Shake It Like A Polaroid Picture

by Beth Newman,, October 30, 2009

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This summer, while sitting in the living room of my friend's house (this was probably the 20th night in a row we ended up in this room at night), my friend's mom brought us her old photo albums from when she was a teenager.

For a few years now, I have had an obsession with old photographs, especially those involving friends and family members. I found a treasure trove of old photographs at, of course, my grandmother's house that date back to the early 30's and 40's. But with the album my friend's mother showed me, something sparked in me and my friends. Who wants to show their kids Facebook and myspace picture albums? In 20 and 30 years from now, I want to sit down on the floor with my children and show them a real photo album of pictures printed on real photo paper, with little hand written captions and drawings. And that is what brought me to my new found obsessions: Polaroid.

Yea, I'm a little late on the band wagon, especially since film and cameras were put out of productions last year. But they truly were an art form. I'm not just talking about one of those cult-ish, hipster/indie, artsy folk ways. I'm talking about the ingenuity and genius behind those little 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 pictures.

In a day and age when everything needs to be instant, why remove Polaroid? Just because we live in the digital age, doesn't mean we need to remove everything physical. Digital cameras are not instant. Sure you can see what they look like instantly on the screen on the back, but you still need to go home and upload them to your computer and various social networking websites. Even disposable cameras weren't instant. You needed to bring the camera to a shop and pay for it to be developed and printed. But with Polaroid cameras, you put the film in, click the button, and within a minute or so, you had your picture. So what if they weren't taken in HD quality or the lenses didn't have 500000x zoom. How many people actually need those aspects in a camera? Besides professional commercial and sports photographers, how much does a person need in a camera?

When Polaroid announced that they were discontinuing their line of instant cameras and film, the world took a heavy blow. It wasn't only the artists and nostalgic teens/adults that used them. The fashion and modeling world utilized the instant photographs when needing hair and make-up samples for future reference. And since this announcement, prices of the film has sky rocketed. My grandmother gave me her old Polaroid camera and in hopes of taking really cool pictures this summer I checked out prices on the internet, mainly eBay. What I found is that not only was I probably not going to be taking many pictures with my "new" camera, but I would probably go broke trying to feed this obsession within a few months. One would think that with the demand for the Polaroid film going up and up and the reserves running low, that polaroid would want to fill the void and start production up again.

So as I hit a wall, metaphorically, with my Polaroid obsession I set out on the internet to look for options. After all I wasn't giving up on my far off dream of photo albums that could be displayed on a shelf, not just a computer screen. So of course I hit the internet in search of ways to feed this new obsession. In my searches I stumbled across a website called The Impossible Project. This site is run by an actual team of specialists whose goal is to reinvent and re-establish the instant film market. They saw a niche in the market and struck while the iron was still hot.

The production of instant film only ended in June of 2008 and the moment the announcement was made, people began stocking up on film like the Apocalypse was coming. So it was clear that there was a large gaping hole in the photography world without Polaroid instant film and cameras. The team has signed a 10 year lease on a factory building and has committed themselves to working this mystery out. They not only want to reinvent but to make better what already existed. There is even a section for people to submit their help. There is a long list of roadblocks ahead of the team and they welcome help from all people.

So it seemed that I had found an answer to my obsession, but it was so far off. How can I wait for a year for something that might not even happen? I felt almost defeated. I went back to the internet and found what I'm hoping will be my salvation. Fuji Film has recently come out with 2 instant film cameras. They are different from the Polaroid cameras, but the concept is the same. Instant film is inserted into the camera, which is about the size of a large digital camera from a few years ago, and once a picture is taken, it is printed out of the top. Depending on which version of the camera it is, the printed pictures are either about the size of a credit card, 4X2, or a little smaller, about 1x2.5. Smaller than the Polaroid, yes, but still serves the same purpose. No need to upload them and print them out of a computer. No need to bring a roll of film and have it be developed at the nearest Walgreen's. Just pure, instant pictures. Wonderful. What could be better?

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