mission: impossible, part one.

“Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.”
– Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid.

My Polaroid collection on display in my Chelsea flat.

“What is it you love about Polaroids so much?” a good friend asked me one night.

I gave the question a minute to sink in. “I’ve always preferred film photography,” I told him, even after the advent of digital photography and an explosion of DSLRs and point-and-shoots appeared. I held onto my film camera like a luddite might long for days of dial-up Internet. Something about having only 24 shots on every roll made each shot of the utmost importance. There was no way of checking – “Oh, Johnny, you had your eyes closed” – and retaking. Each shot mattered. It was even more so with Polaroids.

And then there’s the Polaroid film itself – you simply can’t lose when it comes to subject matter. Anything looks cool on a Polaroid. It has this way of capturing the magic of the everyday, the awesome in the ordinary.

Whatever it may be, I love them, and was thus particularly grieved when Polaroid announced they were discontinuing production of their instant film. It was a long year as my Polaroid camera lay dormant in my closet, while my DSLR saw all the action in New Zealand. And so you can imagine my pure joy at discovering the Impossible Project earlier this year–a company that has taken on the mantle of ensuring the survival of analog instant photography.

In 2008, the Impossible team bought Polaroid’s last production plant in the Netherlands. Essentially, they had to re-invent the wheel, starting from scratch and developing their own way to produce the film. It hasn’t been easy but this summer, I was able to purchase color Polaroid film for the first time since December 31, 2008. Albeit, it cost me a small fortune – $55 for a 24-pack – but my artistic side was at least grateful for my brief lapse in fiscal responsibility.

After purchasing the film, I soon started receiving newsletters from the Impossible Project – emails detailing new products that had become available, stores that are opening up across the world, i.e. your standard newsletter material. Until, that was, I read a note at the bottom of one such email. Impossible would be showing at this year’s Photokina, the “world’s biggest trade fair for photographic and imaging industries,” and would even be having an “exceptional soiree” to unveil new products as well as show off a rare 20”x24” Polaroid camera.

But they needed help.

“Volunteers needed!” the note read. As it happened, Photokina was being held in Cologne, Germany, the country’s fourth largest city not far from the Belgian border. And as it also happened, the soiree was being held on the 21st of September, a mere ten days after I was to arrive in London. “If you’re going to be in Cologne around this time, let us know!” With Cologne a mere four-hour train journey from London on the Eurostar, all I could think was, Hey, I can do that.

And so while I whisked around the East Coast visiting good friends just before leaving for London, I was simultaneously looking ahead already. I had begun emailing with a lovely woman named Marlene, the company’s communications and PR manager, working out how I was going to be involved and even booking my Eurostar tickets. One of the areas Marlene needed help in was “snacks and drinks” and I readily volunteered for it. She asked about my experience and it was the coolest thing to tell her about my summer as a banquet server at the Hilton as well as my hospitality jobs from New Zealand. Suddenly summer jobs became….relevant experience. Marlene emailed back saying she was delighted to make me “supervisor of snacks and drinks.” Me? A supervisor? Now this would take some getting used to…

As each part fell into place, I thought, this is what I’m delighted by–to be on the move again, to be connecting with new people, planning new ventures.


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