I’m going to interupt my report on the Do What You Love retreat to give a little review of the Open House that the Impossible Project held on the 9th of May. Although I have supported this project from the outset , read their newsletters and experimented with their film as it progressed and was even a “top secret test photographer” ( I love saying that ! ) , visiting the factory and hearing the presentations has given me a new level of respect for what they have undertaken.
Many people assume that all that was required was to restart production of a Polaroid type film. In fact they have had to completely reinvent the process so that the films they are producing now rely on a completely different technique to the Polaroid film of old. When they started out they had a list of at least twenty technical issues that had to be resolved. I’m not sure if every single one of these has been dealt with but they are now very close to their goal.
There were about 100 people at the open day, divided into two groups for the purpose of seeing the factory . About a dozen people came from France , as well as others from Italy and Germany, in addition to locals. Afterwards there was a presentation by Andre Bosman , who was previously employed by Polaroid , Dr Florian Kaps who had already been retailing the last supplies of Polaroid film and Marwan Saba. It was interesting to hear their thoughts on the project to date. In fact it only got off the ground when Andre and Florian met when Polaroid had a closing event. Not for nothing was it called “Impossible” and there were moments of doubting whether it would all work out. However they are all pretty tenacious and committed so that now there is already a good black and white film and a colour version very close. I tested the Beta version and have just bought some of the first release so will post some photos once I’ve shot with that.
Apparently in the past Polaroid was very secretive, spending two years to test new film and forbidding any photography within the plant, even by their own staff. We were given free rein to photograph pretty well anything we liked and no questions seemed off limit either.
We saw the machines that cover the whole process. From where they test batches of the finished film for colour consistency. Where the surrounds are cut and shaped. Where the emulsion is injected into the pods. Where the pods are sealed – ( this is one of the most crucial elements as no-one wants that stuff seeping out of the finished shot). And of course where the finished packs were assembled into boxes ready for dispatch. Interestingly every battery was tested and those that didn’t make the grade slid off into the reject box.
Questions covered a wide range of topics. One thing that many people have wondered about is the fact that there are 8 shots in a pack as opposed to 10 in the past. Was this a clever marketing ploy people asked ? No, the new batteries were thicker than the old ones and so there was only room for 8 shots in the cartridge.
Our tour group was taken round by Martin, the chief chemist who Andre Bosman said was 95% behind the chemical formula for the film. I will admit to feeling a little bit star – struck about that fact !
We also met probably the only man in the world who still repairs SX70 Cameras for a living. He had the very reassuring information that he only rarely finds a camera that he can’t fix. If it is nothing too major you can drop it off, do a bit of shopping and then come back for it. If you are from further afield it can be done by post. He seemed to also do replacements of the faux leather coverings which I am tempted to have done on two of my cameras sometime as they are both crumbling and rather unsightly. When it looked as though there was no more film I wasn’t too bothered about it, but if I’m going to be shooting with them for years to come it would be nice if they were a bit more presentable.
If you are in Enschede they do have a little outlet shop at the factory. There is also talk of them holding another open house later in the year. If you shoot Impossible Film and are curious about the project I’m sure you would find it interesting. And if you haven’t already tried the film, or only tried the very first batches to come out of the factory , why not have another go. If you love shooting with this type of film they need your support to ensure that the film reaches its full potential so that we will be able to keep shooting with the cameras we love.
PS . I did take some additional photos. I’ll upload them to Flickr and add the link here over the next couple of days.
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