A hard-core bunch of imaging technology revivalists is bringing back the Polaroid, so I hear.
Dubbed “The Impossible Project,” the effort is the brainchild of a handful of former Polaroid employees. Their target market? Retro hipsters, evidently. They’ve teamed up with Urban Outfitters to market their new/old films, some of which are new variations on the old Polaroid SX-70 film... and all of which are made on old Polaroid equipment purchased by the Project.
It’s the perfect technology for the Snapshot as Art, at least as evidenced by the photographs posted at the Urban Outfitters Everything Is Possible show site. Old-style analog wet-chemical photographs have a certain... flavor that digital seems to lack. Maybe it’s the very fact that you get what you get when you shoot Polaroid: There’s no post-production image tweakage.
In these days of digital imagery in which every photograph is available instantly, it’s easy to forget just how mind-boggling Polaroid technology was. Instead of taking your film to the corner drugstore and waiting several days for the results - or, for the more adventuresome, spending a couple of hours fiddle-fucking around in a darkroom - you got your picture right away. It was... amazing!
My first exposure (you should excuse the expression) to Polaroid was early on in my Snot-Nose Days. My Uncle Gerry’s brother-in-law Stewie had one of the real old-school jobbies: it was a folding camera with a bellows. You’d shoot your picture, pull a tab, wait sixty seconds, and then open a door in the back to reveal the finished black-and-white picture. You would peel the photo off its backing and then apply a few coats of a pungent-smelling pink neutralizing lacquer, without which it would fade away to oblivion.
Eventually, newer models appeared. You’d take your picture, pull a tab, and the photograph would come along with it - no more opening the back of the camera. Even more exciting, the black-and-white film got better and faster - only ten seconds from snap to finished picture - and there was even color film for those who were patient enough to wait a full minute.
It’s a laughably complicated, Rube Goldberg-like technology by today’s standards, but those of us who carry around a load of nostalgia in our pants still may shed a wistful tear as we remember it.
But the good folks at the Impossible Project are not satisfied with mere wistful memories. They’re bringing back the Polaroid, and I wish them every success. (I’m sure we still have an old SX-70 Model 1 in the basement somewhere.)
Next up: Reviving the daguerreotype. ’Cause if you’re gonna bring back obsolete technology, why not bring one back that combines beautiful results with real health and environmental hazards?