first photograph that I ever took: my backyard with my dogs (I had 9 at the time–yes, 9!) running around in various parts of the yard.  It wasn’t cohesive or really that interesting, though the grass was a beautiful dark green and it looked like a lovely day.  None of the dogs are looking at me and because it was from a distance, some of them were just little tiny dots in the yard.  But the point is this:  I have the first photo that I ever took.  And as a photographer, that’s pretty neat to me.

I miss Polaroid film and was quite sad when it ceased production.  Actually, a better word than sad would be disbelief.  I was in disbelief. Literally.  I didn’t believe it was going to happen. I had just gotten a new (old) SX-70 and was keen to start learning how to manipulate the film.  I sincerely did not believe that something that was such a staple in American culture since the 1970s was going to go away.  So I didn’t panic. I didn’t hoard film.  I didn’t go on forums and cry due to my outrage.  I didn’t do anything.

And then it was gone.  Really.  Gone.

Oh. What do I do now?

Fortunately not everyone remained in a blissful state of disbelief and some fine folks tried to save Polaroid film. And when they didn’t save it, they recreated it.  If you haven’t seen it,  I urge you to watch the wonderful documentary Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film.  It’s really entertaining and tells the story of the Impossible Project, the ones who tried to recreate Polaroid film for those of us who weren’t ready for it to go away.  It’s also gives a great history of Polaroid and its fearless leader, Edwin H. Land.

Do I like Impossible’s recreated version of Polaroid film?  It’s okay.  I find it to be much less of a sure thing and more hit-or-miss. It’s not Polaroid by any means, but it’s getting there.  It’s way more expensive than Polaroid film was, but I will continue to support it because they are trying and they cared enough about instant photography not to let it die.  I just ordered two more packs of it today after watching the film again last night with my photography students. I was re-inspired.

It’s important to note another company who is keeping instant photography going: Fuji. The Fujifilm INSTAX 210 camera is great and the photo quality is very similar to old Polaroid film.  It’s cheaper, too, less than a dollar per photo compared to about 3.00 per photo with Impossible film.

So my love of instant photography continues some 39 years after I snapped my first photo and heard that wonderful whir of my Polaroid camera as the picture popped out. I will continue to support it as long as I can.

I owe Mr. Land a lot, after all.

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