TECHNIQUE & TECHNOLOGY

 

This is a companion article to our portfolio post explaining the technique and technology behind Polaroid photography.

Polaroid instant film has the fascinating property of malleability in the first few moments, hours, and days after the photograph is exposed. Since the photo-reactive chemicals are contained in a gelatinous layer, one can manipulate the images by hand – be it by nudging with a toothpick, embellishment, mild burning and heating, peeling, or exposing to more light, chemicals, air, and time. Fully (or partially) peeling the photochemical layer and exposing it to air will freeze the development process, allowing in-between colors and textures to be easily obtained. These techniques allows an otherwise failed or uninteresting photograph to become the canvas on and through which a new artwork may be born.
 
Before I get into too many details about the films themselves, a little history. Polaroid, as it was originally known, went out of business in 2001. In 2008, The Impossible Project launched, purchasing the old machines from polaroid to make the film. They had no idea of the processes or chemical compositions of the films – they had obtained the machines but had to re-engineer and experiment until they eventually got the formula right though many successive iterations, eventually becoming successful enough to purchase the Polaroid brand in 2017 and became the product they once aspired to recreate. Of course, in this time, they released all sorts of experimental films and botched side projects, some of which are documented here.  You can find out more information about the recent history of the impossible project here.