Polaroid Inspires Photographers To Take Vintage Photos | Campus & Community

It’s getting colder, society is atomized and anti-social, but as the new year rolls around once again, the gift-giving spirit is as rampant as ever.

The idea and execution were simple: bring my Polaroid camera collection to campus, take some photos of students I’ve never met and give them as warm memories.

I stumbled on a hobby; I’ve found a camera in my family’s basement, researched and experimented with it. I took some bad photos at first (and still do sometimes). I am someone who has always enjoyed old technology and creating art. Polaroid fits perfectly; and does not require a laboratory like traditional 35mm filmmaking.

I find that – perhaps poetically – instant film or Polaroids reflect real human life more than any other form of photography. No other art reflects the beauty of life that is fleeting, unpredictable, imperfect and raw, than this film’s niche. Every bit that’s slightly blurry, oddly developed, and overexposed reveals a flaw we all have. Sensitive chemistry is very similar to the frailty of life. In the analog world, we embrace imperfection like a fuzzy memory.

It’s an unfortunate truth that instant photography is in a slightly insecure place in the market: there are only two companies left that produce film stock, Polaroid Originals and Fujifilm’s Instax (Polaroid Originals became the second life revived from the first Polaroid Corporation when they went bankrupt in 2001, a passion project that was more of a novelty and had to cut a lot of fat as a result). Fujifilm, on the other hand, is in a more stable and utilitarian position, producing a variety of other high-quality photographic products; however, it is known for randomly discontinuing and canceling popular products out of the blue. As for Polaroid Originals, they painstakingly had to reverse engineer the exact proprietary film chemistry that was lost when all but one Polaroid factory was destroyed following bankruptcy. While this new film is objectively inferior to the stuff from the 80s, it is improving every day, day by day, keeping this astonishing invention alive and thriving for generations to come.

At the risk of sounding redundant with the obvious, Gen Z is the most digitally-leaning and nearly in tune generation. Many of us grew up with only dreams of childhood fever and nostalgic fogs of physical analogue media (like my toddler self, unraveling Rugrats VHS tapes from the library); however, I consistently find an equally explosive fascination with Polaroid photography from fellow young people. There are people in our age group who crave an analogous physical experience of dealing with a cold, impersonal, and non-corporeal world. Maybe that’s why vinyl never dies.

I highly recommend film and instant film photography for those in our age group; cameras can easily be saved or found in relatives’ attics, bought on ebay or on sites like B&H photo. While film is no longer in its prime as it was in the pre-digital era, information on the internet means it’s easier to research filmmaking effectively and creatively. It’s a great way to share something with others.

Inspiration has to go to the YouTube Channel, In An Instant, from host Ben and his team Photographing Strangers in NYC on the Polaroid video.

Appreciation and thanks to Vivian Huynh from Quo Vadis Staff for assisting with shooting and offering creative decision making.

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