Impossible Project: Former Polaroid Employees Fight To Save The Instant Camera
Technology comes and goes; that great, new machine gets replaced weeks later by an ever greater, newer machine. Logically, the Polaroid camera was something that was always going to die out.
So why is there an exhibit in the lobby of the trendy Ace Hotel full of photographs like these, while a woman in a black dress roams around the room taking instant photographs of people in attendance? Because a collection of former Polaroid employees, known as the Impossible Project, refused to let the future swallow the past.
Founded in 2008, Impossible began to help further the legacy of the instant camera, stepping in to save the last Polaroid production plant just before it was demolished. (Earlier in the year, the Polaroid Corporation said they were no longer in the instant film business, and would be turning all their focus to digital.) But even though the camera company was ready to close the door on its history, Impossible founders Dr. Florian Kaps, André Bosman and Marwan Saba, were not. After acquiring the factory, they began to produce their own brand of instant film –– called Impossible –– for use in traditional Polaroid cameras, starting out with monochrome then moving on to color.
Now, after the debut of Impossible product spaces in Tokyo, Vienna and New York City, the group looks to make a big dent with the hip urban crowd. In a partnership with the Ace Hotel, the company will provide each guest room with a Polaroid camera, along with a unique brand of Impossible black & white film (stocked in the mini-bar, no less).
Which brings us back to the exhibit. To celebrate the Ace/Impossible collaboration, the hotel is currently displaying instant photographs from a variety of actors, artists and designers until October 14, including Elijah Wood, Adam Goldberg, Chloe Aftel and Araks Yeramyan. The project also includes a contest, challenging Ace guests to take and submit their own photos for use in the gallery.
“The Ace Hotel’s attention to detail, their attention to community, the design elements, the very unique way of ultimately presenting a hotel –– very different from the classic hotel approach –– is something that works well with what we do,” said Impossible CEO, Ulli Barta.
When the instant photograph first came onto the market, the interest was technological amazement, not vintage appeal. Now, when every cell phone has an eight megapixel camera, some are clamoring for the days with photos you could "hold in your hands and make eye contact with," as stated in the Ace Hotel/Impossible Project instruction manual and showcase book. That authenticity comes to life in the exhibit. Photos of people playing chess in the park, riding a bike and smoking cigarettes are on full display, all thanks to a piece of equipment that many had written off years ago.
It's tough to tell whether the instant photograph will see a bigger resurgence than the one Impossible has already started. A majority of people would likely bet against the aging technology; however, that same group probably did that three years ago, only to discover it alive and kicking. Perhaps we can find out what will happen through an Astrology Palm Card reading on 8th Avenue in New York City, the storefront of which, can be seen in a faded Polaroid on the wall at the Ace.