The Charming Imperfection Revolution


Analog is an antique. Clarity and megapixels rule the world. However some refused the digital and took pleasure in the direct light to film experience that analog provided. A reverse revolution is taking place where the old becomes the new and the user is delighting in the revival of what was once a lost art.

An unusual but deeply compelling combination of this new and old renaissance mix is illustrated here, where historical archive pictures were superimposed with current pictures at the same locations.

Some History

Long before the instant gratification of digital photography, Edwin Herbert Land’s company made its mark on photographic history. Originally focused on polarized lenses and other applications of polarized light, Polaroid became a billion dollar industry which, once the digital age came to town, was sold three times and went bankrupt, twice, in less than a decade.

Its name a combination of “polarized” and the suffix “–oid” (possibly referring to the celluloid base), the bulky 1940s Polaroid camera started making fans of both the general public and celebrities such as Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams. In 2008 Polaroid announced it was closing its instant analog doors.
Cue Bosman, Kaps and Lutz and the start of The Impossible Project. Having bought the machines from Polaroid in Enschede, Netherlands, the new owners together with chief chemist Martin Steinmeijer and some other partners, started making new instant analog film from scratch since Polaroid colour dyes were no longer available. When the first new colour film became available in 2011, the impossible became more possible.

Although Polaroid cameras have no adjustment calibrations and at most you can choose landscape or portrait settings, there are 101 known ways to manipulate your photograph from using special pens to emulsion modification as demonstrated by the Make Your Mark exhibit, which is being circulated around the world and is now available in the Vienna branch.

Why We Do IT

When asked about the effect Polaroid has on its users Sarah J., store manager at The Impossible Project, said: “It’s something original and different, and you’re going to think about the picture you make because now, in the digital times, you can make a thousand pictures and you [don’t care because you] have it on the computer.”

It might seem irrational for an outsider to understand why one would willingly choose to take pictures that can never be reprinted, but a customer response which was at first peppered with interpretations of the word unique, culminated with: “I like the charming imperfection of the photograph”.

The only way to understand the kind of thrill that is evoked by the adepts of this resurfacing symbiosis of art and science that is instant analog is to try it on for size. The whir of the inner workings of the camera and the instant pop-out picture could easily make one lose track of the digital pixelation obsession. For more information check out Instant Addicts, a Vienna based group whose website offers advice and ideas from camera selection to advanced manipulation methods of the instant materials.

Polaroids are not perfect but they are charming! Analog pictures can be thought of as the Fred Astaire of photography: not up to par with modern hip-hop sophisticated choreographic standards, but who wouldn’t want to dance with him?

Photography is a way to document, to remember, providing its viewer with a way to block the passage of time. For some it represents proof, for others a form of art or it simply reminds us of our city’s common past.

With the rise of Instagram and the re-imagined instant analog picture, it seems the pixel stickler penchant is losing a small share of its digital following. Like photosynthetic plants looking for the sun, some of us are looking for a return to the wild of what was once light exposure outside of computer chips.

For the perfect alliance of the embryonic blue of the instant analog picture and the ease of digital cameras embedded within cell phones, the founders of the Impossible Project are currently working on the latest project: The Impossible Instant Lab.

Experiment at your own fun risk!

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Header Image(s) from Pixabay & Gratisography

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