Polaroid and other types of instant film have been around for more than 4 decades. Apart from the instant gratification for point-and-shooters, the film system also found its way into the toolbox of the professional photographers as a quick way to determine lighting ratios, contrast, and composition. The great convenience afforded by these films were especially useful for medium and large format shooters, for whom the ability to change film backs/plates allowed flexibility of instant review, while simultaneously making available the whole pantheon of slide and print films that each has its devotees. Of course, it bears mentioning that it was obviously meaningless to have polaroids for smaller formats since there will be too little detail on the image anyway. The format was also used by such art dignitaries as David Hockney and Andy Warhol in various art pieces.
In the digital age, this process of review has been called “chimping” in some quarters, presumably referring to the hunched posture and excited utterances that resembles primates. That such a pejorative should exist is shocking, since the very act pretty much originated from the top professionals in studios. All that has been done is that the convenience of the polaroid has been transferred to an LCD, and made available in a much smaller form factor. I suppose the excessive reviewing betrays a lack of consideration for one’s image making, and that is indeed what should be discouraged here.
Polaroid, the Second Coming
With the demise of Polaroid as a company, and the mass exodus of photographers from film photography, polaroids have lost their spot in shot proofing. Instead of going away quietly, however, the format found new life in the “hipster” culture. Bolstered by the nascent lomography trend (lo-fidelity images created with leaky cameras made in LOMO factory in Russia), and, in part at least, the swell of smartphones and in-phone processing apps that emulate various analogue processes (including polaroid), polaroids have been surprisingly resistant to the vagaries of time. Polaroid backs on medium format cameras have also attained a new status as an end-product in itself, as opposed to an intermediate image to facilitate “actual” image taking. Not only does Fujifilm continue producing instant films (albeit in decreasing variety), they are also manufacturing new instant cameras, the Instax series using integral films. Polaroid lovers can also rejoice in the knowledge that The Impossible Project (TIP) is also making new formulations of instant films.
The great advantage polaroid has over the digital emulations is that it is a tactile experience, with a “real” thing being produced, and it is essentially the only copy in the world. I have recently started using the Fujifilm FP-100C peel-away instant film on my medium format Mamiya RB-67. Now, the camera is a beast, so it is kinda difficult to carry it around and take snapshots. When I have tried it, though, the experience of pulling out the photo was really quite enjoyable. I felt almost like a professional studio photographer! The excitement just prior to peeling apart the developing enclosure is perhaps similar to that of seeing prints appear in the developing tank. It is almost magic!
I will post some scanned images on my flickr photostream in a couple of days. In the meantime, feast your eyes on these modern marvels from the “space-age”!!