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The big Polaroid comeback: A giant reborn

11/04/2018

 

 

In 1973, Edwin Land revealed the Sx-70 to the world, a technological marvel that was as good looking as it was intriguing. A camera that could take a picture and, like magic, make it appear in front of your eyes in less than 90 sec.  Small, compact, you could fit it in your jacket’s pocket. The crowd was instantly seduced.

 

Polaroid was an international success and the perfect example of the American dream. In 1983, Land’s empire was worth 1.3 billion. The instant photography giant kept innovating, inspiring people in the process.  Artists from around the world would choose the Polaroid as their canvas. It was almost impossible to see Andy Warhol without his famous Sx-70. At the end of the 80’s, adopted by the masses and praised by the artists, Polaroid had secured its place in both history and pop culture. As any success story goes, Polaroid was headed towards dark times.

 

 

With the 90 ’s came the beginning of the digital age. Analog formats and products were starting to get replaced with digital cameras. Ironically, the big selling point of those new cameras was that you could preview the image INSTANTLY... The proof that the instant principle imagined by Edwin land was still relevant 30 years later.

 

2001, Polaroid went bankrupt. Instant film was no longer a priority, and an executive decision was taken to slowly end production. After sales going down year after year something weird happened in 2005. Sales went up again!

 

People were puzzled…wasn’t polaroid supposed to be a dead format?

 

People grew tired of always watching a screen. the physical aspect of an instant picture was very appealing. A whole new generation of hipsters and artist were discovering instant photography, 35mm film and listening to music on vinyl. But the Polaroid film was walking the green mile, each photo taken was leading to is inevitable demise.

 

In 2008, Polaroid officially announced the end of film production. Artist and photographers around the world were shocked. No more Polaroid. It was like if the world has run out of paint, and painters wouldn’t be able to paint anymore.

 

“Don't undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible” is the most famous quote from Edwin Land.

A man called Florian Kaps was about to do just that.

 June 14, 2008. Polaroid hosted an event for the last day of production of Polaroid film. Among the guests was Florian Kaps, a doctor in biology and an instant film reseller on the web. The evening was nostalgic a bit sad. It was the end of an era. Never again a Polaroid film would be exposed.

The end? Maybe not. The same night, Kaps met with André Bosman, an engineer in chief for 30 years in the Polaroid factory. They discussed the end of film; how can this be happening? What could they do? The main problem was that most of the components of the film were no longer available or expired.

 

A few beers later, Kaps asked Bosman: «How would it be possible to make this factory run again?”.

Bosman’s answer: “if we can keep this factory, a crew of 10 employees, a year of research… it’s a 55% chance of success.”

 

The Impossible project was born.  And “impossible” was the motto of the whole operation. Reinventing an already complex product was no easy task. The first film was unstable with a brownish hue, sensitive to humidity and photos faded after a short period of time. It simply wasn’t working.

 

It wasn’t until 2013 that the Impossible film was finally stable. Instant film was finally back. It was not the exact same product but it was close enough. The Impossible Project started production on several formats of instant film including 600, Sx-70 and Spectra. They even create their own instant camera the i-1, an analog instant camera with full manual control accessible with a smartphone.

 

 

On September 13th, 2017, 80 years after Polaroid’s first instant camera, The Impossible Project became the principal shareholder of the Polaroid brand and rebranded it to Polaroid’s Original. With the original colors and looks of the old packaging, It was now possible to buy actual Polaroid film.

With the rebranding came a new camera, the Onestep 2, an homage to the classic Onstep, one of Polaroid most iconic cameras. The camera could be used with both 600 and i-type film

 

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In 2018, instant photography is more popular than ever. Younger generations are discovering these magic products for the first time and they can’t get enough of them. There’s plenty of film and you can find older cameras in vintage shops or in stores like Lozeau!

 

Shooting instant film is a unique way of crafting images, each shot is a little, unique piece of art. It is Impossible not to be charmed.

 

Polaroid Originals film

Onestep 2 camera

Le Grand Livre Du Polaroid (in french)

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