When the first faux-Polaroid apps came out for the iPhone, I was interested in them immediately. It was cool to think that you could get Polaroid type images right out of a camera…or phone for that matter. I had already been using Polaroid-type actions in Photoshop for years, so it made sense that someone would create an iPhone app for it. But I didn’t have an iPhone, so all I could do was admire the faux-Polaroids that other people were taking.
Like many people, I was first introduced to Polaroids when I was a kid. My dad had a Polaroid OneStep 600 LMS camera as well as a Kodak EK4 Instant Camera. I was amazed by the way the Polaroid camera would spit out its photo almost immediately with its distinctive whirring noise. (The Kodak had a hand crank. Also fun, but not quite as mesmerizing for me as a kid.)
Many years ago, I took the Polaroid, along with the rest of my father’s gear, since he hadn’t really touched photography in a long time. But even though I had these instant cameras, I didn’t use them for much. I used a Polaroid back for a Mamiya RB67 once. Other then that, I would just take the 600 LMS to parties and have fun. I always noticed how people seemed to love being around Polaroids. Even people who didn’t normally like to have their picture taken were willing to pose for the Polaroid. It was a great conversation starter, and seemed to liven up every party I brought it to.
When Polaroid stopped making film, I didn’t go crazy stocking up on film like many other people I knew. Everything comes to an end in life. It’s just the way life is. Death of Polaroid instant film…I could accept that. But then I started to hear murmurs through the grapevine, and before I knew it The Impossible Project started to release old stock film as well as films based on new trial formulas.
In August, as I was getting a bit tired of digital photography and a bit jaded with the marketing and advertising world, I decided to have more fun with Polaroids. I bought a bunch of film from The Impossible Project. Through a strange mix-up with them (an entirely different story in itself), they gave me a Big Shot. I had never seen anything like it before.
It was only a day or two later when I decided that I wanted to try other types of Polaroid film…which would require other types of cameras. I got my hands on a Polaroid Automatic 100 from Adorama. Then I went on ebay and got an SX-70 Sonar OneStep. And then I decided that I should have a Polaroid with all manual control…so I got a Model 180.
And you know what I discovered? I’ve become a Polaroid snob! Now, when I see photos from those wanna-be-Polaroid apps, I think it’s totally lame! Is it because I’ve spent a lot of money on film and cameras? Is it the traditionalist photographer in me? Perhaps it’s a little bit of those things. But I’ve come to realize that, for me, it’s all about the process.
There’s something special about looking through an inaccurate viewfinder instead of at an LCD screen. There’s a sort of bonding between you and your subject as you adjust the bellows to focus on a Polaroid Land Pack Camera. There’s a kind of magic when you press the button on a SX-70 Sonar OneStep, making it whir and click as it uses sound to auto-focus. And the way the prints come out…whether automatic or by you manually pulling the sheet out of the camera…it’s an entirely different experience from digital. An experience that an app could never replace. It goes way beyond clicking and shaking.
I’m still not a hater of the apps though. They have their place in the photography world. They offer an interesting variation from the standard digital. But if you are into photography and not into polaroids…well, honestly, I think you’re missing out.
If you want help diving into the Polaroid world, just let me know!
The wedding pics at the end of this post were from this past weekend. Congrats to Sheldon and Chen! I shot as second photographer for the highly talented Justin Ong. Check out his work!
Long live Polaroids!!