10 February 2012
The past tends to act much like a snake that can bit us in the tail, which can be (surprisingly) serenely blissful or not. When I learned about The Impossible Project that became possible, I was transported to the good ol’ Polaroid days.
In the Lens section are three images that were taken in the mid-1990s; I was obsessed with the process of hand-manipulating the surfaces of each popped-out photograph. My passion for my SX-70s had no limits. Until…suddenly, I realized the safety issue. As I moved the top-layer, emulsions were released. Mostly, the tools (e.g., toothpicks) were used outdoors, but the chemical smell was still evident. My three cameras were stored in sturdy boxes and pushed into the past.
When Polaroid ceased production of film for its instant cameras, the void was immediately apparent. The first single step instant camera was packed away, and mourned. Welcome to the digital age and its targets, which stream lines the past into a new way of recording the still and moving image.
The angst over this loss was deep in the artistic community, and felt by other aficionados of the SX-70 small snapshot (image size=3 2/8″ x 3 1/8″; paper size= 31/2″ x 4 1/4″). Now if you own Smart phones, which I do not and probably never will, there are options: two apps (Hipstamatic and Instagram) simulate the instant Polaroid effect of the SX-70. Both are given high praise by users. I’m drooling.
[The last two paragraphs are part of my post from 16 June 2011, and titled “Lady Gaga and Polaroid, Really.” If you want to read the entire post, go to the sidebar and click on months. Select June 2011 and scroll to the title.]
Lady Gaga gave her name to new Polaroid projects, but I was even more enamored with the battle that was won to create film for the vintage SX-70 and other older Polaroids. Enter The Impossible Project (see http://the-impossible-project.com/). This effort by a cadre of enthusiasts worked to produce a product that would give consumers the old in the new. The film has been in the marketplace since March 2010. Yep, I knew about it, but was waiting for the tweaking and reviews.
Here’s a bit of history from their Website:
2008 – 2010
“In October 2008 The Impossible Project saved the last Polaroid production plant for integral instant film in Enschede (NL) and started to invent and produce totally new instant film materials for traditional Polaroid cameras. In 2010 Impossible saved analog instant photography from extinction by releasing various, brand new and unique instant films. Therewith Impossible prevents more than 300.000.000 perfectly functioning Polaroid cameras from becoming obsolete, changes the world of photography and keeps variety, tangibility and analogue creativity and possibilities alive.”
After reading again about The Impossible Project memories were unearthed. I ordered a few packages of the film on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=PX70+Film&x=0&y=0). And the company even makes a silver shade film (like the metallic photo paper that can be run straight through your home printer–it’s great for black and white images). Here is my favorite tutorial from the Project, and perks my enthusiasm for my own experiments (on a snowed-in day, if that ever happens this winter): http://shop.the-impossible project.com/allabout/silvershade/#liftit/ Scroll down to the How To section, and view the video that recreates the emulsion lift done with the old analog film.
Now I await that package from Amazon. This weekend I plan to excavate the boxes of SX70s that are stored with ultra care, which means dry and dust free. I also will peruse the stacks of Polaroids that still retain their “expressionistic” bent: reminders of photo shots of another era; reminders of how vastly different photography is in the current popular culture.
For all of us who love the effects that were invented by artists playing with Edwin Land’s incredibly innovative technology, we have a new beginning. But those of you who own any Polaroid camera can order film–film that can once again preserve your vision in a format that just might push the creative edge in new ways.
Note: As always I welcome comments about any part of this post. Also if you are interested in the story of Edwin Land and his camera, Land’s Polaroid: A Company and the Man who Invented It by Peter C. Wensberg (1987) is worth the read.