Polaroid cameras and film have been an integral part of my life and studio practice for almost a decade now. As you may be aware, in late 2008 Polaroid stopped production on their classic instant film. Upon learning of this, I bought a stockpile and have since then been buying film from second hand sources like Ebay. As the years went on, film expired and dwindled in numbers.
At first shooting expired film was exciting - it was like each shot was both a photograph and a painting. Part of the joy of Polaroids is the fact that they cannot be edited - it is a "genuine" capture of a moment, framed in white. As film quality deteriorated, there would be unexpected color variation or distortion, usually for the best. More time passed, and finding a viable pack of film was akin to being a sommelier. Certain years were better than others (2008 being the pinnacle of quality and reliability), and my film was religiously refrigerated to stem decay.
Unfortunately, I was not the only Polaroid enthusiast to learn this, and costs for the deadstock film skyrocketed. Asking prices alone started at 200-250% higher than the in-store costs of yesteryear - and that's not factoring in the last minute Ebay bidding war costs! Still, I saved up, I purchased strategically, I stockpiled. The psychological impact of all this took a toll on how I shot. Frames became more precious, more contemplative.
A side by side: on the left, film shot in 2008. On the right, film shot in 2015
Now, almost eight years after production at Polaroid factories has ceased - so will my relationship with Polaroid. Even my premier vintage packs, chilled and savored are worthless. Image quality has fallen away, there is almost no contrast in the images - and most don't fire properly at all. I knew this day was coming, and I have one pack left.
My very last pack of film.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel however. New forms of instant film exist! The Impossible Project has purchased, researched and renovated an old Polaroid factory in the Netherlands, and they are producing film again with their own recipe. The film will work in old Polaroid Cameras, or their own brand new model. Fuji has also taken on the instant film challenge and manufactures two different formats for use specifically in their Instax cameras.
I had played around with the Impossible Project products, but their film didn't quite match my desired palette, so I had assumed my instant film days were finite. However, while visiting the Pulse Art Fair as part of Miami Basel, I came across the work of Ryan James McFarland. A large grid of horizontal formatted instant images, all rich in color and tropical themed. It was my first time coming face to face with the Fuji Instax film and I was blown away. I bought one immediately. Having played with it for several months now, I'm still impressed. The narrow horizontal format presents new composition challenges for my previously square-formatted-brain and the colors do not disappoint.
While the Fuji Instax Wide does not carry the same vintage feel, or air of nostalgia as the Polaroid 600, it makes for a great instant camera (with reliable, affordable film!).
My new Fuji Instax Wide and it's film
Thankfully, as my journey with Polaroid comes to an end, I'll be able to take on new projects with Fuji film.