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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

$40 a pop for photos that fade

Polaroid photographs gain new fans here as new instant film for the now-defunct cameras is now available, but it is not cheap
The Sunday Times - October 11, 2011
By: Cheryl Faith Wee
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$40 a pop for photos that fade Freelance artist Noreen Loh (above) is experimenting with ways to make her self-portraits and other photos taken with the instant film to stay around longer. -- PHOTOS: COURTESY OF NOREEN LOH

Spend $40 on instant film made by The Impossible Project and at the end of the day, you might end up with no pictures.

The new film for the now-defunct Polaroid cameras is largely experimental and prone to fading and colour alterations after an image is developed.

Still, this has not stopped Mr Andrew Kua, a 40-year-old project manager, from buying about two to three packs each month from analogue photography store Thirty Six.

'It's pricey,' he says, but 'the slightly unexpected results and colour shades make it really fun'.

The Impossible Project was started in 2008 by 10 former employees of Polaroid to rescue the photography format in a digital age. Months after the American company announced it was stopping production of its instant film, the group stepped in to acquire a Polaroid film factory in the Netherlands.

Its monochrome substitute film was available in March last year. A colour film was launched four months later.

By the end of last year, over 500,000 packs of film were sold and the company plans to increase production to over two million packs this year.

So far, there are partner stores in Kuala Lumpur, Munich, Beijing, Hong Kong and New York.

In Singapore, shops that stock the film include Thirty Six in Sunshine Plaza, Cat Socrates in Bras Basah Complex, Peek! in Armenian Street and Tangs department store in Orchard Road.

The steep price tag, starting from $35 for eight pictures, puts some people off, says Ms Hellen Jiang, 31, the owner of store-cafe Cat Socrates which stocks only 10 packs of the film each month.

The film is sensitive to temperature and humidity - the manufacturer recommends storing it at 5 to 18 deg C - and produces erratic results.

Nevertheless, some retailers are reporting brisk sales. 'People come in to buy 10 to 20 packs of the film at a time,' says Peek!'s marketing and online manager Robyn Lee, 23. The store stocks all nine types of film, selling close to 200 packs a month.

Buyers range from teenagers discovering the format with their parents' cameras, to buffs toting equipment that has not been touched for decades.

With the availability of alternative film, Polaroid fans are dusting off their cameras. Last month, for instance, Los Angeles-based Singaporean celebrity photographer Kevin Ou displayed his photographs shot with Impossible film at Zouk club's Velvet Underground and boutique.

Making Impossible film last may be an impossibility, but this fleeting tactile quality may be the point.

Freelance artist Noreen Loh, 29, who is a fan of the medium, says: 'Who would think it is fun if your picture just fades away? But when I started experimenting, I really got into it.

'You can take it apart and touch the emulsion inside the film. I'm a hands-on kind of person.'



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