E. Smith Productions

Polaroids:  Not Quite Forgotten

12.03.08 | 05:24 PM CST

It was about 7 years ago when I was introduced to Polaroids.  I know what you’re thinking.  Really?  You only knew of Polaroids seven years ago?  Well, yes and no.  It was then where I learned of the professional, wide expanses that the instant, shake to develop film had to offer.  I had always known what a Polaroid was, but never realized how cool it could be.  As many of you who know me, I never am content with doing things the easy way.  In this case I guess we could assume that I don’t like taking photos the easy way.  Sure I could be happy as a clam snapping some photos with a small digital point & shoot, but what fun would that be?  Where is the challenge in that?  The challenge of a permanent image, once that shutter is snapped and the film is pulled from the camera.

My good friend and colleague at the time, Chris Kemp was full of information.  He told me about large and medium format cameras, specialized films, how to develop them, what 55 P/N is, pinholes, and rangefinders.  Wow, my head was spinning.  So many cool, new things.  So many new methods to use just to produce an image.  I was mesmerized.

I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do them all, so I concentrated on a couple of them.  The first being Polaroids.  I started helping out in the studio using medium format Polaroids for proofing with our Mamiya.  I was amazed how much film we tore through.  We could spend all afternoon on a shot, deliver the proof to the project manager, and have it torn to pieces.  All in a day’s work.  After medium format, we got into large format, and 4x5 films.  I knew this was more expensive stuff, so we didn’t use as many for proofing.  We got the same result at times.  Just when we thought we had the right image, we would have to try again, submissive to the project manager without any professional photography knowledge.

Outside of my bill-paying job, I started to get into pinhole photography.  I received a Leonardo pinhole camera for Christmas and I was set taking photos.  I loved the look I got when setting up the wooden box on the ground or up against a building.  Exposure times for the camera were an estimated guess, and really made for an adventure.  With an f-stop of approximately f/250 you could gauge and get reasonable exposure times using a light meter or your SLR camera.  I used both Polaroid and chrome 4x5 film for my experimenting.

Time has passed, and I haven’t taken many Polaroids in the past 4 years.  Turns out, I should have been.  With the news that Polaroid is stopping production of all lines of instant film, many people are getting back into the novelty.  They want to experience the feel of that physical, instant gratification.  The sound of the camera as it grinds the photo from its metal rollers.  I’m one of those people.

I recently acquired 3 camera models.  The SX-70, The Button, and a 320 model.  I’m going to take advantage of them while I can still purchase film.  It’s getting more expensive, but it’s still affordable.  Sure, it’s hard to justify paying $1.00 plus per photo to someone who has only shot digital, but think of what they are missing.  The almost forgotten art form that is a Polaroid.  I love them.

It’s really sad to think that this could possibly be the end of a great medium of expression.  I can only hope that some other company could possibly take this technology and keep it alive.  An art form at its best now, the constraints allow for an unexpected amount of creativity.  So I’m really curious.  How many of you have used a Polaroid camera recently?  Within the last 5 years?  Thinking about picking one up now before the film is extinct, or do you just not want to mess with this old technology?  Go ahead, post a comment and let me know.  I would like to know if I’m alone or have company in this awesome, but fragile art form.

I’ll be posting some of the photos in my new photoblog, so keep an eye out for them!


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