The Impossible Project Gives Polaroid Photographers Hope

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The Impossible Made Possible

The Impossible Project Gives Polaroid Photographers HopeFor decades, photographers pro and vernacular have documented their lives using the magical media of instant photography. First debuted by Polaroid founder Edwin Land in 1947, instant photos were created to answer a poignant question posed by the inventor’s daughter as she was sitting for a portrait: “Can I see them now, Daddy? Why can’t I see them now?” From the roll cameras of the 1950s, to the pack cameras of the 1960s, and the integral cameras that debuted in the 1970s, Polaroid instant photography became a hallmark of modern life. However, the death of Edwin Land, poor fiscal mismanagement by new owners uninterested in maintaining the company’s artistic legacy, and the rise of digital photography led the once-innovative corporation to lose its vision. In 2008, Polaroid announced that it was halting the production of all of its instant films.

Polaroid enthusiasts were horrified by the prospect of life without their beloved media, but a highly motivated and determined group of Polaroid fans set out to prevent the end of instant photography. A new grassroots movement, Save Polaroid, was founded in the wake of Polaroid’s announcement, and, in tandem with the burgeoning cry for Polaroid film from the artistic community, the Impossible Project was born. Co-founded by the former lead manager of the Lomography Society in Austria, Florian Kaps, and the Manager Engineer of Polaroid’s plant in the Netherlands’ town of Enschede, André Bosman, the Impossible Project set out, in 2008, to reinvent integral film that would work with classic Polaroid SX-70 and 600 cameras.

The Campus Theatre - Impossible Project test shot by Nancy L. Stockdale
photo by Nancy L. Stockdale

Although they had the machines of a Polaroid factory and the expertise of the plant’s workers, the Impossible Project had to figure out how to create a viable project, but without the chemicals and recipes that Polaroid had used in the manufacture of their integral films. Over the past two years, reconfiguring a workable chemistry, engineering structure, and business model has been an expensive labor of love. On March 22, 2010, the Impossible Project announced that it had successfully created the first of what it plans to be many films for the several hundred million integral Polaroid cameras already in the world. Its first films, PX100 and PX600, were tested by a hand-selected group of avid Polaroid artists in early 2010. They discovered that the new film, which is monocolor, is sensitive to light and temperature, fluid, highly manipulatable, and extraordinarily beautiful.

An Open Chrysanthemum - Impossible Project test shot by Nancy L. Stockdale
photo by Nancy L. Stockdale

However, this new film is only the beginning. There are plans for a color film compatible with SX-70 and 600 films to debut in the summer of 2010, with Spectra films to follow. Moreover, the Impossible Project announced at its press conference a long-term plan to manufacture new cameras, as well as integral films that do not have the battery in the pack itself, but that rely on a battery inside the camera. Many Polaroid enthusiasts will consider this a real benefit, for it will allow the film to be useable beyond any battery’s lifetime.

For Polaroid enthusiasts, the Impossible Project’s new creation seems miraculous. The company’s first film is temperamental and artistic, and creates otherworldly results. At the same time, it speaks loudly to the concrete promise of the future. Two years ago, Polaroid appeared dead. However, the belief in the possibility of human innovation and creativity has allowed the Impossible Project to revive this historic analogue process. Despite the naysayers who thought it couldn’t be done, the impossible has truly become possible.

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Nancy L. Stockdale is an avid Polaroid photographer, and is also known as Futurowoman. She was a beta tester for the new Impossible Project film. When she’s not behind the lens of a camera, she’s an assistant professor of Middle Eastern History at the University of North Texas.


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Impossible Film - PX100 instant film
Impossible Film - PX600 instant film

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  • Photo-John says:

    Thanks for the great article, Nancy. I love your photos and your passion for instant film photography. I’m very interested to see what can be done with the new film. It’s kind of ironic that the loss of Polaroid, combined with the passion of the Polaroid art community, may have given rise to something even better. If The Impossible Project does manage to make a viable business of instant film, and continues to develop new films, then this is really a special occurence. Of course, the money does need to be there for the project to survive. But if it does, and the passion continues to drive things, then I think it could end up being more than Polaroid ever could have been. Regardless, it’s an interesting experiment and I hope it succeeds. I love Polaroid artwork and I would hate to see it disappear.

    I’m curious – how does the Fujifilm Instax film fit into the Polaroid photography world? Are people using it? If not, why not?

    I’m also wondering about the 20×24 Polaroid cameras. What’s become of them and is The Impossible Project planning to make film for those cameras? I was twice photographed with the 20×24 Polaroids and love them.

    Finally – will The Impossible Project be making sticker film for my iZone camera or shall I just put that one up on the retired shelf for good? :)

  • Susan says:

    This is just such wonderful news, and inspiring, as well. I’ve seen some of the beta testers’ photos, and I am very excited to try this film out soon! (Nancy, I love this flower!!)

  • Doug Bulger says:

    I am holding hope for the return of film for the 4×5 film.


  • Photo-John says:

    Doug – that would be awesome! I have a 4×5 Polaroid back for my ancient Mamiya 6×7 rangefinder. One of the things I’d still like to do with that camera is play with Polaroids. Or Impossible Film :)

  • Rosearodoe says:


    Will the color film have the tendency to turn the yellows/golds green as in previous color Polaroid film? If this is corrected and does not deviate the other colors this would be a great film to use again and great gain for Polaroid.

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