Thanks to The Impossible Project, Polaroid film is back, and production of Polaroid cameras is following.
In the 1960s, half the homes in America had a Polaroid camera. By the year 2000, 13 million of them had been sold. Then, in 2007, the financially struggling company ceased production of its cameras. The ubiquity of digital cameras had made their brand of instant photography a dinosaur. Who wanted to buy Polaroid film cartridges and take those blurry pictures, when you could snap photo after photo on your cell phone?
Enter “crazy Austrian entrepreneur” Florian Kaps, one of many hobbyists and artists who didn’t want to see Polaroids fade out. Just a day or two before $130 million in Polaroid film production machines were scheduled to be destroyed, Kaps bought the production equipment. He then hired some of the brightest Polaroid engineers, leased part of the Polaroid factory, and founded The Impossible Project.
Polaroid granted a license to The Impossible Project to create new instant film from scratch. One of the factors that made the project seemingly impossible was that the chemicals to create the film were no longer available – the chemicals need to be aged for two years before use, and after Polaroid cut its relationships with the suppliers, the chemicals were no longer produced. But the Impossible Project found new ways to manufacture the film by reverse-engineering from existing film and coming up with entirely new methods for other parts of the process (more technical explanations available in an interview with the founders).
Their new version of Polaroid instant film is now available at the-impossible-project.com. The film is not cheap, going for about $20 for one pack of 10 shots, black and white only, and the photos are decidedly artsy. Color film should be available soon.
Now that the film is once again being produced, Polaroid is reintroducing its OneStep, one of the most basic models. Interest in instant photography has been redeveloped, you might say, by doing the impossible.