Back in 2008, a team of instant-photography fans — despondent over Polaroid’s decision to stop making film for its cameras — set out to acquire a Polaroid factory in the Netherlands and restart production of the film packs based on the company’s still-amazing SX-70 technology.
Their quest was so idiosyncratic that they called themselves The Impossible Project. But it turned out to be…possible. They bought the plant, figured out how to make film and have been doing so ever since.
It did turn out to be impossible to immediately begin making film that was exactly like Polaroid’s, but Impossible has been refining its version, which gets a little better with every new production run. It’s found a happy customer base of arty photographers who like the film’s quirky look and feel. Impossible film is sold in Urban Outfitters stores alongside reconditioned Polaroid cameras, a pretty clear sign that there’s a reasonably large audience for it.
Now, Impossible is getting into hardware, with the Impossible Instant Lab. It’s essentially a Polaroid-technology instant camera with one purpose: Capturing images of an iPhone’s screen, so snapshots taken with an iPhone can become instant photos.
The company announced the project at this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco and launched it as a Kickstarter project. Its goal was to raise $250,000 in a month, but after less than a week, supporters have pledged more than $370,000. (They’ll get the $299 Instant Lab when it ships at discounted prices.)
The lab will work with the film that Impossible makes for Polaroid instant cameras. But unlike Polaroid cameras, it’s powered by its own batteries. So it doesn’t use the battery which must be built into Polaroid-compatible film packs, and Impossible will make special batteryless packs for it.
Impossible also plans to make other products based on its revived version of Polaroid’s original technology, including both standard and pinhole cameras. (The modern Polaroid company itself announced plans to sell a new instant camera for use with Impossible film back in January of 2010; it hasn’t done so, but Polaroid’s president, Scott Hardy, recently told me that it still plans to do so once Impossible film is ready for teeming masses of consumers as well as art photographers.)
I’m realistic enough to know that Polaroid will never again be the pleasant little part of everyday life that it was back in the 1970s, when my grandmother bought me a Super Shooter. But it’s great to see continuing evidence that the digital-imaging revolution did not, in fact, kill off the Polaroid dream. More than sixty years after Edwin Land invented the first Land Camera — and even after camera phones provided the most instant form of instant photography yet — analog instant photography remains cool.