Another Disappearing Medium

As Fuji announced the discontinuation of their instant pack film, I scrambled this week to buy a few last cartridges. Soon my Polaroid Land camera will be reduced to a relic. I’m foremourning the loss of a beautiful process, its satisfaction, its fragrant developer.

Cambridge has always been the homeplace of Polaroid, originally headquartered a mile away from MIT where Microcenter now stands. Elsa Dorfman, a very famous Polaroid portraitist, will also be retiring soon from her Cambridge studio. She has been photographing exclusively with her polaroid 20×24, a dramatically large wooden camera, since the 80s. As the last remaining cases of her paper fade, the death of the medium progresses. It’s inexplicable erie to be so close to instant film’s physical roots but yet so helpless during its extinction.

It was only a few year ago that Cibachrome disappeared for good. Those who could afford it bought enough to last their lifetime in cold storage. Most, however, will never see the process or the result of a magical Cibachrome print. And this is the same dilemma with instant film. As it becomes available in fewer sizes (and eventually not at all), no company will undertake the complicated multilayered manufacturing process. This is unlike simple historical processes of salts or synthesizable emulsions. And although there are portable image-making techniques of comparable speed, none are analog ones.

I shot them like candy, but now I have 36 precious frames left. You kids will never peel apart a polaroid, and that deserves a moment of reflection.

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