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Magic in the palm of your hand

Posted by Richard on June 23, 2010

It was only a couple of years ago that Polaroid stopped making film for the instant cameras it discontinued two years earlier. For some reason, I thought it was longer ago. In any case, there are people who are seriously nostalgic for the little prints that developed like magic in the palm of your hand.

Kevin Connolly of the BBC has written a nice look back at Polaroids, Dr. Edwin Land, the genius inventor who created the magical process more than 60 years ago, and the artists like Andy Warhol who embraced the process. And for those of you who share the nostalgia, he points out that Polaroids aren't dead yet:

The sheets of shiny card on which the instant photographs materialised were each in their own way tiny laboratories where 35 different components and chemicals combined to produce a minor miracle.

Consumers loved them and they sold in millions all over the world – bringing competitors like Fuji into the market too.

On the face of it, that should be that. The Polaroid camera ought to be remembered as a powerful tool for photographic artists and an iconic consumer product of the past – as outdated as the hand-mangle or the hula hoop.

In theory, digital photography has superseded the Polaroid camera as comprehensively as the CD eclipsed the wax cylinder.

Except that Polaroid photography just refuses to die.

If you still have a Polaroid 600 or SX-70 gathering dust in the basement and want to resurrect the magic — and don't mind paying a premium price (about $3 per picture) — you can order black and white film today from the Impossible Project. They say color film will be available soon. 

In this era of fauxtography, there is something appealing about a picture that you know hasn't been manipulated, that captures just what the photographer put in it. Maybe photojournalists covering the Middle East for Reuters, the AP, and AFP ought to be required to do so using Polaroid cameras and instant film.

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