I have always had a soft spot in my heart for instant photography. I have always enjoyed looking at other people’s Polaroid photographs. Somehow photos made with Polaroid cameras at social events always appear more spontaneous, less posed. Travel Polaroids always feel more heartfelt, as though the photographer is more interested in giving you some of the excitement of their experience, and less interested in showing off.
Perhaps it is the square format triggering some subconscious sense of nostalgia, or perhaps it is the fact that every photograph comes with a tidy white matting already applied. Whatever it is, there is something about viewing a square format polaroid that puts me at ease and brings me a little happiness.
That is why I found it truly strange when the other day I realized that I hadn’t pressed the shutter button on a Polaroid camera in over 20 years.
In college, I was essentially an unofficial photography major. I was the university photo lab tech for over 4 years. For a long time, all I thought about was cameras and photography projects. But somehow I completely bypassed the FP100c era. Yes, I had an Instax wide camera, but that’s not really the same thing, is it? Not exactly anyway. I had gone all these years a hardcore photography junkie, yet somehow completely oblivious to even the existence of the SX-70. How did I not know about that camera??
I will say this in my defense: Back when Polaroid was still called The Impossible Project, I wasn’t really attracted to the results I was seeing from others, and at the time the price of the film was a big turn-off. But still, I definitely dropped the ball somewhere.
I recently realized that for a project I’m planning I actually need to use an instant camera, So I picked up an Instax SQ6. Honestly, I really like it, but while I was looking for information about it I stumbled across a video comparing it to one of the recent Polaroid models, And then something clicked in my brain – “Oh yeah, Polaroid!”
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Fast forward 48 hours of binge-watching every YouTube video about instant photography ever made, and I heard the words “SX-70 film” and “Rangefinder” discussing the same camera. I was literally on eBay clicking “buy it now” within 5 minutes. I mean a Polaroid camera with still-available-new film and an actual rangefinder? How could anyone pass that up?
So a $25 camera and a $20 pack of film later, and I have the photos here to show for it. All of them were taken in the Mojave Desert region of California, in and around Victorville and Apple Valley. It’s near where I live, and I find the area very interesting, in a quiet sort of way.
Let me be perfectly clear on this — I love this film. I cannot believe I took so long to clue into it, but I am very glad I finally did. I think it is downright wonderful in the way it renders things. I will definitely be ordering a lot more of it, and as soon as I can figure out how to clean the mirror in my Pronto! RF, I will be using it again.
Oh yeah, there’s one more thing: 5 keepers out of an 8 frame pack of film? Challenge accepted.
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