The Impossible Project aquires Polaroid and launches a brand-new instant film camera and films supporting vintage cameras.
By Jubenal Aguilar
Polaroid is back.
The instant film photography medium made a comeback from near-extinction with the announcement of a brand-new camera, a new generation of instant films and support for vintage Polaroid cameras. The announcement came from Polaroid Originals, the successor to The Impossible Project, Sept. 12.
The launch comes on the 80th anniversary of the legendary Polaroid brand, which was founded in 1937 by Edwin Herbert Land.
In a press release by Polaroid Originals, creative director Danny Pemberton said: “It’s important to point out that Polaroid itself hasn’t had a rebrand.They’re still very much around. Polaroid Originals is a new chapter of the story, completely dedicated to analog instant photography and built by members of The Impossible Project.”
Todd Puckett, of Dallas-based Don’s Photo Equipment, said Polaroid Originals’ announcement is a return to the old Polaroids of a few years ago. “It’s a return more to film-based results,” he said.
A CLASSIC REBORN
Polaroid Originals’ major announcement was the release of a new instant film camera, the Polaroid OneStep 2, a successor to the 1977 classic Polaroid OneStep Land camera, according to PetaPixel.
“The original OneStep was the essence of instant photography – bringing the iconic white frame to a global audience with a fun, affordable and easy-to-use instant camera that was a bestseller for years,” Oskar Smolokowski, Polaroid Originals CEO, said in an open letter.
According to CNET, the OneStep 2 is “a simple point-and-shoot analog instant film camera.” There is nothing digital about the camera, except for the micro-USB port used for charging the internal battery.
The camera uses a fixed-focus, optical grade polycarbonate and acrylic 106-millimeter lens with a range of 60 centimeters (about 2 feet) to infinity. The camera has a custom-designed shutter system and vacuum discharge tube strobe for its flash system, according to us.polaroidoriginals.com.
“[The OneStep 2] represents the potential for analog photography to develop further as a medium, bringing people together to capture moments and create art,” Smolokowski said.
“[The OneStep 2] is a simplified version fo the I-1 camera,” Puckett said.
The OneStep 2 will be compatible with the new Polaroid Originals 600 and i-Type films, as well as previous 600-generation films, Puckett said.
“The old OneStep would use the 600 [film], which had the battery in the pack,” Puckett said. Although the film can be used with the new camera, Puckett does not suggest it.
“You’re wasting money because you could buy the [i-Type film] pack without the battery. … And that’s about two to three bucks cheaper per pack.”
The camera, available in white or graphite, is currently available for pre-order and is scheduled for release Oct. 16.
Along with the OneStep 2, Polaroid Originals released a new generation of instant films that are available online and in stores across the U.S., according to us.polaroidoriginals.com.
The new range of films includes the new, battery-free i-Type film, compatible with the OneStep 2 and the Impossible I-1 Instant Camera, according to the Polaroid Originals website. The latter was released by The Impossible Project in May 2016, according to The Verge.
New films for 600, SX-70 and Spectra series cameras, as well as 8×10 cameras, were also released. All films are available in color and black and white, according to us.polaroidoriginals.com.
Puckett said his first order of the new films was of 270 packs and has ordered a second batch of about 70 packs to prepare for the Instant Film Society’s second annual PolaCon.
“The [new] Polaroid styles are selling at a better rate than the Impossible packs were,” Puckett said.
AN IMPOSSIBLE COMEBACK
The Impossible Project acquired the Polaroid brand, as well as its intellectual property, on May 5, according to polaroid.com.
Polaroid reached its peak in the early 1990s and filed for the first of two bankruptcies in 2001, according to PetaPixel. In 2008, the company ceased production of its instant film.
According to Smolokowski, The Impossible Project was founded the same year with a simple mission – to bring Polaroid instant fim photography back. The startup leased Polaroid’s last factory in Enschede, Netherlands, and purchased the remaining equipment, according to The Verge.
They then reverse engineered Polaroid’s instant film to produce their own film, according to The Verge. However, European Union regulations banned some of the chemicals previously used by Polaroid. “By 2008, almost all the constituent elements, including custom dyes and polymers, had either expired, been discontinued, or been banned for environmental reasons,” according to Bloomberg.
The Impossible Project team began to search for alternative methods of reproducing instant photography, including making a simpler black-and-white formula.
In the years since it began experimenting, The Impossible Project has released numerous special editions of films, including color and circular frame films and various special color chemistry films, such as duochrome films of various colors.
HONORING A LEGACY
Polaroid Originals honored the legacy of Polaroid by preserving many of the distinct characteristics that made the brand a worldwide icon. Pemberton said the team’s research in Polaroid’s archive in Harvard University served as the departure point for the Polaroid Originals brand.
Pemberton said Paul Giambarba was the art director for many factors of Polaroid’s brand identity including the color stripes, illustrative work and typeface. Giambarba’s work and process were a driving force behind Polaroid Originals’ look. “A visual identity system is an important tool that helps us communicate our passion for this medium,” Pemberton said.
A color was chosen for each film line to serve as a visual identifier – yellow for i-Type, blue for 600 and red for SX-70. “This color acts as a wayfinder for the customer, from the packaging, the user manuals, the brand photography, right through to the entire digital experience,” Pemberton said. “It’s been real exciting,” Puckett said.
“It’s kinda fun to see new stuff come out and it’s fun seeing the customers get excited about it as well.”