I jumped on a bandwagon recently – by which I mean I bought myself a vintage Polaroid 1000 land camera.
It probably hasnâ€™t escaped your notice that Polaroid has undergone something of a renaissance recently. The instant photography company, which formed in 1937, was a worldwide best-seller in its 60s and 70s heyday, but by the turn of the millennium it was in trouble. The onset of the digital revolution brought such a drop in sales that in 2001 Polaroid was forced to file for bankruptcy. In 2007 it announced the end of camera production and in 2008 ceased making film and closed its factories.
But despite the decline in sales for physical Polaroid product and the demise of the company, the brandâ€™s iconic and now â€˜retro feelâ€™ images were inspiring the new digital generation – spawning effect websites such asÂ Rollip and apps such as Hipstamatic and Instagram.
Then, at the farewell party for Polaroidâ€™s Netherlands factory in June 2008, instant photography fan Florian Kaps met Polaroidâ€™s AndrÃ© Bosman and together they conceived The Impossible Project â€“ with the aim of keeping the instant, analogue dream alive. They bought Polaroidâ€™s machinery, leased a building at its former plant, and not only do they now sell the very last of the old Polaroid film stock and other products (I actually bought a Polaroid jacket discovered in the depths of the old factory before I bought my camera), but theyâ€™ve developed new types of instant film for use in vintage Polaroid cameras.
So much has Polaroid become loved again that the company has been â€˜resurrectedâ€™. Last year it hired Lady Gaga as a â€˜creative directorâ€™ and at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January she unveiled new Polaroid-branded products, including camera sunglasses that record and display images and video.
And so it was – immersed in the online displays of love for Polaroid via photo blogs, the Impossible website and other pop-culture and â€˜hipsterâ€™ media – that I decided to finally buy my own piece of the Polaroid story.
But my interest in the iconic and suddenly-cool-again camera isnâ€™t a fleeting one.Â Yes, I am capturing the zeitgeist, but Iâ€™m also fulfilling a dream.
Iâ€™ve had a long-held interest in photography. I remember the 80s, before digital technology, when film and its development was expensive, I convinced my mother to let me take one photo on her camera. I waited what felt like months (maybe it was) until the film was developed and I finally got my hands on my slightly-blurry â€˜masterpieceâ€™ â€“ a picture of my sister on the trampoline.
I remember, too, when I first held a Polaroid picture – my own to keep – in my hand. It was the early 90s and Iâ€™d gone to an open day for the football team I supported and paid $5 to have a photo taken with my favourite player, the â€˜heart throbâ€™ Tony Modra. That photo was precious, and I still have it to this day, almost 20 years later.
See, thatâ€™s the beauty of the Polaroid, and the key reason why I love it â€“ it captures a moment in time and presents it to you immediately, in a pretty package that you want to hold on to.
Despite my late-in-the-day acquisition, Iâ€™ve always known the Polaroid is perfect for me, because:
- I am impatient â€“ I donâ€™t want to wait for film to be developed, or even to hook up my digital camera to my computer, I want results straight away; and
- I like tangible things that I can hold in my hand – that I can keep and cherish and refer back to time and time again.
I love my new camera. It feels precious, because itâ€™s been so long wanted, because it gives me such lovely photographic keepsakes, and maybe just a little bit because itâ€™s so damn cool.
Pictures by Amy Freeborn