Prepare yourselves fellow humans, for I'm about to argue in favour of the humble, old-fashioned Polaroid instant camera. And I'm...

Seize the Moment, Click the Shutter and Hope that You Got it Right: A Hipster-Free Argument In Favour of Old Polaroid Cameras

   Prepare yourselves fellow humans, for I'm about to argue in favour of the humble, old-fashioned Polaroid instant camera. And I'm going to do so without mentioning jazz bars in Shoreditch or shit bands that are cool purely because they're unknown, without telling you that you should check out this secret cinema that only shows foreign films in some shithole backstreet of East London or letting you know which charity shop is best for buying your tweed jackets or oversized spectacle frames.
   Yes, I'm going to sing my praises of Polaroid cameras through a megaphone, from the raft on which I am floating directly through the middle of The Mainstream.
   Anyone who knows me will tell you that this is somewhat out of character for me. I'm usually so enthused by modern technology that I'll waste money on gadgets I know I'll never use, just to play with them for the first few days. I reject DVD and VHS because nothing compares to Blu-Ray.  I won’t use a smartphone that isn’t a ridiculous colour. I'm the kind of guy who wants Google Glass, just so that he can Wikipedia every conversation topic as it's happening and correct his friends' factual errors on-the-fly. I own two tablets when I only really have a need for half of one. I kind of want to buy a Microsoft Band, for crying out loud.
   So why would I suddenly be handing myself to the past? Well, it could be that sometimes, modern technology solves something that I just didn’t see as a problem. Kindles and other e-readers are amazing, skillfully designed gadgets that fit their purpose beautifully; but why would we ever want to lose the infinitely more beautiful sight of a full bookshelf? Who’d be happy to see printed books made extinct? Not me. No sir.
   However, that's not it. I’m not about to claim that the digital camera is just another Kindle. I’m not saying that the Polaroid is something that shouldn’t have been replaced. There are modern cameras I lust after, all new and digital and shiny with more features and less maintenance. Of course they’re better; that goes without saying. The Polaroid, compared to those, is cumbersome and heavy, designed for a different time and aging disgracefully. It has no technical support now that most of the good models are discontinued and the newer models nobody wants. You can only find it at car boot sales, on eBay, in your nan’s loft. The pictures are often of very poor quality, and you can only tell just how poor once you’ve waited for them to develop, and by then the moment’s passed. And perhaps worst of all, with this new Impossible Project film, photographs cost nearly £2 each to snap.
   They have charm, though, as any hipster will tell you. There’s the retro appeal, the shabby-chic-ness of old, obviously inadequate technology dusted off and used today. There’s the little white bar at the bottom of each print, begging to be written on, to be filled with the caption of the moment. There’s the uniqueness of the format, in a world where everything is standardised and packaged up and perfectly formatted for sharing online with friends and advertisers and the government. It’s a set of cameras that hark back to simpler times, when pictures we took weren’t instantly viewable on a little screen, when we couldn’t snap twenty-three photographs in a row and pick out the best one (or just shrug and upload all of them to Facebook without regard for who actually wants to see them).
   But these aren’t the reasons for my love. My two reasons were broached two paragraphs ago, in amongst all the cons.
   Firstly, I love them because the quality of the pictures is so poor. And this isn’t one of those I love vinyl records, they’re just so warm and raw bullshit arguments that idiots use to excuse their desperate need to be different; or maybe it is just that. It’s because I have a terrible memory, and even times that I’ve really enjoyed and cherish in my mind are shrouded in doubt and barely-even-half-remembered events. My memory isn’t full-colour and crystal-clear, it’s out of focus and tinged with a dark-grey shade of I’m not sure I recall that. What I’m trying to say is that my memory isn’t 41-MP jpg, it’s Polaroid 600.
   Why would I want to look back on a perfect, bright, crisp version of the past, when a much more accurate representation of it as I remember it can be fed out of the front of a £30 camera I bought from a guy in a field on a Sunday morning?
   Secondly, and definitely more importantly, is the price of the film. Digital cameras and smartphones have made storage for photos cheap, and the taking of them as quick and easy as pressing a button; and there’s no denying that this fact is great for anyone who wants a full and accurate record of their life on a hard drive. But as part of one of the first generations who have grown up with this technology, I can tell you that there’s a hell of a lot of shit out there, taking up gigabytes (terabytes, petabytes, exabytes, zettabytes…) of hard drive space that will never be looked at and never be claimed back. Take a look at the Pictures folder of any average noughties teenager and you’ll find folder after folder of pictures of nights out, days in, relatives, outfits, ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, new cars, hotel rooms, pets, and streets of foreign cities; all of which will never be looked at again.
   If you do catch one browsing through those folders, once in a blue moon, you’ll even occasionally hear them say things like, ‘Why did I even take that photo?’ or, ‘I never want to see him/her again!’ or, ‘I really need to clear some of these out…’ but still those jpegs all remain, undeleted, sitting sorted in their folders, ready to be looked at by no one ever.
   With Polaroid, however, and the new (and expensive) Impossible Project film, a photograph has to be special. You can’t take eight pictures at once and keep only the one where you look absolutely reem unless you have the money to spunk on all that film and forty minutes per photo to wait for development. You have to seize the moment, click the shutter, and hope that you got it right. If you didn’t, you throw the photograph away or accept its flaws. And if you're like me, you'll always accept those flaws. A hair out of place, a smile that looks a bit like a grimace, the subject looking away because they think the photograph has already been taken… these are the things that make real-life moments. We don’t always look perfect, we’re not always on-point, we’re not forever ready to be on the cover of a magazine; so why should our photo albums make us look like we are?
   With a Polaroid camera, a moment is captured, and all of the flaws that make us beautiful human beings are put on paper, and unless we’re millionaires without other hobbies, that’s the moment we have to settle for. The memories we no longer cherish, all those ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends we shouldn’t still be keeping around, places we'll never revisit, photographs we forget were ever even taken, these don’t all sit in a folder on our computers wasting space and offending the senses; they go exactly where they belong: in the bin. The times we enjoyed, the people we love, the places we want to see every day, the parties we wish we could still be dancing at, these things all get pinned to a noticeboard and written on and displayed in our houses for all to see.
   No photograph left behind, nothing hidden away waiting to never be rediscovered, just our most important memories, recorded just as fuzzily as if our brains had done it themselves, on a square print in your hand. The way nature intended. Probably.
   I’m not saying modern technology is crap and we should all revert to decades-old cameras, I’m just saying that shabby old Polaroids, like so many things we've almost forgotten, have their place alongside all our modern bells and whistles. But that’s just the way I see it. Maybe I’ve made a case for investing in a technology you can’t really buy anymore, or maybe I haven’t. Maybe you’ll see the same charm that I do in those little square prints of love, or maybe you still prefer your bulging Pictures folder. Maybe – and this is most likely – all I’ve done is add to the yottabytes of shit articles written by nobodies on the Internet. But you should feel more foolish than me, because you just sat here reading it.
   Peace out, bitches. I’m off to try out Windows 10 and fly my drone from a hoverboard.

You may also like

No comments: