For a generation, the Polaroid camera gave near-instant pleasure to millions of users around the world, chronicling everything from births and weddings to the downright explicit. But when digital photography came along in the 1990s – with instant images and the ability to edit and delete pictures before they see the light of day – Polaroid was doomed, its iconic white-framed snaps apparently defunct.
When Polaroid announced last February that it would stop production of its instant film, it seemed the much-loved camera was gone forever. But within weeks, a group of users had started a global campaign for the format to return. And now, thanks to an unlikely saviour, their pleas have been heard.
If all goes to plan, the Polaroid factory in Enschede, Amsterdam, will soon be making film again thanks to its new owner, an eccentric Austrian artist and businessman named Florian Kaps. Mr Kaps, 39, has dedicated the past five years to instant photography. He set up Polanoid.net, the biggest Polaroid gallery on the web, and the first ever Polaroid-only art gallery in Vienna, called Polanoir.
Now he plans to save the film. "The project is more than a business plan; it's a fight against the idea that everything has to die when it doesn't create turnover," said Mr Kaps.
Dubbed "The Impossible Project", the development of new film for Polaroid cameras launches today. Working with the Manchester-based black and white photography company Ilford, the machinery is in place to produce film of two exposure types, each compatible with both the classic SX-70 cameras popular with artists and the more modern 600 series.
Work has begun on a prototype. By hiring 11 of the original Polaroid team from the factory floor, Mr Kaps aims to mass produce both colour and black and white film under the Impossible label by December, coinciding with the projected date that existing stocks will run out.