I watched a documentary last night from 2012 called “Time Zero – The Last Year” about the demise of Polaroid and the new company that has created a whole new process to re-create the instant film phenomenon that was rampant in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Some of you will surely say “where have you been?” and rightly so as I should have seen this in 2012 but being a long haul truck driver for the last 7 years kept me away from the television a lot. Never the less the documentary was very informative for me as I too remember that first time my mother took my picture with her new Polaroid and let me hold it while it developed in my hands. The experience was to say the least, unbelievable to me as I was accustomed to having my mother take the film from my old used Kodak Instamatic camera (purchased for pennies at my local Goodwill store) to the local camera store to be processed. I came from a family of 9 so asking for a Polaroid for a present was out of the question but I was allowed to use it in her presence. I bet if I looked hard and long enough my mother still has some of those photos in her albums or a box somewhere in the house. If I find some I will add them to this post.
In February of 2008, Polaroid announced that they would no longer make instant film and would close down all their plants world wide. This was a big blow to the many avid photographers who lived and breathed Polaroid. According to this documentary there was and still is a whole lot of you out there. Two of them by the names of Florian ‘Doc’ Kaps and André Bosman were actually present at the closing of the last factory in the Netherlands and got together to pursue a dream of keeping Polaroid instant film alive. They raised the capital to purchase the factory and called up ten of Polaroids best former employees to help them with their idea.
Their path that lay a head of them would not be easy. In fact they named their new company “The Impossible Project” based on a statement from the original founder of Polaroid Edwin Land who said, “Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.” They had to come up with a new chemical process that replicates the Polaroid process as the old chemicals were either discontinued or illegal to use commercially. Eventually they achieved their goal in March of 2010 with their first instant film to be sold on the market.
After a changing of the guards so to speak they have even began to refurbish the popular Polaroid cameras and sell them online for a reasonable cost ($350 US). I put myself on the waiting list for the SX70 which apparently everybody else is after also. Their film is $23.49 US and lower depending on the film type you purchase. They even have film for an 8×10 format. You can purchase the cameras and film at their online shop.
I am very glad I was able to find this documentary even though I’m a little late in viewing it. A definite “feel good” story for sure as too many things in this world get left by the wayside when progress decides to eliminate them in favour of a more profitable or convenient way of doing it. Some things like the Polaroid instant film process and products should be recognized as a historical significance and kept for eternity in my view. Kudos to the team at The Impossible Project for doing just that and hopefully they will be able to keep generating enough profits to keep the dream alive for many years to come.