The story of Polaroid film’s rebirth came full circle Wednesday night at Bowery gallery The Hole for the launch of Polaroid Originals, a re-branding of the instant film that The Impossible Project made for the classic cameras. Polaroid also unveiled its new OneStep2 camera, a 21st century update of the ’70s version.
The launch coincided with the 80th Anniversary of Polaroid’s founding by Edwin H. Land and a chronological display of the company’s cameras greeted guests upon entering. Polaroid Originals CEO Oskar Smolokowski, whose father Wiacezlaw owns a controlling stake in both companies, announced the collaboration by describing how he had joined Impossible Project in 2012 at the age of 22; now his company is taking the name of the film it revived.
Last night’s guest of honor was prominent photographer Ryan McGinley, who will be partnering with Polaroid Originals in honor of the work that put him on the map. He told everyone about how he had covered his East Village apartment with thousands of Polaroids while attending the Parsons School of Art and Design from 1998 to 2003. The photos helped form his seminal 1999 zine The Kids Are Alright and 1,700 of them were recently displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in conjunction with the release of its sequel book, The Kids Were Alright.
Afterwards, The Hole’s back room was opened to reveal demostration models of the OneStep2 camera, which Polaroid hopes will bridge the gap between film’s present niche and a wider mass market. Piles of film allowed guests to try them out. In my opinion as a photographer (I get a professional discount from what had been Impossible Project), the OneStep2 is easier to use than Impossible Project’s previous I-1 camera and perfectly exposed photos were produced every time I saw it used.
Moving further into the digital age, we find ourselves with less of the physical photographs that once inundated previous generations. Polaroids not only make great gifts and keepsakes, they also serve as true records that can resist fading for at least a century. On the other hand, normal hard drives only last about four years, unless you’re ready to to put a solid state drive in a safe deposit box. The photo albums of yore were able to combine charm with personal history storage and Polaroid Originals is striving to make that once again the norm.