I’ve been finding more articles about photography lately. Not that I believe there are more articles out there than there were before; with a new camera in my hands, I’m just seeing them more than I used to. And I don’t really think I am a Polaroid person, but there’s something I really like about living vicariously through the instant photographers – Hula’s blog, in particular, gives me a consistent stream of inspiration. There’s coolness there to strive for.
Probably once a week, I’m tempted to buy some contraption related to this new interest: a Diana+ here, a Holga there, today it was a Polaroid SX-70. And in my efforts to distract myself from finding an online retailer rightnow, I found this article. Outdated at this point, what with the Impossible Project in full, successful swing, but I loved this part of it so much, it made me feel so nostalgic, and at the same time, so supported in my worries over why-does-everything-have-to-be-so-fast-and-impersonal, I knew I would want to read it over and over. Here’s the part I’m talking about:
‘Because that was part of the beauty of the Polaroid. Mystery clung to each impending image as it took shape, the camera conjuring up pictures of what was right before one’s eyes, right before one’s eyes. The miracle of photography, which Polaroids instantly exposed, never lost its primitive magic. And what resulted, as so many sentimentalists today lament, was a memory coming into focus on a small rectangle of film.
Or maybe not. Digital technology now excuses our mistakes all too easily — the blurry shot of Aunt Ruth fumbling with a 3-wood at the driving range; or the one of Cousin Jeff on graduation day where a flying Frisbee blocked the view of his face; or of Seth in his plaid jacket heading to his first social, the image blanched by the headlight of Burt’s car coming up the driveway; or the pictures of you beside the Christmas tree where your hair is a mess.
Digital cameras let us do away with whatever we decide is not quite right, and so delete the mishaps that not too often but once in a blue moon creep onto film and that we appreciate only later as accidental masterpieces. In fact, the new technology may be not more convenient but less than Polaroid instant film cameras were, considering the printers and wires and other electronic gadgets now required, but at this one thing, the act of destruction, a source of unthinking popularity in our era of forgetfulness and extreme makeovers, digital performs all too well. Polaroids, reflecting our imperfectability, reminded us by contrast of our humanity.’ (Kimmelman, Michael. “The Polaroid: Imperfect, Yet Magical.” The New York Times 27 December 2008.)
I’m not buying a Polaroid today. That’s not really what I’m after. I just want to bring back the humanity.
This post started out on a different site, but in an effort to get more of my writing in one place, I moved it to cindyscovel.com in January 2012.