Friday, January 8, 2010

Polaroid Primed For Comeback

News broke on Thursday that thrilled camera buffs around the world - Polaroid would relaunch production in 2010. Until digital cameras became commonplace items in the past decade, if you wanted to be able to see the picture you just took (almost) instantly, then you needed a Polaroid. But the digital revolt cut deeply into Polaroid's business, the company went bankrupt in 2001 and again in 2008. During that second reorganization, the company announced that it would give up its film-based instant camera business in favor of digital imaging.

Even though its commercial business had dwindled, Polaroid still had legions of fans around the world who still preferred the old analog format to digital. On Thursday China's Summit Global announced they would start producing a new line of cameras under the Polaroid name. But what makes a Polaroid a camera and not just an oversized paperweight (like the two I own) is the unique film, a lesson that the Soviet Union's camera industry once learned (*see end note), and that's where "The Impossible Project" steps in.

The story of The Impossible Project is fascinating in itself - after Polaroid shuttered their Enschede, Netherlands plant, a group of former technicians stepped in and acquired the factory and all its fittings. Their goal was to produce a new version of the Polaroid film for the thousands of instant picture enthusiasts out there. This meant figuring out the chemistry that essentially puts a whole darkroom on a sheet of paper - from scratch, something they themselves dubbed "the Impossible Project". But they'll be putting their film into production this year as well. Instant photography fans rejoice.

*The Soviet Union produced their own version of the Polaroid camera called the "Moment". Unfortunately for Soviet photographers, Soviet camera technicians were never able to master the production of instant film, meaning Moment owners had to try to buy Polaroid film on the black market. Few were able to and the Moment was a flop.
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