Polaroid rage

polaroid-jp-smI’ve always loved Polaroid cameras. But apparently Polaroid didn’t love them as much as I did, because they stopped making film in 2008. That was bad news for everyone involved, or at least for me, and when I realized that the film was no longer on every drugstore shelf in the free world, I accepted the inevitable, sold my wonderful Spectra Pro and forgot about the whole thing.

Well, I forgot about it until I watched a documentary called Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film. That’s when I learned that a magnificent lunatic named “Doc” bought up the equipment in the last working Polaroid film factory somewhere in the Netherlands, put together a team of like-minded visionaries and set out to recreate instant film.

They had to recreate it from scratch, which is a pretty daunting task considering that a billion dollars worth of research and development went in to creating the film in the first place. They couldn’t just start using the old Polaroid formula because a lot of the ingredients were made specifically for Polaroid, and when Polaroid stopped making film, those suppliers stopped making the ingredients. It was such a daunting task that they named themselves The Impossible Project.

Well, they had me right there.

But like a tiny handful of improbable, impossible things, it actually happened: they created a new instant film. It ain’t Polaroid film – it’s wonky and weird and sensitive and it takes almost an hour to develop a color picture (the black and white develops in about 10 minutes). But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. I know it works because about 10 minutes after I finished watching the documentary I hit eBay and scooped up a nice, minty Spectra camera for $40, then went over to the Impossible Project site to get some of their miracle film.

And because everything I do turns out weird, I somehow wound up with two more brand-new-old-stock Spectra cameras, so now I have three of them. Oh, and I just bought a case of real, actual Polaroid Spectra film – which expired in 2009 – so I have no idea how that’s going to pan out.

But I don’t really care how it pans out. Between the expired Polaroid film and the new Impossible film (and the ridiculous surplus of cameras), I’m all set. Life is funny and it should be documented in all its insignificant glory. The humble Polaroid camera is the perfect tool for that job.

I also have to say that it fills me with joy that there are still people in the world who think that weird things are worth saving. Whether it’s letterpress, whales, hand-made tacos or Polaroid film. Sometimes things don’t make any sense, and everyone throws up their hands and says, “Whatever,” and we are all slightly less for the loss.

But then, when we’re really lucky, a lone nut pokes their head up and says, “Wait a minute…”

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My Spectra is bigger than yours


4 Responses
  • Justine Hurder Reply

    that is a very gemma pose!

    so what’s the difference between lomo instant cameras and polaroids? i just got a lomo camera through a kickstarter project, and i already know you’re gonna make fun of me for it (i’m sure you already ranted somewhere about lomos) but i still don’t know the difference??

  • Michael Phillips Reply

    I did rant about lomo (because I love what they are doing):
    https://mjpbooks.com/blog/i-can-see-for-miles-but-its-kind-of-blurry-up-ahead/
    We have about half a dozen Holgas that we got from lomo, so I’m familiar with them.

    The lomo instants use Fuji instant film which is a lot smaller than the Polaroid film. It’s like business card size, right? I’ve never seen any Fuji instant pictures so I don’t know about the color or anything. But Polaroid has a very distinctive color palette. What’s the Kickstarter project? I’d like to see it.

  • Justine Hurder Reply

    shit, i thought you were ANTI holga/lomo etc, for some reason!

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lomography/the-lomoinstant-camera (i got the $79 white one, comes with a portrait lens and some color filters)

    i thought an instant camera would be fun for documenting trips – i love my canon dslr, it takes great pics very easily, but it’s larger and heavy and expensive, and i never end up printing out the photos. i have a terrible memory and would like to kept scrapbook-type things to mark time, but i just never get round to it (case in point: bought a beautiful handmade blank book in paris to document our trip, but of course by the time we got home, and settled back and got back into routines, it just fell to the wayside).

    my new idea is to just buy some nice loose leaf paper wherever we travel and make the document as we go along, which the lomo is perfect for. they are tiny though, but that’s ok for what i want to use it for.

    i also bought myself an olympus XA2 point and shoot 35mm F/2.8 camera w/ A16 Flash, since it’s light and compact, and apparently a great p&s. who knows if i’ll ever bother developing the film, but i figured carrying two light-weight – and cheap – cameras while travelling is better than one big expensive one (which i always had to put in my carry-on).

    i thought fuji instant film was expensive about a $1 a pop, but that impossible project stuff is something like $3 per pic!

  • Michael Phillips Reply

    Ah, yeah, I saw that camera on the Lomo site a couple of weeks ago. We had a camera that shot that small instant film years ago, but the pics were just too small for me. I don’t think we shot more than two packs. But instant is good, however you do it. The instant gratification never gets old. And it sounds perfect for keeping a running record of a trip, like you describe.

    You’re right about digital, no one ever prints those, and even if you do, the prints don’t last very long. I was just looking at some Polaroids I took on tour with a band in 1981 and they’re still as good as they ever were. No fading or degrading. Once those Polaroids are dry they last forever. But prints of digital that we took five years ago are faded to shit. There’s a big difference between the dyes and chemicals used in photos and the ink used to print digital. Even the archival stuff – are we gong to have it in 50 or 100 years? Something tells me we won’t.

    A point and shoot 35mm is still unbeatable for traveling. I have a Minolta that I got…yeesh, 33 years ago – ha! And I still use it. Not as much as I used to, but it always has film in it. The great thing about shooting film or Polaroid is you are more thoughtful and careful about what you shoot, since it’s a limited resource. Unlike the 4000 pictures you can probably take on your Canon.

    The Impossible film is expensive. But then it’s expensive to get the medium format Holga film developed too. Most of those Lomo cameras use medium format. To me those things are more about the feel you get from the pictures. I like the imperfection. The case of Polaroid film I bought (that I think the post office has lost) works out to about $1.50 a picture. But that film was always expensive, even when it was available everywhere. I don’t mind paying the Impossible film prices because I feel like that money supports a completely unrealistic and ridiculous cause, and I want to see them keep going. I don’t know if I can take a second death of Polaroid. 😉 Though it’s probably inevitable eventually. It’s just cool to have this stay of execution.

 

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