"The fact is we've made the impossible possible," says André Bosman, who, with Florian Kaps, is behind The Impossible Project.
The films, developed with the help and expertise of Harman Technology in the UK, will be available from 25 March on the Impossible website. They will retail at €18 per pack of eight sheets.
PX100 has been developed for the SX-70 camera, while PX600 will be available for the One series of instant cameras. The films will develop from a blue colour before unveiling a monochrome image. The original Polaroid would develop from a brownish colour.
"Impossible's new PX Instant films are dedicated to all the people who feel a similar passion for the magic of analog Instant Photography as we do," says Impossible, the compnay behind The Impossible Project. "Carefully manufactured to slowly develop in the palms of their hands. The development of PX SilverShade monochrome Instant Films is based on sensitive chemical reactions, triggered by light and affected by various parameters such as Exposure, Temperature, ISO, Opacification, Pressure and Manipulations."
The SilverShade films develop at a temperature between 17-24 degrees and need to be protected from direct light, the firm says.
Impossible also plans to release as soon as this summer two colour instant films. More details will be communicated soon.
The story of Impossible's PX films starts in February 2008, when Polaroid released a stern statement announcing the death of its instant film business. By closing down factories in the US, Mexico and the Netherlands, Polaroid put an end to decades of instant photography.
A slow death
The technology was first created in the early 1930s, but it's only in 1947, with the release of the Land Camera, that instant photography made an apparition in people's homes, gaining popularity in the 1970s with the SX-70. The OneStep and 600 series will continue to popularise the brand well into the 1980s and 1990s. However, the rise of digital photography took film-based companies such as Kodak and Polaroid by surprise. In the end, Polaroid wasn't able to adapt quickly enough, and in the early parts of the decade, began to phase out its products. Polaroid's SX-70 Time Zero film was the first to go in early 2006. Facing a dearth of dedicated products, SX-70 camera owners would, for the next two years, modify 600 film packs and apply ND filters to continue to use their cherished instant cameras. Then came Polaroid's February 2008 announcement.
Eliminating 150 jobs in the US and 300 in the Netherlands - where consumer films such as the 600 series were produced - Polaroid left the instant film business on 08 February 2008. With the factories closing, Polaroid fans found themselves with the tricky task of securing enough instant films to last years. "We're trying to help what have been extremely loyal Polaroid customers to make our film categories last as long as we can,'" said Polaroid's chief operating officer Tom Beaudoin in an interview with Bloomberg at the time. Polaroid expected stocks to last until the end of 2009. Today, it's still possible to find 600 films in the US and the UK - with even new companies such as Minute Film launching in 2010 to distribute such films.
However, talks of instant film's death were greatly exaggerated, at least at first. Despite announcing its withdrawal from the business, Polaroid, in early 2008, was still looking for a partner to acquire the licensing rights for its instant film. And the one UK-based company that proved instrumental in the Impossible Project, was an early contender.
Harman Technology is the British maker of Ilford Photo brand films and darkroom materials. It has been at the forefront of a three-year long campaign to save the darkroom and film-based photography. In early 2008, it approached Polaroid to discuss taking over the instant film business.
But, these discussions proved fruitless. In June 2008, Phil Harris, the company's chairman and managing director, announced an end to the negotiations. "The processes involved in the manufacture and assembly of professional instant sheet film products are very demanding and it would require substantial investment to re-establish them at Harman Technology's site in Cheshire," he said. "When compared with current and projected sales for the products, it was clear that such an investment could not be justified.
He added: 'While we had hoped to work together on continuing the production of instant sheet film, it is cost prohibitive to meet the declining demand. As a company, we are saddened that such an inspirational form of expression will disappear, but we will always remain staunchly committed to the long term future of monochrome photography in all its facets and we will continue to do everything we can to support it."
But that wasn't the end of Harman Technology's involvement with instant film. One month after dropping its bid to take over Polaroid's instant business, the company issued an online survey to its consumers and to Polaroid users asking them what instant film features they particularly liked.
Speaking to BJP at the time, Judy Wong, marketing manager for Ilford Photo at Harman Technology, said that the Manchester-based company wanted to find out more about consumer behaviour of Polaroid users. "What is it that they love so much about Polaroid? Is it the instant part, or is there something about the black-and-white image? If it is something about the black-and-white look of the image, we might want to try to recreate it." However, Harman Technology made sure to add that it wouldn't produce new instant films.
