I have Hartwell to thank for my newest obsession. While I was at Giant Conf, he gave me an old Polaroid 600 camera. Ever since I snapped my first, terrible photo with film from The Impossible Project, I’ve been hooked. Maybe it’s the whole analog thing that makes vinyl so appealing to some people. Perhaps it’s the instant gratification of having a real photograph that was developed using nasty, caustic chemicals in your hands mere seconds after snapping it and then the anticipation 1 to see if the photo turned out 2. Perhaps it’s the peace of mind knowing that this isn’t something I have to worry about backing up. This isn’t something I’ll worry about its metadata getting corrupted or a different version saved over the original or accidentally tweeting the wrong photo. This is more personal. Buy a few cheap plastic binder sheets at Target and boom, you’ve got yourself a photo album. You didn’t have to upload the pictures somewhere and have it shipped. You made it with your own two hands in minutes. Sure, they’re mostly crappy pictures, but that limitation feels liberating.
After playing around with the old Polaroid for a while, I discovered that there was a series of instant cameras (and films!) still being made by Fuji that are relatively cheap. The photo packs are way cheaper than IP films. Like 3 times cheaper. So, of course, I had to get one of these cameras. Now my investment in this new/old photo process has gone from about $20 to about $140. But now I know that I can drop a few bucks on Amazon Prime whenever I want and have a slew of more prints I can make. 3
I don’t know how I want to use these new cameras yet. I still love digital photography, and the quality difference is no joke. I wouldn’t take an instant photo that I wanted to be great. It’s more just for fun and experimentation. I’m thinking about photography now like I should have been thinking about it when I was taking an art photography class in college. I’m trying to capture interesting compositions and contrasts (or lack thereof) just to see what I can get done with this crude camera without being able to do any post processing.
A big part of the joy of having one of these cameras is that they delight people. “Is that a Polaroid? I didn’t know they made those anymore!” It doesn’t matter if it’s not a great photo, it’s something you can capture and then hand off for keeps. You don’t need to email it or share it on Instagram.
Anyway, it’s fun and I’m glad I have a couple of new toys in my photography bag of tricks.