Instant Karma – A Large Format Resurrected
August 29, 2012
Author: Greg Andruszczenko
“Polaroid introduced the 8×10 film in 1973, making high-resolution large format instant photography possible for the first time. The unique size and characteristics of the 8×10 film soon captured the attention of photographers as an artistic medium. During the 1980s it was frequently used for landscape, fine art or advertising photography, scientific applications as well as high quality proofs. Just like all other types of Polaroid film, it was discontinued in the 21st century.”
From the 22 AUGUST 2012 Impossible Project Press release
Polaroid introduced the 8 × 10 format in the year of my birth. When I was 10 my father gave me an original Polaroid 100 Land camera — leather strap and all — which I still use. From the first peel, I was hooked. To this day, the magic of having a portable darkroom in hand has never faded, and every fresh film peel is a thing of wonder. I still shoot dead stock Polaroid film that I’ve squirreled away, and have wholeheartedly embraced the Impossible movement.
A quick background: Polaroid ceased producing film a few years ago, with the last packs date-stamped to be safe until late 2009. This included both integral packs (like the SX70 and 600 film formats) as well as the Pack Film instant peel-apart format. Through the 2000s, Polaroid went through ownership and brand issues and chose to move away from analog film altogether, severing its ties with chemical suppliers. Polaroid headed instead into the business of EOM-ing, and re-branded other companies’ electronic products. Returning briefly to the path of instant photography, Polaroid recently issued an instant camera, the PIC 300 – though Polaroid had stopped producing instant cameras and film for some years. The Polaroid PIC 300 was simply a rebranded Fuji Instant Film product. It’s been sad for us Polaroid purists who believed that Dr. Edwin Land’s vision of an instant camera for all would be timeless.
Enter instant film savior Florian Kaps, and his small team of pure analog enthusiasts who branded themselves and their product “The Impossible Project.” The Impossible Project was started under the guidance of the former Lomo revivalist, and built around a small circle of former Polaroid employees. Their sole mission was to rescue instant photography (as we know it Polaroid-style), by remaking the integral film from scratch without the benefit of a formula or a regular chemical supply chain. The vision came together at a rented former Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands, using aging equipment and under a strict time and budget, driven by silver foxes with a passion for the instant tangible, rather than the instant intangible digital.
With the Impossible films, I have encountered both the sheer joy of the first instant image appearing under your gaze, as well as the sheer panic of watching early batches of Impossible film deteriorate in front of my eyes just as quickly as they appeared. The integral films created by Impossible have since matured, with a fairly stable range of color and black and white integral films available for the SX70 and Spectra formats. For the time being, this has solved the problem of instant film for the square and rectangle format.
The fate of the peel-apart format
In 2011, Fuji announced that they too would cease production of the last available large format peel-apart films, including the standard 4×5 and 8×10 formats, leaving for the time being only my favored format: the 100 size Land film packs. This is also slated for elimination from Fuji’s production run. It has left me searching the Internet and my hidden away stock for crisp black and white peel-apart film.
So it was a pleasant surprise when Impossible Project announced earlier this week that they were going to jump in and again revitalize an area of the instant market left to die – the 8 × 10. Impossible have issued samples of the film named PQ 8×10, and thankfully it looks much better than the first runs of their integral packs a few years back. The film was officially unveiled on August 24th at Impossible project spaces in New York, Paris, Vienna and Tokyo, and will be on sale August 30 on The Impossible Project’s website, as well as Impossible Project Space and selected worldwide partner stores and dealers. One pack contains 10 photos and costs EUR 169 / 189 USD.
Appealing largely to the artist and hobby user, the Impossible Project shows no signs of slowing down its support of the passionate analog image creator and an increasingly aware audience. I fully encourage you too to support Impossible’s vision of “Keeping variety, tangibility and creativity alive, (preventing) millions of perfectly functioning Polaroid cameras from becoming obsolete and thus (changing) the world of photography.”
So dig out your 8×10 Polaroid holders, strap on your large format camera and dark hoods, and have your Sherpa help carry your tripods and gear, as you enter, or re-enter the world of large scale instant photography, brought to you by the alchemists of light at the Impossible Project.
See some of Greg Andruszczenko’s Polaroid work on his flickr page.