Monday, September 6, 2010

The Impossible Project

For those of you that know me, you know that I am a huge fan of Polaroid instant film. If you are also one of the many lovers of Polaroids, you know that in late 2008, Polaroid closed its last factory producing instant film and has left many users scrambling to gather the reserves of film that still exist.

I recently discovered the Impossible Project, a team of former Polaroid employees who have dedicated themselves to the re-production of instant analog film, and have learned a little more about the Impossible Project story.

So the story goes that Florian Kaps, an instant film super fan, was in a Netherlands pub drinking a beer with a manager of a nearby Polaroid factory that had just been closed. Outraged and motivated by the fact that $130 million dollars of Polaroid production equipment was set to be destroyed in just a few days Kaps created what seemed Impossible. Kaps invested and acquired not just the equipment and factory needed to save Polaroid, but hired a group of ten former Polaroid employees who were more than happy to work in the struggle to save instant film.

The Impossible Project research facility is in Enschede, Netherlands, in the north building of one of the last Polaroid plants and has taken on the almost impossible task of reinventing analog instant film. These heros face the challenge of replacing and upgrading expensive chemical components which are out of production and no longer available.

Polaroid, which gained its iconic reputation under scientist and inventor Edwin Land, released its first analog instant film in 1948 and ran into both monetary and strategic problems when Land passed away in 1991 at age 81.

The Impossible Project has set its goals high and plans to create several new analog instant film products, the first of which, the PX Silver Shade System, has already been released. I have had very little experience with this new monochrome system, but what I can tell you is that it is very sensitive to light and temperature, which yields a WIDE variety of results. Can I also just clear up now that SHAKING A POLAROID PICTURE IS THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO!

Here are a few photos recently taken at my iron forging workshop with Impossible Project film. (Channel old shop photos from early 1900s). Thank you to Valentina for taking these lovely photos of us!

Impossible says that this new film has some 29 layers and uses 13 new chemicals, and while I don't know too much about photography, that sounds like they have gone through a lot of work to make these photos amazing. Grant Hamilton is shooting a documentary about Polaroid that is scheduled to be released sometime this year.

Sarah Gilbert is a freelance writer and blogger who has an excellent post about instant film's undecided future, The Impossible Project's current struggles with both it's research and it's somewhat tumultuous relationship with Polaroid. She interviewed Grant Hamilton earlier this year and noted that one of the biggest challenges to instant film is the waterproof layer on the top of each piece of film.

"Each photograph is its own darkroom...and needs this layer that goes from completely opaque to completely transparent in about a minute, once it is exposed to light." When you shake your Polaroid picture, you are jiggling one of the most complex pieces of technology around. "The idea that film is somehow low-tech is completely wrong."

Thank you to Florian Kaps, Grant Hamilton, Impossible Project Team, Sarah Gilbert and most of all to Edwin Land. Buy Polaroid film. Shoot Instant. Keep Polaroid alive. Share.

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