I hosted some friends for brunch this past weekend, and as often happens, our guests were pleasantly distracted by a large-scale bulletin board by our kitchen table that I’ve filled, corner to corner, with photographs.
I put up this board when we moved in to our new house and was determined to fill it quickly— so I started to dig up old photos of my parents, family trips, historical moments in our lives, and tons of pictures of the kids and their relatives, from birth to the present. I had a sneaking suspicion it would be a fun conversation starter at mealtime: We’re often wrapping up dinner when someone will glance over at the board and reminisce about our first ski trip, or ask me why I chose to straighten my bangs in high school (I have no answer for that).
(this is just a small part of it— it’s huge!)
I had no idea, however, that it would also elicit a sense of nostalgia in many of our grown-up friends who had forgotten what it was like to print photos. It seems that these days, when taking a picture is as easy as saying, “Selfie…”, it has become far tougher to enjoy pictures. Digital Photography has become more of a headache than anything else: Where to store them, how to organize them, and how to safely back them up so you’re not one stolen laptop away from losing them all— these are the tribulations that have made taking pictures a lot less fun than it used to be.
So when my husband brought home an Instax Share printer one day, I was smitten. It’s a tiny printer, smaller than a paperback, that wirelessly connects to your phone, and prints your smartphone photos onto instant film (mini polaroids)… right before your eyes.
Now, in the digital world, this might seem yawn-worthy— but it has become a party trick we do for friends and it’s a hit every time. The thowback-ness of it just delights people, and seeing all the Instant film on the board with all the other printed pictures is just too fun.
There are a crop of different companies trying to bring back the Instant film camera, which still feels magical after all these years. [highlight] I’ve decided that this blend of digital and old school is making photography fun again. [/highlight]
The Impossible Project
The Impossible Project started as the last Polaroid production plant in Germany was closing it’s doors— photography enthusiasts refused to let the medium die, and began to do what Polaroid, sadly, could not— bring Instant photography into the digital age. They’ve put their twist on instant film by offering Gold or Silver frames, as well as color and black and white prints, in slick packaging. By painstakingly refurbishing old polaroid cameras, and catering to die-hard Polaroid enthusiasts, they’ve kept the art alive and are introducing it to a whole new generation of artists. But their star product is the Impossible Instant Lab: An analog photographic that (stay with me) exposes the image on your smartphone’s screen to instant film— like a traditional dark room. It’s like an analog camera for your smartphone camera. Brilliant effects ensue.
Polaroid, the camera company is no more. The Polaroid name, however, lives on as a brand licensor to companies that make consumer electronics and eyewear. Confused yet? Short story— Polaroid leant it’s name to the VERY cool Socialmatic, which looks like an Instagram app logo that spits out instant film. It’s got those great retro stripes, and is likely to spark conversations wherever you go. This camera has a few more bells and whistles than the rest of the bunch, with both a front (14MP) and rear (2MP) camera, a touch screen, and the ability to share photos using Wifi. It runs Android, so it’s kind of like a little tablet… with a price tag to match.
Instax Cameras by Fujifilm
Aside from offering the wireless printer, Instax makes a range of instant cameras that use Instax mini instant film, as well as some that use a slightly larger, wide format film. The Instax Mini 8 (pictured above) comes in a range of fun colors and looks like a japanese animé character, and the Instax Mini 90 is retro-handsome in saddle brown or black.
If you love analog photography and want to have some fun with your pictures, you’ve probably heard about the intentionally-low-tech Lomography cameras. Long before Instagram filters, Lomography cameras offered blurred edges, tinted exposures, fisheye lenses, and other fun effects, all made by the camera, not an app. With Lomo’Instant, they’re mashing up their quirky cameras and lenses with the immediate gratification of instant film.
What do you think? Do you miss Instant Film? Do you have any of these cameras? Wanna hear from you.