As a lover of all Polaroid images, it was with shock and dismay that I read that Polaroid were to cease production of instant film. Of course, this was inevitable. They stopped producing their instant cameras last year which was a major indication of what would happen. It seems they want to focus more on their digital cameras and accessories, which is ironic because their digital gear has never been very good. Still, the times they are a-changin, and so we must roll.
I'm not going to go without a fight though. I know there are many people out there who still use Polaroid, be they fashion photographers or those who just get that tiny flicker of excitement in their stomach every time they take a pound-a-picture. I fall into the latter camp. I bought myself a mint condition Sx-70 from ebay a couple of years ago and take it with me every holiday. Being a person with quite romantic sensibilities, I imagined myself using Polaroid to capture my future kids in action, sticking them on the front of my fridge and loving them all the more dog-eared they became. Film will cease production later this year so I don't think I'll get round to procreating in time. For me, the romanticism is that every Polaroid film has an expiry date. Sometimes by using a film after it's expired, you can get even more beautiful colours. It's unpredictable and that's part of its charm. Sure, the immediacy of it has been matched by digital (and I'm a big fan of digital), but the whole notion of digital - the fact that a raw file is literally just numbers and information - makes it seem very clinical. You can take a photo, load it on to your mac and make a million identical copies. Brilliant if you're into publishing. You can take a polaroid, scan it in and make a copy, but the copy will never be identical. You will never get back to the original. And for me, that's the beauty.
I spent four years working at my local cinema when I was younger and spent a bit of time in the projection room. Of course, I had romantic notions of being a modern-day Alfredo a la Cinema Paradiso, but playing Harry Potter on 7 screens at one hour intervals soon brings you back to reality. I was constantly fascinated by the vulnerability of the film itself. Every time a print is played, a little bit of it falls away. At the end of every night, when cleaning the projector, there would be a fine layer of purple dust laying underneath where the film had passed at great speed. This was the emulsion wearing away. I remember the first time I saw The Godfather a few years ago, it was an original print from the Seventies and it looked as though it had been to hell and back. There were burns throughout, heat splices where it had had the odd frame taken out by the projectionist - if you had watched a new film like that you would have asked for your money back. But the fact that it was The Godfather I was watching, the fact I was in a tiny cinema on a University campus, made it all the more glorious. In projection they would talk about the ways of the future. There would be no need for projectionists; every morning the cinema manager would just download the digital files from the head office and press play. Literally. Press play. Is it just me, or has the whole world becoming a Press Play world?
A line from a favourite film comes to mind: If memories could be canned, would they have expiry dates? If so, I hope they last for centuries. [Chungking Express]
I'm going to post a polaroid or two every day for the coming week or so. These images here were taken in my sister's Brooklyn apartment last year. They totally capture the atmosphere.
If you use polaroid, why don't you do it too and send me a link? I would love to see what you do.