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The Polaroid revival

April 6, 2010

Thanks to the Impossible Project, run by three Polaroid enthusiastists, the beauty and banality of film that ‘develops in the palm of your hand’ is being kept alive

Patti Smith with Polaroid

Longed-for clunkiness … Patti Smith with a Polaroid. Photograph: AGF s.r.l/Rex Features

Sean O’Hagan

The Impossible Project took its name from a quote by Edwin Land, the man credited with the invention of instant photography. “Don’t undertake a project”, Land once said, “unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible”.

Land co-founded the Polaroid Corporation in 1937 and his film became so successful that by the 1960s, it was estimated that about half of all American households owned a Polaroid camera. In 2007, though, when digital technology had made the mobile phone most people’s instant camera of choice, the Polaroid Corporation announced that it had stopped manufacturing instant cameras. The following year, it stopped producing instant film. The final batch expired in November of last year and it seemed as if Polaroid film had finally gone the way of the cassette tape and the seven-inch single.

Enter the Impossible Project. Founded by Florian Kaps, an Austrian businessman, and Andre Bosman, the former head engineer of a large Polaroid plant in the Netherlands. When I spoke to Marlene Kelnreiter, the spokeswoman for the Impossible Project on behalf of the Observer in September, she pointed out that annual sales of Polaroid film were around the 10m mark when the company ended production, and that the project would be reinventing instant film for an existing “huge global niche market”. It still sounded like a tall order, though.

A couple of weeks ago, a package from the Impossible Project landed on my desk. It contained the first two Impossible instant films: the extravagantly named PX 100 Silver Shade/First Flush and the PX 600 Silver Shade/First Flush. They certainly looked good in their minimal and stylish packaging.

Read more at: The Polaroid revival

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