Arts and Entertainment

Flash back to a time long gone with Polaroid cameras

By Ilana Sivachenko
Published: March 2010

If you were a liberal arts college student or a philosophy major at a state school (because you enjoy the subtle irony), what would be the unrivaled, most significant event of this year?

The return of the classic instant Polaroid film. Instant cameras have been the favorite toys of photographers and artists for decades; however, they are now the chosen companion of hipsters all over the world.

Edwin Land first introduced instant film to the world in 1947. It was a great invention, but the original process of the “instant film was messy and complicated. Years passed, technology advanced, and so did Polaroid’s approach.

Finally, in 1963, pack film was introduced to the consumer market. Unlike the modern camera, however, the sheets simultaneously developed outside the camera; nevertheless, the magic behind a Polaroid picture was born.

By 1967, Polaroid had introduced the accessible and affordable “one-step camera, setting the stage for a revolution.

Projects, such as Jamie Livingston’s “Photo of the Day, proved that a quick picture of a letter or a friend could eventually become one’s magnum opus.

With the mainstream arrival of digital cameras in 1988, photography evolved into a pursuit of perfection.

By way of illustration, public schools, including Newton South, offer digital airbrushing and teeth whitening in their yearbook picture package.

As an art, photography developed into a computer based craft. An amateur with a handy Photoshop program and a good Gaussian Blur could turn any candid picture into a competition-worthy shot.

While Polaroid remained the authority on instant film, its golden years were fading. Polaroid’s attempts to stay relevant, namely partnerships with the Spice Girls, Barbie®, and Taz® were futile. While the portable i-Zone camera, a Polaroid product aimed at teens, gained momentary popularity, sales eventually declined as they did with every Polaroid product.

Finally, in an interview with the Boston Globe in 2008, Polaroid announced the discontinuation of all Polaroid instant film cameras. Developers scrambled to create applications for phones and computers that imitated the iconic Polaroid, but were incapable of producing anything similar to the vignettes, the discoloration, and the allure of the real thing.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, The Impossible Project was born. With an aim to reinvent Polaroid pack film and to restart production, the project acquired Polaroid’s production equipment and signed a 10-year lease for the factory.

The Impossible Project’s mission was to redevelop Polaroid’s instant film into a modern, friendly, and reasonably priced format, one that can be used in existing Polaroid cameras (an estimated one billion in circulation). The Impossible Project will only produce three million film packs a year, aiming at an artistic rather than mass-consumer market.

The main task of The Impossible Project was to innovate the negative sheet of the Polaroid packs.

The negative used by Polaroid is no longer in production and restarting the production would take more than two years. This is because of the discontinuation of a particular color dye molecule needed for the negatives and the fact that the color dye molecules need to age.

Nevertheless, they overcame this obstacle by implementing a new principle of attaching molecules to the silver halide which makes up the light sensitive mechanism in the negative sheet.

Already in production, the Impossible Project has become possible, as the dedicated scientists behind the rebirth of instant Polaroid pictures have pioneered materials that work cohesively.

South photography teacher Robert Bouchal appreciates instant cameras. “I love Polaroid. There are certain things that can only be accomplished with the instant film, he said.

Finally, in an interview with the Boston Globe in 2008, Polaroid an

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