A group of former Polaroid employees in Holland have brought the instant film back to life – nearly two years after the camera maker ceased production.
Owners of Polaroid’s SX-70 and 600 format cameras will be able to buy packs of new black and white film this week, with colour format film available by the summer through retailers including John Lewis in the UK and FNAC in France and Spain.
The iconic white-framed prints, which take three minutes to develop without the need for a darkroom, have been produced by the Impossible Project, a private Dutch venture, in partnership with Ilford Photo of the UK.
Impossible acquired the last Polaroid production plant in Enschede, Netherlands, in October 2008 after the US corporation closed down the factory in June 2008, with the loss of its 180 employees.
The small band of engineers, most of whom are in their 50s, have been working since then to create a new version of the “instant integral” film. Many of the 31 components and chemicals required for each picture were no longer available and producing the new film has taken slightly longer than Impossible initially expected. The last batches of Polaroid film produced in Enschede expired in October.
Impossible plans to produce 1m packs of the film this year, each of which contains eight photos, ramping up to 3m in 2011. With an estimated 300m functioning Polaroid cameras still in existence – gathering dust in attics or selling for a song on Ebay – Impossible believes it could eventually sell up to 10m films a year.
The two initial releases of film – PX 100 and PX 600 Silver Shade – will be available at the Impossible Project’s website from Thursday for $21 a pack, with other retailers to follow shortly.
Limited-edition “First Flush” packs – named after the year’s first crop of tea which is typically picked in March – were unveiled at a launch event in New York on Monday.
“These will be developed and expanded further, creating a whole family of new formats, characteristics and blends,” Impossible said, beyond the traditional Polaroid format.
The popularity of digital photography has reduced film to a niche product. Last summer, Kodak ceased production of its famous Kodachrome film after more than 70 years.
Polaroid Corporation, which was founded by Edwin Land in the 1930s, filed for bankruptcy in 2008 after struggling for several years, amid a criminal investigation of its parent company.
Most of its assets were sold to Gordon Brothers Brands and Hilco Consumer Capital in May last year. The company continues to sell cameras and digital instant printers through Summit Global, with whom it holds a five-year licensing agreement.
In January, Polaroid appointed Lady Gaga, the pop star, as a “creative director” ahead of the release of a new range of products later this year.
Impossible hopes that it can market its new film both to older, dedicated Polaroid enthusiasts and a new generation of artists and photographers who are drawn to the film’s uniqueness – each photo is a one-off – and unpredictable results.
It hopes to strengthen its artistic credentials by acquiring the International Polaroid Collection, currently held at the Musee de l’Elysee, Lausanne, and reopen the collection to new photographers.
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