Po­laroid makes a come­back in age of dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By CASSIE NEIDEN in Cleve­land Agence France-Presse

At a pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio in Cleve­land, in­struc­tor Ni­cole Follen is try­ing to con­vince her stu­dents to step back in time and tech­nol­ogy — to the age of the hum­ble Po­laroid.

She wants the stu­dents to cre­ate some­thing they can touch and feel — per­haps even some­thing that — gasp — isn’t perfect.

So, she guides her class in how to trans­form dig­i­tal pho­tos taken on their smart­phones into Po­laroid­style in­stant pho­tos that hark back to the by­gone ana­log era.

“You go from some­thing so dig­i­tal to hav­ing a mark in your pho­tog­ra­phy,” Follen says. “You have to work for it.”

Once upon a time, be­fore dig­i­tal cam­eras, peo­ple try­ing to cap­ture mo­ments on film only had the clunky box cam­eras that spit out square pho­tos with wide white bor­ders that you needed to shake to de­velop.

Now, Follen uses a prin­ter that links to smart­phones and churns out prints sim­i­lar to those that were all the rage in the 1970s.

Across the United States and Europe, in­stant pho­tog­ra­phy is mak­ing a come­back — and not just in hip­ster en­claves like Brook­lyn.

Lead­ing the trend are those plan­ning wed­dings and other spe­cial oc­ca­sions. A sim­ple in­ter­net search un­earths end­less do-it-your­self sug­ges­tions for ask­ing guests to par­tic­i­pate in cre­at­ing in­stant mem­o­ries.

“There’s some­thing about Po­laroids that just feels so cozy,” wrote one bride on a Red­dit com­ment thread.

“I love the pho­tos we have,” wrote an­other. “A few of the pic­tures were kept by our guests, but we have an amaz­ing keep­sake!”

Sales growth

Wed­dings are a nat­u­ral set­ting for in­stant film be­cause the process makes pho­tos more per­sonal, says Ni­cole Kaney, a Florida-based wed­ding plan­ner.

Pho­tos snapped with in­stant cam­eras “tend to be a lit­tle more care­free and re­laxed” than those taken with dig­i­tal cam­eras, which are some­times end­lessly fi­nessed for so­cial me­dia, she says.

The throw­back trend has led to the cre­ation of new in­stant cam­eras to meet de­mand.

Used clas­sic cam­eras by Po­laroid mean­while sell for prime sums, some­times hun­dreds of dol­lars, on eBay. Com­pa­nies mak­ing new ver­sions are see­ing sales growth few would have pre­dicted even a few years ago.

Fu­ji­film, which makes a new line of In­stax in­stant cam­eras and film, says in a re­cent earn­ings re­port that sales re­mained strong in the United States and Europe, even as its sales of dig­i­tal cam­eras de­creased.

The Ja­panese com­pany says it sold five mil­lion in­stant cam­eras world­wide in fis­cal 2015 and ex­pects to sell 6.5 mil­lion in fis­cal 2016.

The Im­pos­si­ble Project, the com­pany that bought Po­laroid’s last re­main­ing in­stant film plant in the Nether­lands — res­cu­ing it from ex­tinc­tion — is also bullish about its own fu­ture.

The com­pany founded by Flo­rian Kaps, an Aus­trian bi­ol­o­gist-turne­den­trepreneur, now makes Po­laroid­style in­stant film, an in­stant camera with a mod­ern touch (it has Blue­tooth and a mo­bile app), and an in­stant film print­ing de­vice, which is what Follen uses in her stu­dio, the Cleve­land Print Room.

‘Some­thing nos­tal­gic’

“Flo­rian re­ally saw this kind of niche prod­uct that would never fade away,” says Mark Ap­ple­ton, head of North Amer­i­can sales for The Im­pos­si­ble Project.

Even Po­laroid it­self is op­ti­mistic about in­stant pho­tog­ra­phy in the ana­log form, even though the com­pany dis­con­tin­ued in­stant film pro­duc­tion in 2008.

“We think this cat­e­gory will con­tinue to grow and thrive, and then there will be more prod­ucts in dif­fer­ent for­mats, dif­fer­ent size prints, dif­fer­ent types of print­ing de­vices — whether they’re print­ers or cam­eras,” says Po­laroid CEO Scott Hardy.

A new in­stant camera li­censed un­der the com­pany name was re­leased last Jan­uary, with an up­dated ver­sion re­leased in Septem­ber.

Tom Lewis, who teaches pho­tog­ra­phy at the Kansas City Art In­sti-

You go from some­thing so dig­i­tal to hav­ing a mark in your pho­tog­ra­phy. You have to work for it.” Ni­cole Follen, in­struc­tor who teaches a class on how to trans­form dig­i­tal pho­tos taken on smart­phones into Po­laroid-style in­stant pho­tos

tute, says he is see­ing the ap­peal of in­stant pho­tog­ra­phy first­hand among a younger gen­er­a­tion who is used to dig­i­tal pho­tos that are some­what dis­pos­able.

Stu­dents “seem to be more con­sid­ered in their ap­proach to the in­stant film” ver­sus what they do with phone cam­eras, Lewis says.

Stu­dents are fram­ing in­stant pho­tos as works of art and us­ing them in col­lages, he says, adding that some “see it in terms of some­thing nos­tal­gic, some­thing they missed out on.”

VA­LERIE MACON / AFP

An old Po­laroid Camera and some in­stant films are seen on Dec 12 in Los An­ge­les.

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