Instant photography developing again

OU News Bureau

It’s 2018, and vintage is in. The millennial generation listens to records and walks the streets wearing chokers and mom jeans.

Also back in: instant photography.

Instant cameras were initially popular in the 1960s and ’70s, Polaroid cameras the most well-known. An article in The Guardian said millennials are experiencing “historic nostalgia” for something they never had. Younger consumers today are reaching for the Polaroids.

Polaroid’s website details the history of its cameras. The concept of instant photography was invented by Edwin H. Land, and the first Polaroid Land camera was sold in 1948.

Upcycled vintage Polaroids can be purchased through sites such as Etsy or at Urban Outfitters. PHOTO/ NICOLE MORSFIELD

“It was extremely popular to begin with,” said Miranda Clark, professor of photography at Oakland University. “They didn’t make enough models or film. It sold out immediately.”

Once digital cameras gained popularity, Clark said, instant cameras lost it. By 2008, Polaroid discontinued its instant film.

Ruben Harrell, who works at Woodward Camera in Birmingham, said a startup company called The Impossible Project picked up the Polaroid technology.

“It wasn’t the same recipe as the Polaroid,” he said. “That stuff is a lot more sensitive as far as you’d have to wait longer. The colors aren’t quite what they were on the old Polaroid.”

Another producer of both instant cameras and film is Fujifilm. Its Instax Mini cameras sell for about $70, making them more accessible for younger buyers.

Clark said social media may be an influence on the younger generation’s interest in instant photography.

“I think there’s a really big connection with Instagram and other apps,” she said. “I guess it’s about nostalgia. The way that a lot of filters are used, they’re meant to emulate film and the grain and noise.”

Instagram’s first logo was even designed to look like an old Polaroid. But social media is not the lone factor in the resurgence of instant cameras.

“You got to admit they’re kind of fun,” Harrell said. “If you go to a party or you go somewhere, you can have instant photos. That’s kind of a cool thing.”

It’s easy to spot a bulky white OneStep at a party when everyone else is taking pictures with iPhones. Plus, instant cameras are just that — instant. These days, Harrell said, nobody wants to wait. Having photos developed can take up to a week.

Land’s inspiration for the instant camera, Clark said, came from his daughter asking why she couldn’t see a photo he had just taken of her.

“Polaroid film was just an instant gratification,” Harrell said. “That’s what people liked.”

Oakland University, as seen through the viewfinder of a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8. PHOTO/ NICOLE MORSFIELD

Photography is also an art form. As a teacher of photography and studio art, Clark said many of her students shoot on film, so she has never seen a disappearance of it, instant or otherwise.

“I think that maybe in the past five years, there’s been more of a resurgence of using film overall,” she said. “In fashion, you’re seeing more editorials that are shot entirely on film.”

Standing out is important in the competitive world of art. In a sea of iPhone selfies, a Polaroid picture is bound to draw the eye. Instant photography, Clark said, allows for more unique photo opportunities.

“You’ll never recreate it and there’s only one of it,” she said. “You can’t duplicate it.”

As a photographer and collector of vintage Polaroid cameras, Clark has her own reason for taking part in the retro method of photography.

“I think it’s really exciting to watch an image appear in front of you,” she said.

Whether an instant camera is used to make art history or just to look cool at a party, this old form of photography is back in town for now.

Best Buy and Urban Outfitters sell both Polaroid and Fujifilm cameras. The less expensive tend to be the Fujifilm Instax Minis at about $70, while Urban Outfitters sells refurbished Polaroids for up to $175.

The Impossible Project film can be found on Amazon and used in vintage Polaroid cameras. However, it can cost up to $27 for a pack of only eight exposures.

 In the past six months, Harrell said, The Impossible Project has worked with Polaroid to bring the old film back.

“Now, there’s going to be a series of film and it’s going to have the Polaroid name on it again,” he said. “We’re hoping, with this new Polaroid, that the prices are going to come back down.”

Those turning to the vintage vibe are given one bit of advice: Contrary to popular belief, don’t shake the photos.

“All the chemistry is kind of built in,” Clark said. “So shaking it doesn’t do anything.”


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Posted by on Feb 6 2018. Filed under Featured article, Michigan. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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