Artist’s Notes: How Instant Film Has Affected Me

I have been messing with my “gifted” Polaroid One600 camera for the past month now, and it has done so much for me. So, in honor of the impact instant film has had on my life, I will ramble about my thoughts on instant film.

At first when I picked it up, it was solely because I had caught inspiration to do so from Life Is Strange (video game); however, now, I love it because I love the medium. 🙂 Anyway, I had no idea what to expect from this camera of mine and I had no idea how much shooting with it would change me.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m starting to fall in love all over again with analog photography. I mean, I’ll always have digital, but there’s something magical about analog that digital will never reproduce. Perhaps, it is because analog is more intimate, more romantic (at least in my eyes.)

Well, here I am today, still shooting instant film and continuously ordering more (like an addiction.) And to my surprise, I wasn’t aware of how booming the instant photography community was. When I found out just how many people still love the medium, still support, my fate was sealed. I had to make instant film a part of my life.

It’s so crazy because the community is so loving and divided at the same time. Some people reminisce about when Polaroid was still a company; some people are new and just trying it out (like me); and some people are critics to their soul. Either way, there’s a rich history to Polaroids and instant photographs that I didn’t really know about at first.

Sure, the debut of instant photos came in the early to mid 1960s. It was around for a long time, being widely popular among artists and consumers alike, and then it suddenly just greatly declined when digital cameras became a thing in the 1990s. That doesn’t surprise me but it does sadden me a bit.

Now we are in the new millennium, in the year 2017. Luckily though, the underground community of instant photo lovers resurged around 2009. This was when instant photos became possible again, and when the presence of the digital image had set in to become the norm. I mean, yes, I am ridiculously late to the party but at least I showed up. 😛

And though the history is rich, full of so many changes, impacts, fame, and more, I’m still mostly captivated by what instant film does. There are multiple reasons why people like/love instant film but allow me to give my two cents as to why I love it.

I have my own unique reasons for loving instant film. I’ve found that the medium allows for immediacy of images (to a point obviously) and yet it’s married with nostalgia, beauty, eccentricity, unpredictability, and memory. I like having the memories that I can make with outdated technology that still holds magic behind its chemistry and process. To add, such memories are singular and un-replicable, just like the film they are captured on.

There’s this awe I have for this process that I cannot see that remains powerful enough to determine what visual memory I hold. Unlike digital, there’s no guarantee that comes with instant film (or most film to be honest.) With my digital camera, what I see is what I get. With my Polaroid, I only have an idea of what I will get and must be satisfied with the results I am left with. Both still capture what I want, but they do so in different ways.

And my favorite part is probably how instant film allows for personalization of an image. Just think about it. Instant film has the magic of color film, but then it allows for individualization of images with its format and presentation. Sure, I could print out a digital image (or film print) and write something on it, but it will never be the same as a Polaroid picture.

Instant film already comes equipped and designed with the capacity for commentary; that’s one thing that makes the medium unique. I believe it has all to do with its history grounded in mass appeal to photo-lovers with little to no skill.  It’s easy, accessible, and you can make it 100% your photo.

I can write whatever I want on my pictures and then those words become a part of it. When you hold the artifact in your hand, you must consider the words on it in conjunction with the image. It colors the image in a way, directing it, revealing unseen/unheard truths.

But, that’s what I believe. Sure, not everyone writes on their instant pictures. I do though. It has the space for it, so why not make use of it? Otherwise, it’s just an image; and any image can be copied and reproduced. Artifacts are unique objects; they are one-of-a-kind.

And you know what else is great? The fact that instant photography can bring people together in a mysterious way. Because you can see the image almost immediately, it makes it easier to accessible people who are guarded or distant. There’s a real joy to taking pictures of and with other people (so I’m discovering. That’s the beauty of portraits!)

Oh! That brings me to this little thought I had. Ever since I picked up instant film, I’ve been more adventurous as a photographer. I’m more willing to just take the shot and more will to create situations for shots to be taken (i.e. I don’t mind asking people for pictures anymore.) I didn’t do this before but I do love this courage building inside of me that allows me to get things I normally wouldn’t.

So, to be fair, instant photography has changed me (for the better I believe.) I’m more courageous, daring, and that much more in love with the one thing in life I couldn’t be without—photography. ❤

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