Impossible takes over
That was until 2009 and the launch of the Impossible Project. Founded by Florian Kaps, the Impossible Project was the result of months of secretive negotiations and transactions, as well as passionate dedication to instant film from a group of former Polaroid employees.
When Polaroid announced in February 2008 that it would stop production of its legendary instant films, fans around the world refused to give up hope. They launched websites, such as SavePolaroid.com, and lobbied film companies to step in and take the reins.
But one group of former Polaroid employees and investors, led by Florian Kaps, took another avenue. 'It all started at the beginning of 2005, when everything was going digital,' Florian Kaps told BJP in an interview last year. 'I thought there was still a strong need for analogue photography, and Polaroid is the most analogue type of film you can get. You can feel it, you can affect it, and there are a lot of accidents with it if it's too cold or too hot you won't get the same result.'
Even before Polaroid's 2008 announcement, Kaps started work on preserving the legacy of instant film. His first step was to launch two websites - Polanoid.net and Unsaleable.com. The latter would quickly become the largest online collection of Polaroid images, while Unsaleable would sell rare instant films and cameras. "We were surprised by the number of people that still used Polaroid, and we were even more surprised about the number of young people who started using it," he said. "We could see that people still missed some aspects of analogue photography."
He added: "We went along, we started doing some special films in collaboration with Polaroid. It was a niche market, but growing in numbers." And even after Polaroid pulled out of the business, Unsaleable - then renamed PolaPremium - continued to sell instant films, helping the 70-year-old company clear its last stocks.
But, that was only step one in Kaps' plan to bring back the mothballed films.
'We talked with Polaroid to ask them if there was any chance to keep instant film alive,' he told BJP in January 2009. 'They told us that there was no way. They had run studies showing that it was very difficult to produce some of the components needed.' In fact, the manufacturer of the iconic white dye used for Polaroid's frame had closed down as well.
Then, by chance, at the Dutch factory's closing ceremony, former Polaroid employees approached Kaps. 'They told me there were new ways to produce the components needed, and that we could rent the factory.'
Having secured the financing for one year of operations, Kaps went to Polaroid to purchase the machines that had been used to produce instant films. 'We looked at purchasing the machines, but we had to sign a contract with Polaroid that acknowledged the fact that we wouldn't be able to reproduce existing Polaroid films. Instead, we would be developing a new kind of instant film.'
With the equipment and the Polaroid film factory at Enschede in the Netherlands under his control, Kaps moved towards developing the new films. For this task, André Bosman, Kaps' principal business partner, took the lead. 'He's the technical guy,' Kaps said last year. 'Without him, we wouldn't be here today.'
Bosman joined Polaroid in November 1980 as a product and process engineer and rose to manager engineering and member of Polaroid's management team. He was responsible for every technical aspect in the film plant. At Impossible, he keeps the same responsibilities and liaises with the company's partners. Harman Technology is one of them. 'We've asked Harman for help in developing a new kind of chemistry for instant films,' Kaps said.
In the labs
In early 2009, Howard Hopwood, Harman's marketing director first discussed with BJP how Ilford Photo was involved in the development of a new instant film. It was the first time Harman Technology's involvement was disclosed.
"We've been talking with Florian Kaps since November 2008," Hopwood said at the time. "Kaps has the equipment to produce integral SX-70 films, but he did not have the photosensitive material to go in the packs. And because we had shown some interest after Polaroid announced it would stop producing instant films last year, Kaps came to us."
At first, only three people at Harman Technology worked on a new black-and-white instant film. But, as the project took on importance, new members were added to the team, until came the revelation, in August 2009, that Harman Technology had succeeded in creating a new kind of instant film. "We've now seen the first working images,' said Kaps in an interview with BJP that month. These images were good, added Howard Hopwood, chairman at Harman, but were Sepia in colour, instead of the black-and-white look expected. "But we know why that is and we can fix that," he told BJP.
"We looked at what we needed to do to make this film work," he added. "We had to take a different approach because the components used by Polaroid are not being made anymore."
The result is different from what a 'true' Polaroid looks like, while keeping many of the aspects that made the instant film so popular with photographers.
Up until the last minute, doubts remains about the feasibility of the Impossible Project. The company was first expected to announce its plans on 22 February, but with only two weeks to go, Impossible had to postpone the press conference after it "encountered an unexpected problem with one of the components vital for production."
The wait is over
On 22 March, at a press conference at the International Center of Photography in New York, Kaps brought to an end three years of speculations and heralded a new era for Polaroid users.
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