Over the past few years, I’ve been working out a creative impulse that’s been haunting me for far longer than I can remember. See, I have this dream of traveling across the United States and photographing its aging amusement parks – and while digital photography is great for quantity and clarity, nothing captures the true atmosphere of a dying carnival like a Polaroid. Yeah, I’ve worked out some tricks in Photoshop to make regular photos look Polaroid-y, but there’s nothing like holding one in your hands.
Of course, I always knew that I’d have to get to these amusement parks before they were completely destroyed or rebuilt – which is why I visited Coney Island last year when its de- and reconstruction became inevitable. I spent a hot summer day holding hands with a nice girl, utterly destroying her at air hockey, and taking a great deal of Polaroids of odd details here and there. I did the same thing in Wildwood, NJ a little later that same summer, but while I was still plotting a path of creation for this upcoming summer, I got the bad news.
Polaroid is going to stop making their instant film. The end. My Spectra AF Instant Camera, instrument of so many eerie and beautiful images, would be rendered obsolete. My creative aspirations would be cut short by this older technology being phased out. According to the Polaroid website, the official last expiration date of all Spectra film is August 2009, while it has already stopped manufacture.
Of course, photography aficionados and creatives are aghast. Polaroid instant films have since skyrocketed in demand and are sold out at many traditional photography retailers – very ironic, considering that Polaroid was shutting down the factory because of poor market conditions. While Polaroid film was never cheap, averaging about $1 per shot, many retailers who still have the product in stock have doubled and tripled the usual prices, sensing an opportunity for profit. Photographers looking to stock up should note that the film has a relatively short expiration date as well.
Unless another company steps in with the magic formula to replace Polaroid’s Spectra film with a second party alternative, the future looks bleak. While Polaroid blames the ‘digital age’ for its misfortunes, as do many manufacturers, us romantics just aren’t enough to support the flagging corporation, even with online petitions. The digital age, in fact, brings us such observational gems as this, found over at a Switched.com article about the death of the Polaroid :
“Are all you people that far behind on photography. Come on now sence [sic] 1948 pictures have taken on a hole [sic] new meaning. “
Sometime in the next year, I’ll ceremoniously shoot one final Polaroid of a broken ferris wheel, or a fortune telling machine with a peeling label, and I’ll sigh, lamenting the end of a beautiful collection.