At family parties, my Aunt Florie would make the rounds with her Polaroid camera. Aside from my father, I don’t remember any relatives taking pictures, and if I did I certainly wouldn’t remember what camera they used, but Aunt Florie’s folding Polaroid was memorable.
But more memorable than the camera itself was what it did. In pre-digital 1970 there was nothing more magical than seeing your picture develop in a minute. We’d wait weeks (or months) to see photos my father took, once they were processed, organized into trays and projected in the living room, but Aunt Florie’s pictures? In your hand right away.
To me there is still magic in instant film. I recently started fooling around with a 1969 vintage Polaroid 240, and while it’s temperamental and unpredictable, the results are very satisfying. The images are not as pristine as what you get from your digital camera, but there’s a warmth to them, like the visual equivalent of a vinyl record.
I suppose you could go into Photoshop and replicate the look, but there are some things that you just can’t do with a computer. Each instant picture is an original, and not something that can be faked on your electronic gizmo.
Imperfect, unique, somewhat fragile, and erratic. These pictures are more like us than the bits and bytes, don’t you think?