A large number of my faithful correspondents have forwarded to me the link to this site, which recounts the heroic efforts of a small group of enthusiasts to resuscitate* Polaroid-style instant film.
I wonder how I feel about that effort. Besides "ambivalent," which I know I feel.
One thing Annie Leibovitz says in Annie Leibovitz at Work made me think. Apart from the huge, glaring anomaly of the fact that I make my living mainly on the web, I'm actually more than a bit of a Luddite. Not just because I actually admire Ned Ludd, and his followers, and their aims; living well is better than living rich or living for progress, I think. But it's just not very practical to "stick with the old ways." For instance, I've never yet owned a cell phone**, but the idea that I could keep on behaving as I used to has proven mistaken. I used to just use public phones on the rare occasions when I needed to make a call when I'm away from home. But the number of public phones in America has declined from 3 million to fewer than 1 million, and fewer and fewer establishments "have a phone" that you can ask to use. I don't see the need to change, myself, but the world is changing, and I'll have to change with it. I might "go cellular" as soon as 21o2. Freudian slip. I meant 2012.
Similarly, I've never had cable television or anything other than an ordinary, old-fashioned TV set hooked up to an attic antenna. But not only is ordinary analogue television coming to an end in the U.S. in February, but network TV has been in serious decline for some time, to the point that there's little reason to have an analogue television any more anyway. Granted, the pickings were never rich, but recently TV has been a wasteland (apart from sports broadcasts and my favorite show, "The Office"). Why? Because everybody is watching cable and satellite, of course. Meanwhile, I've never seen an episode of "The Sopranos," because it's never been broadcast in a form I could receive. I'd be just as happy if the three (three) networks were all there was, but those days are gone. And you remember what they said about Humpty-Dumpty.
I'm still a partisan of normally-aspirated, four-cylinder gasoline-powered automobiles with manual transmissions, and I will give up my current engine when the car around it falls apart (if then). But perhaps that, too, will change soon, to the point that I'll have to switch to some futuristic, non-polluting, 100-mpg techno-car that changes gears by voice command.
A few of the hi-fi magazines I read, Stereophile and The Absolute Sound, likewise seem to be headed towards oblivion and stepping on the gas. Their issues are increasingly full of more and more insistently hopeful*** assertions that vinyl is coming back. I liked vinyl records; I wouldn't mind if it was still 1974 as far as music-carriers were concerned. But it isn't. Vinyl is not the medium of the future (hi-res downloads are, if there's to be any hope for the audiophile hobby. But let's not get into that just now). Same deal with FM. It would be nice if the FM band was full of independent local stations rich with flavor, novelty, and variety. But it isn't. My city of 1 million plus doesn't even have a jazz station any more. (And I miss it, yes I do.)
And then of course there's digital photography. I'm rather surprised that I'm not still shooting Tri-X and kvelling about it. In her book, Annie was asked, "Are you happy with the move from film to digital?", and she replies, "I remember when Kodachrome II was phased out in the seventies. A lot of photographers bought cartons of it and stored it in their refrigerators. But the bottom line was that it was gone. Digital is here whether you like it or not. You can't fight it."
She's kind of right...you kind of can't. Even Ctein isn't doing much dye transfer any more, and a quick check of the B&H website reveals a grand total of 16 35mm film cameras you can buy new these days, not counting the toy cameras and oddball TLRs. (And eight of them are made by Cosina!) All things considered, it's surprising there are as many choices of enlarging paper and films still available as there are. But there are far fewer than there used to be. I used to advocate standardizing on two black-and-white papers, rather than one, so you wouldn't be left high and dry if one of them went away. But both of my once-standard papers are gone now. So much for my bright idea.
It's one thing to not want to change with the times. It's another thing to not need to change with the times. But there's one thing for sure, and that is that the times will change, with or without you. I can't help but wish the Polaroid resuscitation**** effort well, but Polaroid's time has come and gone—of that there seems very little doubt.
*I'm a good speller, but "resuscitate" is one word I can never spell.
**I used to say that I'd read Stephen Fry if he wrote the phone book, but I fear he has (see "Gee, One Bold Storm, coming up"), and it proved too much for me....
***Euphemism for "desperate"
****Ta-dah! Did it. See, old dawgs can learn new tricks.
Amazon U.S. link
Amazon U.K. link
Amazon Germany link
Amazon Canada link
B&H Photo link
Adorama Camera link
Featured Comment by Bob Blakley: "I'm not a Luddite (I've worked in high tech for 20 years and love my Mac and my iPhone), but I regret the demise of Polaroid. I used up some of the last of my stock on a project I did at my 30th High School reunion, and the project reminded me that Polaroid, like transparencies and Daguerreotypes but unlike negatives and digital photographs, inextricably links the image to the object. Joyce might have called this 'the ineluctable modality of the Polaroid'; when you're shooting Polaroid you've got one chance, and that one chance produces one picture. In my case, this made me both more focused and more free. More focused, because I knew I had to get the picture right in my head before I pushed the button, and more free, because I knew that I was going to have to put up with some imperfections in at least some of my pictures and I learned to live with that. I blogged about my 'Last Polaroid' project. By the way, Polaroid didn't die a natural death; it was killed by a fraud scheme."