The Impossible Polaroid Resurrection
by Pamela Buchignani
Those of us who grew up in any decade before the 90’s, remember the ritual that was considered ‘instant photography’ in the pre-digital era:
The wildly inaccurate viewfinder
The sound of the camera pushing out a single square of strange-smelling film displaying milky, mysterious nothingness
Fanning it in the breeze, waiting — until an image slowly appeared
It truly seemed like magic: it was Polaroid.
Calling this process ‘instant’ in today’s world is laughable. But at the time — compared to going to the photo counter in the drug store, or the little kiosk that sat in the grocery store parking lot, turning in your film canister and coming back a week later — it really was.
And the fact that the one single photograph was all that you could ever have – no multiple re-shoots (with only 10 shots per pack of film), no duplicates that you could order, no scanners to digitally record your photo or Photoshop to fix the imperfections – just the one single photo square you physically held in your hand that captured one moment in time, complete with all its flaws – made it that much more magical.
Polaroid film and cameras were first invented in 1948 – a breakthrough toted as the first “self-developing film” – a camera and portable darkroom all in one!
As it does, the world changed, and in 2008 Polaroid announced it would stop production of instant film. Later that same year, The Impossible Project purchased Polaroid’s old factory and equipment in the Netherlands – complete with 10 former Polaroid employees – and resumed manufacturing instant film with their own twist.
Last month, I was lucky enough to happen upon Impossible on the Road during one of my regular visits to one of the best places on earth — Freestyle Photo in Hollywood. The Impossible Project had set up shop in an Airstream Trailer in Freestyle’s parking lot, and showed enthusiastic film nerds like myself how to make Polariod emulsion transfers (imagine your favorite Polariod on a piece of wood, glass or art paper) and introduced us to the Impossible Instant Lab (which looks a bit like an old piece of darkroom equipment), that gets your favorite iPhone images onto Polaroid (and Impossible) films.
Thank you, Impossible Project and Freestyle Photo, for resurrecting and continuing to supply film and darkroom toys to the [mini?] masses, and not allowing one of the coolest image-capturing chemical technologies to go the way of the dinosaur.
Because sometimes, there is something better than ‘instant’ satisfaction, even if you only have to wait a few minutes for it – those few minutes just might make you appreciate the results that much more.
The Impossible Project’s Airstream continues its tour around the country this summer – click here to see if it’s coming to a city near you, or check out their online shop if you want to load up that old Polaroid camera you still have lying around.
You can also pick up some Impossible film at Freestyle Photo in person in Hollywood or online and indulge your inner darkroom nerd while you are there. They have just about anything that film, darkroom and even digital junkies could ever want, and answer all your questions with passion, knowledge and enthusiasm.
For additional images, please log onto “The Impossible Polaroid Resurrection” on Flickr.Tags: Freestyle Photo, Hollywood, Impossible on the Road, Pamela Buchignani, Photography, Polaroid, The Impossible Project